It all started with a seizure. One moment you’re fine. The next, you’re waking up. On the ground. Covered in sweat. Confused and tired and agitated. That seizure changed my life, but for the better even though at the time it felt like the end of the world. Let me explain.
My name is Mima and I’m an undergraduate studying Forestry at Bangor University. Having just completed my second year of study, I was going into my placement year, when I would take a year out from studying to get real-world experience in the Forestry sector. I managed to land my dream placement, securing a paid job as a ranger with Wyre Forest District Council. I’d been struggling with my health for a few months, but was all set and ready to start in September until 4 days before when I had my first seizure and was admitted into hospital. I lost my job. After various meetings with specialists and my University, it was decided that I would take time away from studying and that I should rest. I rested, but only managed 2 weeks. The boredom hit. I found myself missing the deadlines and stress of university life, but I was 250 miles away in the sleepy Fens. As a forester, I missed the field trips, walking in the forests, getting soaking wet in the Welsh rain, but instead, I was stuck indoors wondering what on earth was wrong with me. Days passed. Then months. In no time at all it was February and it felt like I had achieved nothing.
But then an email dropped into my inbox. It was nothing special. One of those mass emails sent to everyone who has a university email address, but I actually read it instead of instantly discarding it and I am so glad that I did. It was advertising an upcoming business competition for young people in Wales. It was simple. All you had to do was come up with a business idea and you would be in with a chance of going to a national showcase event and winning some epic prizes. So I entered. I’m no businesswoman, but I do have a passion for trees and increasing environmental awareness in young people.
And this is how Tree Sparks was born and when my entrepreneurial journey started. Even though I don’t know much about running a business, the judges at the competition could see that I had passion for my idea, and this is what led to me winning two awards and securing £1000 in funding. I had no excuse now – I had time on my hands and the money and support I needed to start my own business and to start making a change! Even though it has only been 2 months since the competition, I’ve managed to fit a lot in (around hospital appointments) going to a boot camp to business weekend organised by Big Ideas Wales, getting to the university finals of the Santander Entrepreneurship Awards, and most importantly, making connections with other young people and entrepreneurs.
I was also asked by the competition organisers (Big Ideas Wales) whether they could do a press release on me and my business Tree Sparks, and during the interview, I got asked what the inspiration was behind my idea. I struggled to answer, but when I think back to that question, the answer should have been easy…
John Muir. A legend in his own right and a truly inspiring man, John Muir has a lot to answer for in my life. For those of you who don’t know, Muir was one of the founding fathers of the conservation movement and helped to establish one of the world’s first national parks, Yosemite. Muir was fascinated by the natural world and he also understood how important it was and why it was important for people to escape into nature. I love everything that this guy stands for and he inspired me to learn more about the environment, to get outside and enjoy it and most importantly, to share my passion. And that is what Tree Sparks wants to do. I want to show young people in the UK that jobs in the outdoors, in the environment, in Forestry are not just viable, but hugely rewarding.
In spite of my appreciation for John Muir and his work, there have been several times in the past couple of months when I have sat at my desk, wondering what on earth I am doing, questioning whether I really am the right person to be starting this business. It is so so easy to get consumed by a downward spiral of self-doubt no matter what your motivation or inspiration. And that is why role models are so important. I have been lucky that there are so many people around me who want me to succeed and who understand the trials and tribulations of starting and running your own business. Role models help to pick you back up again and remind you why you are doing what you’re doing and why you should be the one to do it. They can empathise with you when things don’t go quite to plan or when you simply feel drained. And that is one of the things I am looking forward to the most about Drivers for Change. I will be surrounded by other young people just like me. Even though we won’t know each other and we will all have come from different places and backgrounds, we are all passionate, motivated young people who want to make a change and we will all be able to support and motivate each other. I am certain that this is something that will last long after our road trip is complete – that we will become role models for each other.
Had I not had a seizure in September, then Tree Sparks would not exist and I would still be dreaming of the change I wanted to make, rather than actually taking steps towards making it happen.
I feel very honoured to have been offered a place on the Drivers for Change road trip and I absolutely cannot wait to get going and to meet other young people like me who not only want to make change happen but be the drivers behind it. I’m sure over the 11 days I will meet more people who will act as role models and I hope that I might be able to help inspire others to achieve the change they want to see!
Thanks to Mima for writing this guest blog.
You can stay updated on her journey by following her on Twitter: @Foresterthought