A YOUNG woman who overcame the odds to start her own business after being struck down by a debilitating condition has won an award.

Roberta Howell, 22, Wingate, County Durham, received the the NatWest Enterprise award at the North-East Prince’s Trust Awards, held at the Baltic, in Gateshead.

The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards recognise the achievements of young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life, and had a positive impact on their local community, and played a part in supporting the work of the Trust.

A mystery illness began affecting Roberta, known as Bobbi, when she was 11. She regularly suffered with physical pain, nausea and fatigue, and it impacted negatively on almost all aspects of her life.

She said: “It was frightening because without a diagnosis we couldn’t treat it. After months of tests we discovered I had Crohn’s disease and ME.

“By then, I was really struggling at school and my parents decided to pull me out and get me home tutored.

She added: “My dream had been to go into nursing but, after my GCSEs, my health got worse and I realised I’d have to give it up.

“Mum and dad gave me a job in the family business selling products online, and that’s when I discovered a different passion - refurbishing.”

Bobbi started making suitcases for dog beds and bespoke furniture from locally salvaged materials.

She said: “Through that experience I realised I needed to do something for myself. I’m a fighter and I wanted to create my own destiny.

“ I’m a product of my father. He is ill but his resilience and determination inspired me to be the best I can.”

That is when Bobbi discovered Enterprise, a four-day intensive course from The Prince’s Trust that helps unemployed young people embark on a journey of self-employment.

“I find travel hard because of my condition, but I made it to the course every day and got a real insight into how to run a business, including handling my accounts, carrying out market research, and the importance of a business plan.”

Bobbi was awarded a Will it Work grant from The Trust so she could market-test her idea and soon after launched Throwaway Culture, her bespoke furniture upcycling business.

Speaking at the awards, Bobbi said: “The Prince’s Trust played a big part in me getting my business off the ground. To now receive this award from them for its success feels really special.”