“I love the interaction I have with the staff, suppliers and customers and I always aim to promote a positive image of living with a visual difference. ”

Alison's story

Alison Young, 51, owns two gift shops with her husband on the Yorkshire coast, based in Scarborough and Whitby, where they sell an eclectic mix of souvenirs for tourists. She also takes pride in designing some of her own products.

Alison first joined her husband’s family business in 1998, when her youngest child started school, which fitted into her lifestyle at the time.

“It was only supposed to be temporary, covering some staff shortages but I found the work very fulfilling,” says Alison. “The flexible hours also meant that I could be there to pick up the children from school.

So after a year, temporary became permanent and following the death of my father-in-law in 1999, my husband and I took over the running of the business.

My role involves sourcing products for the business; making sure the stock is well displayed and being knowledgeable about the items we sell when speaking with the customers. No two day at work are the same, which I love.”

Alison was born with a haemangioma (a type of birth mark) on her left cheek, which was removed when she was four years old. Following this procedure, she had a number of skin grafts. She chose not to have any further operations after turning 12 because she eventually felt comfortable with her appearance.

“I love the interaction I have with the staff, suppliers and customers and I always aim to promote a positive image of living with a visual difference. Running our own business has made me feel strong and proved to me that personality, ability, qualifications and belief in yourself are what matters when you have ambition.”

Alison has always enjoyed working in customer-focused roles, having been employed in the past as a secretary for an estate agent, which instilled her with immense confidence. She has also used to work behind the bar at a local hotel and in a Job Centre.

“When I started work on my Uncle’s farm at the age of 13, I learned about the value of being a team player, which boosted my self-belief enormously,” adds Alison. “The experience also equipped me with a number of crucial skills, such as book-keeping and how to interact positively with colleagues, which prepared me well for the future.”