Barford entrepreneur overcomes tragedy and challenges to reap success
She is also adapting to her customers during the Covid-19 pandemic
An entrepreneur and grandmother from Barford has been named a finalist for a national newcomer award.
Kate Findlay, 65, launched her online boutique gift shop Peach Perfect whilst also nursing her husband through the latter years of his degenerative illness.
So overcoming the commercial challenges of a pandemic is, unsurprisingly, something Kate is also taking in her stride, as she adapts to the growing needs of her online customers.
Kate moved to Warwick aged 28, with her first husband following a transfer by her employers at the time, IBM.
And it was IBM that also led her to Ian, who became her second husband, and Kate also became a step mum to two sons, before going on to have their own son together.
After 18 years at IBM, Kate took voluntary redundancy and started a new marquee hire franchise.
But, after three years, her head was turned by an opportunity at Rover. This forced her to take a big step backwards from the marquee business and, eventually, to walk away.
An 11-year spell at Cadbury’s followed until she was faced with the option of redundancy again.
She said: “When an option to take redundancy arose, I seized the chance to escape – and having battled through three decades of corporate life, I knew this time there would be no turning back.
"I thought, this is my chance to do something for myself.”
It was at this time The Real Britain Company was born. A new independent travel service, it was a new venture for Kate and Ian.
But it was also whilst travelling on one of their research trips for their company that Kate noticing the first signs of Ian’s dementia.
She said: “It first became clear something was wrong about 10 years ago. We were on holiday in Kent doing one of our Real Britain forays and Ian had become very fearful of things.
"He wouldn’t walk along the white cliffs of Dover. He also started to forget conversations that we’d had just minutes before.
“Also he didn’t feel right. He knew something was wrong.
“We went to the doctors just after getting back from the trip and they said it was anxiety and depression - but we just knew that was a load of rubbish.
“Then it was backwards and forwards trying this drug and that drug and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, psychiatrists and brain scans without a firm conclusion.
"It wasn’t until Ian was finally referred to a memory clinic that, after six-and-a-half years he was diagnosed with a form of dementia condition called Lewy Body Dementia or DLB.
“It was a bit of a relief after all that time actually because it made sense of all his symptoms - and because the support for Parkinson’s is so much better than it is for Alzheimer’s. The Parkinson’s Society was brilliant.“
But it was to bring an abrupt end to their travels, as Kate explains: “It was becoming increasingly obvious that Ian was struggling to cope with the demands of the business and I was having to do all the work as well as care for him.
"We had made many changes to our life, one of which was closing down our beloved company.”
But it wasn’t long before Kate embarked on her next solo project.
“For a few years, I’d been fascinated with the idea of running an online gift shop with a difference - a store that stocked beautiful and practical presents for people like me who wanted good quality gifts without any gimmicks.
"A friend of mine who is a Shakespearean professor collaborated with a chef on a cookery book called The Food of Love: A Taste of Shakespeare in Four Seasons full of Elizabethan recipes and references to it in Shakespeare.
"But the publishers didn’t really know how to promote it because it’s not a standard cookery book or history book.
"I thought, there must be lots of things like this that people just don’t know about that make lovely presents so that was another catalyst.
“I knew deep down I still hadn’t achieved everything I want to achieve in life. I knew I needed something else. I realised what was coming and that I’d end up being a carer but needed something to focus on that would go beyond his death."
Ian’s condition deteriorated quickly and simple everyday tasks eventually became impossible. Ian died in March last year, aged 66.
Since then Kate has worked hard, in his honour, growing Peach Perfect, which has won recognition from Ladies First Networking Group.
But she’ll now have to wait until September to find out if she is the category winner.
In the meantime – and as, like all businesses, she stares into the abyss of Covid-19, she has vowed, with extra precautions in place, that it’s business as usual.
She said: “To begin with everything went completely dead because people were worried about finances and so on.
"Things are now picking up because they realise people still have birthdays and need to entertain the kids so we’re particularly selling a lot of craft kits and things for the garden.”
Kate is now championing the ambitions of wannabe entrepreneurs. She said: “You’re never too old to do anything. It’s never too late if you’ve got the idea and the wherewithal to do it. In fact, it keeps you young.”
For more information go to: https://peachperfect.co.uk