A former army Sergeant Major is coming to terms with her second cancer diagnosis by throwing herself into the creation of stock for her post-Service venture.
Attending a Help for Heroes course about setting up your own business gave Donna Price the know-how and inspiration to do just that and HarPur Creations (named after her two Sussex spaniels - Harry and Purdy) was born.
The six-day programme was devised by the Charity in partnership with X Forces – a social enterprise that works with veterans, partners, families, reservists and cadets to help them discover ex-military careers.
“I could never have had the confidence to turn my hobby into a business though if it hadn’t been for that course,” said Donna, who also works part-time as a Travel Health nurse, looking at Risk Assessment for travellers and advising on appropriate vaccinations.
But just two days after launching an outlet for her handmade crafts in Wren’s of Ripon, Donna received the devastating news that the cancer she thought she had shaken off last year, had returned.
However, never one to sit back and, mindful that Father’s Day is just around the corner, Donna is busying herself by designing and creating cards and gifts suitable for people to buy for their Dad.
After that, she will continue to make more bespoke items – from cushions and candles to fabric pin boards and soft toys (all of which can be personalised) - for her online customers as well as shoppers at the former department store on Fishergate that rents space to new, small independent businesses.
“I started with a ‘pop up’ shop at the end of February, to do a bit of market research, and have been on the go ever since,” said the 48-year-old. “I am either knitting, sewing, crafting or buying. My husband Kelvin works away quite a lot and when he returns home, he finds that I have taken over another room in the house!”
It’s a far cry from her previous career in the military which saw her serve 27 years with the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps, finishing as Corps Regimental Sergeant Major..
“Finally, I have a chance to be me, to remember that I am actually Donna, and not just Sgt Major – a job title and role that affects your behaviour on and off duty. I had lost ‘me’ but, over the past few months, I have found myself again,” she explained.
Donna decided to leave the army to prepare herself for IVF in the hope of achieving her dream of motherhood. while going through her resettlement programme, however, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, resulting in her needing a radical hysterectomy.
Her discharge date was postponed while she underwent surgery but then Donna was ready to move on. She attended several military-run courses to prepare her for life in ‘civvy street’, culminating in the Help for Heroes-funded Business Xperience course that opened her eyes to all the aspects of self-employment, such as compliance, book-keeping, market research and websites.
The course also focused on all the elements of the business model: USP, Sales, Marketing, Cash flow, and Business law.
“Despite getting thrown out of art and sewing classes at school, I had dabbled with cross-stitch, knitting and card-making over the years – even selling some of my work to raise money for local charities during a couple of my postings. But then I put it on the back burner while I continued my career and only took it up again when I was ill,” said Donna.
“I love the challenge of turning an idea into reality, with customers buying into our creation, and producing quality products at affordable prices. And I pride myself on the professional approach which comes from our values and standards.”
Last month, at her final medical, vague pains were discussed and investigations revealed a recurrence of cancer, meaning that radiotherapy and chemotherapy are inevitable but Donna remains positive and busy.
“I loved my military career but, over time, the army absorbed so much of both work and family life. Now though and can balance my work. It’s OUR time in our forever house in Wath,” she said.
Debbie Boundy, Head of Career Recovery at Help for Heroes, said : “Self-employment has become a very realistic option for those transitioning out of the military and into civilian life. Setting up a business is a challenge and our wounded, injured and sick have to embark upon this career with a good awareness of what it means.
“I am so pleased to hear about what Donna has achieved as a result of the course and in the face of adversity. She is testament to what can be accomplished as a result of our partnership with X Forces.”
To find out more about Donna’s work, visit www.harpurcreations.com