How redundancy at 50 gave Leeds mum new lease of life

Tracey Marshall pictured at her home in Pudsey, Leeds. PIC: Simon Hulme
Tracey Marshall pictured at her home in Pudsey, Leeds. PIC: Simon Hulme
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Tracey Marshall worked in call centres for 22 years, but redundancy at 50 gave her a new lease of life.

For 22 years Tracey Marshall worked in call centre.

But when she was made redundant at the age of 50, she decided it was a chance to change career.

“I had worked at First Direct for 15 years before being made redundant and then seven years at West Yorkshire Joint Services in Morley, when I was made redundant again just before my 50th birthday.”

Being made redundant can be a real hit to someone’s confidence, but looking back Tracey says it is probably one of the best things that could have happened.

“If I hadn’t been made redundant I think I would still be working in the call centre.

“It takes a lot of courage to change direction, especially when you are a bit older.”

It was Tracey’s daughter Kathy who encouraged her to launched her own business rather than try to get another job in a call centre.

“I’d always enjoyed sewing, but more of a hobby really,” explains mum-of-two Tracey from Pudsey.

“I knew that I was going to be made redundant and so I started making some enquiries and doing some research to see if there was a gap in the market for the type of thing I wanted to do.

“I do think it was probably easier for me as my children were grown up and so I didn’t have to worry too much about them,”

With her redundancy money Tracey bought an embroidery machine. It also helped pay the bill for the first eight months until she set her business up.

Although she knew how to sew and had an idea for a business, she said she really had very little knowledge about how to actually run a business,

She decided to attend a course run by the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) to help turn her hobby into a business.

And so in 2012 she launched Thread Squirrel and started embroidering names and others items onto cushions and bags.

“It was actually my daughter again who suggested embroidering maps and they have proved to be a huge success,” says Tracey.

Initially she sold her products through online store Etsy before being accepted by internet retailer Not on the High Street.

Her business took off and at busy times Tracey can sew 100 cushions a week.

She has now embroidered more than 200 different countries, states and counties onto cushions, pillow cases and bags.,

Her daughter Kathy helped her initially with the social media and internet side of her business and has since joined her as a designer.

“I think one of the hardest things starting a business later in life is finding out exactly how much you need to learn about software, social media, photography. Kathy has been a great help. She’s not afraid to tell me when I haven’t got it right.

“We combine well in our interests, passion and skill set; Kathy with innovative product design and my lifelong sewing and embroidery skills,” says Tracey. The mother and daughter team work from adjoining studios in Pudsey.

One of her best sellers was a pillow case with two countries on.

“My friend’s husband was going to Afghanistan and she asked whether I could embroider a pillow case with a map of England and a map of Afghanistan on.

“These two country designs have proved really popular,” says Tracey who has just started star sign and horoscope designs.

“Our products make excellent gifts for those special people in your life or to commemorate special times and places in your own life.

“From our map gifts (such as map cushions and cork map notice boards) to our horoscope tote bags we make beautifully clean and classic designs that will never go out of style.

“The good thing is that they are as popular with men as they are with women.”

Tracey was recently in a list of 40-somethings who have successfully changed career.

The list coincided with the publication of research from Management Today, working with Vauxhall Motors, to reveal the career ambitions, the opportunities and challenges, of the 40-something generation.

The findings show almost half of this generation plan to start their own business in the next 10 years, with 70 per cent looking for a “major change”.

The age for starting a business is not mid 20s, but mid 40s. Often with a family to support, ‘Generation X’ professionals believe owning a business will bring freedom and flexibility into their lives, with the main motivations being doing interesting work, being your own boss and being challenged.

The combination of financial security and business experience gives this generation the opportunity to design the next chapter of their career

Capable and curious to explore all avenues, the findings show that ‘Gen-Xers’ have itchy feet and are no longer following a career ‘path’, but rather embracing an ongoing and ever-evolving career ‘cycle’.

With over half (56 per cent) of older professionals believing a job for life culture stifles development, it’s no surprise that more than one in five are planning to change careers in the next two years, with 20 per cent planning to move sectors altogether.

When looking at the driving force behind changing careers, the research reveals job satisfaction (66 per cent); a better work life balance (60 per cent) and reward packages (50 per cent) are the most important factors for 40-somethings – an indication they are working to live, not living to work.

Website: www.threadsquirrel.co.uk

www.etsy.com/shop/ThreadSquirrel

A STITCH IN TIME

Thread Squirrel is a pun on red squirrel says founder Tracey Marshall

Having started out with cushions Tracey and her daughter have a range of designs on bags, pillow cases and pin boards

Prices start from just £10 and mainly come in black and white

They are made to order and posted within two working days. Any country or state can be embroidered on the map cushions, map bags, map pillowcases or map notice boards.

www.notonthehigh street.com/threadsquirrel

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