From the Huffington Post, 18 March 2015. Story by Charlotte Elizabeth.
I vividly remember the first time I learnt just who The Prince's Trust were. I was in recovery from a heart operation which I underwent aged sixteen and was left with no choice but to leave education at an earlier date than expected. I had been suffering from an illness similar to Glandular Fever for months, subjecting me to my bedroom with nothing but anxiety and depression for my mind to feed from.
My sister came into my bedroom one evening when I was mid panic attack and spoke to me of an article she had read on her commute. She told me about a lady of my age who had been helped greatly by The Prince's Trust, a charity devoted to making young lives better, into creating a business after many years of being unwell.
Out of inspiration for what she had achieved, I enrolled myself onto The Enterprise Course, a course aimed to help progress any business idea that you may have. I had several ideas that I had produced during my months of bedrest, but there was one particular idea which I wanted more than any other, and that was to produce and design my own handbags.
In the spring of 2014 I arrived to an office filled with exceptionally lovely staff (no, really, this is a feature that makes my fondness of The Prince's Trust grow more and more each time). I was recovering from my bout of bad health and was still very fragile and unwell, yet this wasn't an obstacle for the staff, as I was treated with as much respect as everyone else. There was a friendly boardroom in which I sat with about seven other enrollees and two Prince's Trust associates.
The Enterprise Course is crafted as a four-day interactive workshop, where you are taught fundamental aspects in running a business such as budgeting, listening to your market as well as managing sales. After my first day at the course I left feeling determined that I could indeed develop just a simple idea into something much more useful, which was the most powerful source of confidence I had received yet.
Three weeks after the course, I unexpectedly collapsed to the floor with an excessive heart arrhythmia, loosing feeling in my body within seconds. I was submitted to intensive care to undergo testing for a potential heart attack or stroke, both of which were luckily ruled out. I was confined to my bed, yet this time I was completely paralysed in movement and was engulfed in a debilitating complex of symptoms which were left unrecognised by doctors for a year, until I was diagnosed with both PoTS and ME.
My body became utterly powerless as a consequence and my ability to stand was something of which I believed, as well as some doctors, I may never achieve again. I was living from my bed with constant palpitations, vision and hearing loss, migraines, dizziness, vertigo, excessive sweating and a body that could no longer cope with even the slightest ray of sunlight shining through the curtain. Life had ultimately stopped and I had well and truly hit rock bottom. At my lowest point, I was using a bedpan, lying silently and blinking twice to answer ‘yes'.
My muscles deteriorated tremendously and I was left severely disabled, unable to write even my name or simply smile. At a turning point enforced by a thought of ending my own life due to my lack of one, I began to rebuild it simply, yet triumphantly. I started to reteach myself how to use and hold a pen, and within a few lessons later I had one very basic design for my handbags.
As my health allowed me I began to research my market and searched far and wide in the UK for suppliers of whom I trusted. Keeping my handbags British was something very important to me, as I wanted to support these unique businesses that are a part of what makes Britain so special. After many months of searching, sourcing and designing, I had established what I wanted Charlotte Elizabeth to be with the help and guidance of The Prince's Trust, including my wonderfully selfless business mentor, Stuart.
Two years on from my original idea and I have now launched my business. I have one style of handbag in four different colours, waiting to enter someones life of memories and chapters. Though the basis of my business is about the design of my products, I aim to encourage other businesses to support our treasured craftspeople of the country.
The Prince's Trust are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year, and though I am just one out of 825,000 young people who have been helped by them, I would like to say an open thank you to them for giving me a chance and purpose. I am living a dream that I had never believed possible without their belief, trust and support in me, which I feel is of the utmost importance in developing my generation into the best that we can be. It is without The Prince's Trust that not only young people lose hope, belief and direction, but Britain too.
You can learn more about The Prince's Trust by visiting their website www.princes-trust.org.uk.
To view more about my business Charlotte Elizabeth, visit www.charlottelizabeth.com.
Follow Charlotte Elizabeth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/charlottelizbth