When she was declared unemployable due to severe illness, Grace Quantock faced a crossroad in her life.
The choice was between accepting defeat or turning a cancer scare and osteoporosis into inspiration. She didn’t hesitate in her decision of which option to pursue.
At 24, Grace Quantock was chronically ill and between diagnoses with few prospects in life. Now, just four years later, she is helping other people who are experiencing pain and trauma. Her business, Healing Boxes, is finding success worldwide from a base in Pontypool, South Wales.
Grace has been shortlisted for the 'Social Enterprise Entrepreneur' of the year award at the Entrepreneur Wales Awards, sponsored by Business Wales, Welsh Government. She has also been shortlisted for the 'Micro Business', 'Eco', 'Creative Industries' and 'International Trade' entrepreneur of the year awards at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
I spoke to her about her inspirational story and ongoing success.
Tell us about the business…
"Healing Boxes creates boxes full of great stuff for the people you care about; gifts that say 'I’m thinking of you', 'hang in there', or simply 'you are loved'.
"They’re for a loved one, or yourself! Healing Boxes are the perfect pick-me-up. They’re thoughtful, useful, and easy to customise and ship.
"We offer delightful, practical and ethically filled gift boxes for people dealing with illness or tough times. Our boxes, designed to comfort, uplift and provide support, are chocked full of thoughtfully chosen, beautiful, yet pragmatic items. For reading. Eating. Doing. Feeling. For healing.
"We believe in the power of reaching out; giving gifts that are heart-warming and genuinely useful; actively supporting people during difficult times; spreading joy; ethically produced goods; thoughtfulness as a healing tool; and supporting our community."
When and how did you start the company?
"When I was 24, I was living on disability benefits, struggling for money, with no prospects and very little hope. I'd been told there was no cure for the chronic autoimmune illnesses I had been diagnosed with and to go home and try and get used to living with constant pain and severely limited mobility.
"Bone scans found extensive problems, and while I waited to hear if I had progressive sarcoma (bone cancer), I reviewed my life. I knew I had to stop being scared and start living my dreams.
"For several years I'd been making bespoke gift boxes for people in hospital because there were none available for sale. The word was spreading and more and more people began contacting me, requesting boxes. I knew the demand was there and overcame my fears, launching Healing Boxes CIC globally in late 2011.
"With the news that I had severe (but not life-threatening) osteoporosis rather than cancer, I was able to turn my energy to my growing business. Healing Boxes has been enjoyed by world-famous authors, teenage cancer patients and people in need of healing all over the world!"
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
"I didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur. It was a necessity that grew out of the life I was living and the challenges I was managing. When you can't sit up, can't move your arms or legs but need to change the world and earn a living, what else is there?"
What (or who) inspired you to start the business? And what (or who) inspires you to keep going?
"The 11.9 million disabled people in the UK today. The 300,000 women with life limiting illness in Wales. The 1,574 incidences of childhood cancer occurring every year. The letters from patients, doctors and carers, thanking us for making these little boxes of love which go out and warm hearts, creating comfort and support in the darkest of times.
"That's what motivates me to succeed every day."
What are your best and worst qualities as a business person?
"In my work, I don't talk about 'worst' or 'best' qualities or habits - all the actions are simply us doing the best we can for the space we are in. I instead work with 'non-optimum' and 'optimum' choices. Non-optimum choices make you feel less than optimum and there are more enjoyable choices available. Optimum choices make you feel best. There's a whole spectrum in between with which you can work.
"My optimum qualities would be an enthusiasm and belief in new possibilities. The shadow side to that is a tendency towards perfectionism and low energy through overwork. I'm working on balancing the shadow and light on this spectrum."
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
"The best advice I never had is that anything is possible. All those things you think are impossible may be possible. Practically, a woman with multiple serious illnesses, needing full time care and who has never had a real job before should not be able to run two successful businesses from the back of beyond in the Welsh valleys. But it is so. I am living the full colour reality. Those things you think are impossible, the dream you have of changing the world: I am just waiting to see you in action. You have too little time and too much talent to waste.
"The one thing I did right was to reach out and ask for help. Ask questions again and again. Be polite and say thank you but ask and then act on the information you receive. When you find someone amazing ask them for a 10 minute chat, prep your questions and ask away. Then take everything they have given you, ask for a reading list and who else you should speak to. Follow up on it all then go back and report your process. Consistency and openness are key.
"If I was to give a message to other would-be entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference, it would be to step up and begin. Launch now. It will never be perfect and the world needs the revolution you have inside you. Refine as you grow, but just grab your reasons and your let’s-make-a-miracle-team and go!"
Why did you enter the Entrepreneur Wales Awards and Great British Entrepreneur Awards?
"Winning these awards would make a huge difference to our business, generate interest and publicity that we could leverage into sales and support even more people who are in pain, lonely and struggling."