The Story of Jess Chippendale

Today is international women’s day so I wanted to take a minute to tell you about a woman who has taken her daughters challenges and turned them into a positive for her whole family - 

her story really is inspirational.

Jess is mum to a 7 year old daughter, Willow and a 6 year old son, Albie.  

When Willow was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with a condition called SMA type 2.

This devastating disease robs children of the ability to walk, crawl, stand, sit and eventually swallow. 

As you would expect, the first few years after a diagnosis like this were filled with anger, grief and uncertainty. 

But it’s what Jess has done with all that emotion and turmoil that has inspired me so much.

Just like me, Jess had had lost all her confidence after Willow’s diagnosis and it wasn’t until her children were both at school that she felt she had the time or energy to do something for herself. 

She eased herself back into society by starting a volunteering role one day a week at her daughters special needs nursery, a place she felt relaxed enough to regain her sense of being more than a mum.

But throughout all of this, Jess always knew that eventually she wanted to run her own business, because that would be the best way of working and earning a living around Willows hospital stays, appointments and all the things we all know stop us returning to a full time role.

She just needed to figure out what that business would be.

As Willow grew older, Jess faced the same problems I have faced with William. 

Problems you might also be facing. 

Getting Willow dressed was becoming a huge battle, getting her coat on would end up with Willow having a huge meltdown and Jess losing her patience.

So she began to search for adaptive clothing for children online. 

But everything was boring, medical looking and not what she wanted for her beautiful daughter. 

This led her to wonder whether it was possible to set up her own company selling fun, colourful, adaptive clothing.

She knew she couldn’t do it on her own, so during a drunken conversation with her brother he agreed to go into business with her and in November 2016, they set up Willow Bug. 

A year on and Willow Bug has already gained massive traction and is a popular brand amongst families like mine, they’ve won the Small Business Sunday award run by Theo Paphitis of Dragons Den fame and they are going from strength to strength.

They sell such lovely products for children who use wheelchairs, in a lovely range of colours and prints (we have many of them!) and Willow is a fantastic model for them.

I love the idea that a woman who has faced similar challenges to me, has turned it into a such a positive by creating a fantastic business which not only supports her own family, but helps to make the lives of other families much easier. 

Jess is exactly the kind of woman that inspires me and the kind of woman I’d love to see celebrated on international women’s day.

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