Elaine's story I had a difficult family situation growing up. My parents weren’t together, and they both had their own families, and for whatever reason it was hard for either parent to be supportive of me or to look after me. I was passed around like a hot potato, and I felt rejected. I was alone. Eventually they kicked me out when I was 19. I was homeless. When no one wants you, when you’re rejected by your family, you feel utterly worthless. I went through a very, very dark period. I was very depressed. My best friend saved my life – he was like a brother to me, and was a huge source of support. He gave me a place to stay. For a while, sofa surfing worked out. I even managed to start a university course and was lucky enough to get an internship at ITV2. I have a blood disorder, Sickle Cell Anaemia, which complicates everything. My condition affects my immune system and mobility. It robs me of energy and time. After developing pneumonia I had to drop out of my course, and I had to leave my position at ITV2. I was absolutely lost. It was when an ex-editor of Vogue bought one of my creations that I knew my life was changing….I thought, ‘Oh yes! This is it!’ Eventually, Islington council put me into a hostel, and then I found a flat. At the time I was in desperate need of just figuring myself out, my life out. That’s when I came to SHP. My support worker taught me about budgeting, set up my bills, helped me find furniture, and encouraged me with job applications. Thanks to her, I also found out I had a learning difficulty – I’m dyspraxic and dyslexic - so having someone there to explain questions and to help me word my answers helped massively. Finding out about my learning disabilities was liberating because it explained so much. I struggled a lot when I was younger and I heard things like “you just don’t want to learn”, “you’re stupid”, “you’re dumb”. I always knew deep within me that I thought differently to everyone else, I just didn’t know why. After my diagnosis, I understood myself for the first time. When I found out about SHP’s Opportunities Programme, I was delighted. It opened so many doors for me. I’ve always been creative, and used to make jewellery in my spare time, and SHP helped me to turn this into a business. I’d always dreamt of being a designer, but never thought it would be possible. In 2013 I got my first sewing machine, and started making a creation that had been in my head for years. I cut up my bed sheets! I made five jackets and exhibited them locally – I came home with one jacket and an offer to stock a pop up shop in Westfield. I slaved away making the stock. It was totally worth it – and I was offered another two months in the shop as it was so successful. It was when an ex-editor of Vogue bought one of my creations and tweeted about it that I knew my life was changing….I thought, ‘Oh yes! This is it!’ I thought the best thing to do was to sit myself down and think about how to upscale my business, to look to manufacturers and for suppliers of good quality. I met a stylist who wanted to take my jacket to Paris Fashion Week – I started getting attention, and now I’ve showcased at Paris, London and New York! It’s been a whole lot of work, but so exciting. I’ve taken a lot of influence from my Grandmother, who died when I was six. She was an amazing woman of substance, and that’s why I’ve named my business after her. I am a completely different person to who I was in the past. It took a long time before I got to the place where I am now.