Hard work and determination pays off for Banchory entrepreneur

Running a business can be a stressful job, but battling debilitating health conditions at the same time can make the task even harder.

For Alexandra Innes who owns Dee-Vine Living, a retail business specialising in vintage and antique furniture, collectibles and clothing based in Banchory, her boutique is more than simply a source of income - it has proved to be her lifeline when she has found herself bedridden and floored by illness.

Since opening less than a year ago, it has become a much-loved feature of the high street and has become a hub of activity. And during these testing times, Alexandra understands the importance of diversity when running a business, and also offers house clearances, free valuations and advice, a free wedding service and furniture restoration.

Mid-teens, the now 37-year-old businesswoman, was first diagnosed with arthritis and fibromyalgia, also known as FMS, which is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

Alexandra said: “I had to limit what I physically did in order to stay healthy, but I led a reasonably normal life at that time.

“I tried at the time just to get on with things the best I could and not to make a big issue out of it.”

However, when Alexandra was in her twenties, she suffered a bad fall when she was pregnant with her second child, and the incident sent her health on a downwards spiral.

Despite the blow, Alexandra continued working, and managed to gain three diplomas from home. But when she was thirty years of age, her health took another turn for the worst and Alexandra was left bed bound due to immobility and her body began shutting down.

During that dark time when Alexandra was unable to crawl out of bed, her spirit kept fighting on, and she developed a love of buying and selling jewellery and vintage wedding gowns on-line.

Alexandra said: “I remember waiting to go into the operating theatre and being glued on my mobile phone, trying to secure a sale. I was passionate about it, at a time when my body was physically giving up on me.”

The 37-year-old tried to return to mainstream work, however her illness had reached a critical state.

She said: “Due to my mobility problems along with other health disabilities, it was just too much. My brain was willing to work full throttle, but my body was failing me.”

Twenty years of health problems were taking their toll, but Alexandra was again determined to work despite the blows that kept coming her way.

She said: “I realised I had to use the computer skills I learnt whilst I was bed-ridden. I previously used to work in my brothers antique shop, so retail experience was in my blood. I thought if I could somehow merge the two and cut out the middle man, I could make it work.

“I decided that if I can’t fulfill the role criteria for someone else, I needed to make a role for myself.”

Alexandra insists from that light bulb moment when she decided that she needed to make her own role in the working world, her path was clear and she developed the idea of owning her own vintage and antique boutique.

With very little stock, no finance and a deposit given to her by her partner, her desire to own a business seemed like another uphill struggle. However, Alexandra began to make waves on the antiques and vintage seen very quickly.

She said: “The response I received was quite unbelievable. I decided that I would be open and upfront about my health conditions from the beginning, and I received incredible feedback and support from the local community and also visitors alike. I have also had other disabled and fibromyalgia sufferers come into the shop and tell me their story.”

Meanwhile alongside running her successful business, Alexandra has also become a researcher for an organisation named ‘Disabled Entrepreneurs’ which offers support and information to disabled business owners.

Alexandra’s business is quite literally going from strength to strength, and despite the adversity she still faces on a daily basis due to her deteriorating health, she manages her boutique, her eBay store and her own Facebook and Twitter pages.

Alexandra said: “In short, this business has become my life line, my reason and my future.

“Every morning I wake up now, I don’t have a feeling of dread, I have an overwhelming feeling of passion and positivity.

“I want to show others that things don’t have to stop when life throws a curve ball at you. Dreams and goals can still be reached.”

Alexandra is a finalist in the Spirit of Enterprise category of the Elevator Awards 2015, which are organised by Elevator, along with headline sponsors The Royal Bank of Scotland.

The award ceremony will take place on Thursday 25 June at the Mercure Ardoe House Hotel.

Alexandra said: “To make it to the finals is a real boost for me, as it proves that with hard work and a positive attitude, you really can do anything you set your mind to.”

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