Two years ago, Jo Cottingham made the biggest decision of her life.
She quit her job as a supply teacher and used her last £500 to start a cleaning and ironing business - ‘Neat as Nine Pins’.
It was, she admits, a massive gamble.
She had no previous business experience. Family and friends told her she was mad!
Today, Jo - and her business - are thriving.
From a start of herself and half a dozen clients, she now employees 15 people and has 90 clients.
Profits have trebled in the last 12 months.
Jo has shed blood, sweat and quite a few tears.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride,” she says, ”but I wouldn’t have missed a single minute.
“I love it...absolutely love it.”
Jo (40) is hoping her sparkling success will inspire others.
It certainly inspired judges in a county competition last month.
Jo completed her entry just three minutes before a midnight deadline.
Two-and-a-half weeks later and she saw off her rivals to pick up the prize for Start Up Business of the Year at a glittering ceremony in Lincoln.
Jo admits: “At one stage, I thought: ‘what’s the point in entering - no-one is interested.’
“But, I just went for it.”
Jo had to go through a ten minute interview with a judging panel and there were three finalists in her category.
“I never thought I’d win, says Jo. “When the name was called out, it was a mix of shock, disbelief and sheer terror.
“I was used to standing in front of a class of kids but this was totally different- 450 adults!
“As I went up to receive the award all I could think was ‘don’t drop the trophy, don’t drop the trophy.’”
Jo, who lives in Woodhall Spa, attended Gartree School - now the Barnes Wallis Academy - in Tattershall.
She always wanted to be a teacher.
She spent 13 years at a primary school in the Boston area and another two years as a supply teacher.
Then came that dramatic switch.
She explains: “I was travelling a lot and I wasn’t enjoying teaching. So much had changed. Children weren’t children - they were just a number.”
A close friend (Judith) was about to have a double hernia operation and needed someone to clean her house.
Another friend (Hilary) was starting university - at the age of 52 - and also wanted a cleaner.
Jo agreed to step in and with the encouragement of those two friends, she launched her business.
Jo started in August. Her mum - such a tower of strength - died the following January.
It was a devastating blow but Jo refused to give in.
Fortunately, she loves cleaning and still ‘gets her hands dirty’ although she spends most of her time managing staff, dealing with paperwork and securing new clients.
Those happy clients are spread far and wide and include individual homes and businesses, including holiday letting companies.
Jo has ambitious plans to expand - beyond Lincolnshire’s boundaries.
She admits she could not be happier (“I’d never go back to teaching”) - even if some of the sights she has witnessed would open anyone’s eyes!
•You can contact Jo by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.