This Life: working girl making a difference

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Tina Brown, 41, is the managing director of Enabled Works in Morley. She lives in Halton with her partner, Tony, who is also company secretary...

Not many managing directors work for minimum wage, but Tina Brown does. Her company is a cooperative, set up to give work to disabled people after the government-run Remploy factories were axed. Along with everyone else there she earns £189 a week, despite often putting in a seven-day week. She has been awarded an MBE for services to disabled people.

My first job was at Kennedy’s record shop in Leeds Market. I was 15 and I loved it, because obviously we played music all day long. It was the mid ‘80s but the stuff I really liked then was from the 1950s and ‘60s.

The best advice I ever received came from my mum who said that I would probably spend 80 per cent of my life working, so to make sure I found something I liked. I did that.

My working life didn’t start well. I dropped out of a course in healthcare because I became ill. My dad had had a stroke and everything had to be done for him, so I was trying to help my mum. I developed glandular fever and septic tonsillitis and ended up in hospital. Everything combined meant I just couldn’t concentrate on my course.

I got a job at Remploy on a temporary contract and ended up staying 24 years. I have a back problem and asthma, so am classed as disabled. I was a packer, and my first job was making handbag-sized packs of tissues. I still spend time on the packing line now, but my main job is finding work for the business so we can employ as many disabled people as possible.

My guilty pleasure is watching Grey’s Anatomy. I could watch episodes all day, back to back.

My pet hate is smokers who throw their cigarette ends out of the car window. I can’t believe people still do it, but they do because I see it all the time.

The person I would most like to meet? Well, I have always loved Motown so it would be good to be able to have a chat with Marvin Gaye. Music has always been a big part of my family. My dad drove lorries but he loved opera.

My favourite weekend? I work them at the moment, I am usually here every day from 7.15 to 6pm. I’m paid £6.50 an hour like everyone else, because it is a flat structure. I am paid for 30 hours a week though I work more. Clearly, I’m not doing this job for the money, but I do get a lot of satisfaction out of giving people opportunities.

There were 60 people working at Remploy, but we could only take on 13 when we started. But we got a contract to pack Haribo sweets and that has been marvellous. There are 30 of us now. We are packing their Christmas range and already talking to them about their Easter range.

My teenage self was shy so I would tell her to be more outspoken, but there isn’t really anything about my teenage years I would change. I did what was important at the time, which was helping my mum to look after my dad.

My philosophy on life is to treat people as you would want to be treated yourself. I think we are here to help people, not to be selfish or greedy. I couldn’t live without rose wine and chocolate. I eat chocolate every day, although sometimes it is just one square, I don’t always have to finish the bar.

My most embarrassing moment happened when I was young and staying at a friend’s house. I pulled out my nightie and it turned out to be a big pair of my mum’s knickers. They were a big family and soon everyone knew about it. I was about 12 and at that easily embarrassed age.

I don’t cry easily at work, I can be quite contained when that is the best thing to do, but I can cry easily at things on the telly. Things to do with dogs make me cry, I love them.

I have my own dog, who is nothing like the dog I always imagined I would have. I always told my family I would have labradors - one golden, one brown and one black - but I actually have Benjie, who is a bit of everything and doesn’t like men, especially ones wearing high-vis jackets.

My mum always told me the same joke when I was little. Every time we went under a certain bridge.

Pat and Mike are walking under a bridge when it collapses on them. Pat says: “Lord have mercy on us.” Mike says: “Don’t you think we have enough on us?”

It might surprise people to know that I am qualified in body massage and aromatherapy. I trained with my sister Diane, she is 15 years older than me and my best friend. We are always too busy to put our skill to use though.

I enjoyed my childhood in Halton Moor. I am the youngest of six and there are 19 years between me and the eldest. My mum had me aged 42 - they told her I was a cyst at first.

I like the variety of new and old in Leeds . I like the variety of beers available too, I am a big guest beer fan. My favourite currently is Leeds Pale.

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