Vanessa Heywood

Vanessa grew up in a musical household. Her father a professional trombonist and her siblings also musically inclined. Vanessa shared the family talent and won a scholarship as a youngster to study music, dance and art.

This led her to the glittering West End where she performed in acting, singing and dancing roles in prestigious productions such as West Side Story, Twelfth Night and Elvis: The Musical.

She was living her dream performing and touring when she noticed irregularity with her bladder which upon investigation led her to be diagnosed with MS. At the time her consultant’s parting words were, ‘go away and live your life’! An unhelpful and uninformative comment, particularly as she describes that her ‘old self seemed to fly out the window’ as she left the hospital. She recalls how she was diagnosed in the morning and performed in her Dad’s show in the afternoon; truly living the adage, ‘the show must go on’!

She never returned to that consultant but did carry on working and touring for a further three years. Throughout this time she was hiding her impairment, but finally acknowledged that the showbiz world she lived in was not workable for her.

At this time she got married and became pregnant with her first child.  Many, including medical professionals, expressed that she should not be having a baby with MS and told her how and what she should do. In true Vanessa spirit she decided to have a drug-free home birth, which she describes as a positive experience which DID NOT not adversely affect her MS as she had been told by so many it would.

Shortly after she became a Mum for a second time but it transpired she was soon to become a single Mum. She found herself alone, living with MS, no money and two small children. She says she knew she had to do something and felt something was on the horizon.

Her ‘lemonade moment’ came to her when she excitedly took her sons to a music workshop but found the experience totally uninspiring. She tells how the Mums half heartedly sang ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ to bored kids. She knew then that she could do this much better and set about feverishly writing thirty six songs in super quick time. Tiny Mites Music was born and is now a leading provider of music, movement and drama classes for babies, toddlers and pre-school children.

Vanessa had found a way to turn her life-long passion for music and performance ‘inside out’ and created a new opportunity for herself. She now looks back fondly on her life pre-MS and is grateful for those times. She also acknowledges that she could not have sustained that lifestyle when she became a parent, regardless of her MS. Her future and the future of her business is exciting, Tiny Mites Music has contracts with a number of large holiday parks, nursery chains and schools and has released a Tiny Mites CD. She has plans to franchise Tiny Mites Music and create a touring revolutionary children’s puppet show.

Last year Vanessa won the Stelio’s Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs, an honour richly deserved. The £50,000 prize money will be ploughed into her business to continue her success.

Vanessa believes that self employment is a great option for her as she can work around her constant condition. She has the positive mental attitude that makes her the perfect entrepreneur. On an occasion when her MS caused her to spend five weeks in bed she told herself she was well every day until she was well enough to get out of bed and return to her business. It is often said that a positive attitude is half the battle and Vanessa certainly is living proof of this.

Five Questions With Fizz!

1.      What is your guilty pleasure?

“Chocolate”

 2.      If you had your time over what would you do differently?

“Travel more when I was younger. I also would have liked more children! Well just one more, preferably a girl, as I have two wonderful boys.”

 3.      Who has been a role model to you?

“My father, he is a pro musician. He taught me never to give up and to strive for perfection.”

 4.       If you were given the day off tomorrow how would you spend your time?

“With my boyfriend in his e type jag, in a big hat and some champagne!”

 5.      What motto do you think is a wise one to live by?

“Be grateful for all you have, hold on to a strong sense of self and love as much as possible.”

 For more information about Vanessa’s business go to www.tinymitesmusic.com

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