Twelve months ago Rhiannon Bates saw her business crumble and suffered a horrific accident. But today her business is growing faster than ever, writes Mark Casci.
At the start of 2020, life for Rhiannon Bates was looking really good.
Garnet PR, the business she had founded the previous year, was growing well and she was appointing new members of staff.
She and her boyfriend were engaged and they were looking to move house.
Then, literally in the space of a few days, everything was turned upside down.
As cases of Covid-19 began to sweep the nation, the economy went into a nosedive. By the time Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his infamous “you must stay at home” address, plunging the economy into lockdown, all bar one of Ms Bates’ clients had back out.
Faced with seeing her young firm collapse and increasingly struggling to cover her overheads, Ms Bates began working morning, noon and night to salvage Garnet PR, a business which just a month earlier had been in rude health.
Her health began to suffer, with her stress levels through the roof, and she struggled to sleep. To compound matters she did not, at that time, qualify for any Government support.
“It was awful and heartbreaking and we had no idea how long it was going to last,” Ms Bates told The Yorkshire Post.
“It was related to how stressful the situation was. I hit burn out really hard. I was working so hard to survive and I basically didn’t look after myself.”
Then, when things seemed like they could not get any worse, disaster struck.
Early one morning, when making a cup of tea for herself and Tom, her fiancée, she passed out with a just boiled kettle in her hand.
She does not remember how long she was unconscious for but she does remember what happened when she came to, with her legs having been covered in boiling water.
“I didn’t realise anything had happened,” she said.
“When you really hurt yourself you don’t feel pain. All I could think was I had managed to break his (her fiancée’s) favourite mug. I was in shock and soon went sheet white.”
Acting quickly her husband threw a bucket of cold water over her legs before wrapping them in cling-film and rushing her to accident and emergency.
She would later be transferred to the specialist burns unit at Pinderfields where she would remain for three weeks. Owing to Covid restrictions she would not see anyone she knew for days.
It was here that many would have hit rock bottom. But Ms Bates was not prepared to let that happen.
“I never stopped thinking about the business,” she said.
“Even in the hospital I was reworking our website. Looking back I really should have taken more time off but when you are a small business owner you are always thinking about what you are going to do next.
“For me that looked like wondering how I was ever going to come back from this. My whole business had crumbled. I had contracts in place with suppliers I had to keep paying. I knew it was sink or swim and I had to get one with it.”
Ms Bates attributes her positive mind-set to work she had done on mind-set.
Having suffered from stress and anxiety early in her career she had received help and practiced daily mind-set exercises to develop her decision-making and attitude.
It was from these practices and sensibilities that she went about restoring both her health and her career.
She said: “I had melted my legs, couldn’t walk and was in lockdown. It was really tough.
“But having the business in a way was a really great distraction from the personal trauma because I could focus on that and work out how we were going to build the life we want.
“It brought home for me how my self worth was so much more than just the business. I could look at it with a clearer vision.
“I never thought I would not recover from my accident, I was not going to let it change my life.
“I decided to focus on a broader niche. I moved out of travel. I started working more with ambitious and driven female entrepreneurs. My client base evolved with me. I started working with more coaches and female-led businesses.”
Her accident provided her with lived experience that allowed her to both pivot her business and allow her to use her example to help coach other people develop a similar mind-set.
“From the minute I had my accident it never occurred to me to feel sorry for myself. When I was in my 20s I was a lot more anxious and pessimistic.
“A lot of it is in your subconscious mind, which is the most powerful part of you brain.
“I wanted to help women avoid building businesses that were unsustainable and hit burn out like I did.
“It was a case of asking ‘are you going to let challenges or knocks set you back and spiral into negativity, or grab the bull by the horns and find out what you want to do with your life’.
“I think the pandemic gave a lot of people a reality check. Do you want to keep working for someone else or do something you are passionate about.”
Her journey back to being health was far from over
Over the coming weeks and months she would need to be given skin grafts, contracted a bacterial infection and would be confined to a wheelchair.
While her burns are now healing well she will be under the care of doctors for another year and be left with permanent scarring. But she is no longer in a wheelchair and is able to walk unaided as before.
And as her health recovered so did her business. Changing her business model began to yield result, so much so that now in its second year, it is growing faster than ever.
“We are definitely going to hit six figures this year for sure. Considering in April last year we made £500 maybe.
“If you had told me where I would be in a year’s time I would not believe you.
“Obviously I wish I didn’t have scars but it was the best thing that happened to me as it made me re-evaluate everything.”