I went from being homeless with two kids to turning over £1.3 million

Caroline hopes her success has opened her children’s minds up to what’s possible in life. (Collect/PA Real Life)

An entrepreneur who was made homeless in 2013 now lives in a £600K house and sends both her children to private school after turning a kitchen table venture into a million pound business.

Caroline Strawson, 48, hit rock bottom in April 2013 when her home was repossessed after she failed to pay her mortgage and she was left not knowing where the money would come from to pay for her children’s dinner.

Finding herself homeless with two children, Caroline was forced to ask her dad, John Hovland, 81, a retired chemical engineer, to be her guarantor so she could rent somewhere and put a roof over their heads.

Now a hugely successful trauma therapist and divorce coach, living in Northampton in the East Midlands with her children, William, 17, and Maddie, 14, and her second husband, Simon, 51, a mortgage broker, she said: “I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

“I can’t believe this is my life, I’m amazed that in 2013 I was homeless with two kids when I look at the contrast to my life now.

“I offer healing and coaching programs to help people move on from their past and, in the last year alone, my business has turned over £1.3m.”

She added: “But there were times when things were at their worst when I’d look at my bank account and there would be literally 20p in it.

“I’d think, ‘How am I going to feed my kids?’

“I always made sure to cook them solid meals with whatever I could find in the kitchen, but I’d live off a piece of toast so that we could get by.”

The only thing that kept me going was the kids. Caroline Strawson

She added: “I remember the kids would sometimes find pennies on the floor and give them to me to try and help.”

Caroline’s nightmare began in 2009, after her mother Linda Hovland died suddenly, aged 68, from an aneurism.

She said: “Things started to take a downward turn in 2009. I’d suffered four miscarriages before falling pregnant with my daughter.”

She added: “My mum passed away very suddenly that year and not long after, my first marriage fell apart.

“I’d been a full-time mum at that point, focusing on raising the kids and, suddenly, I had a mortgage and bills.

“It goes without saying that I couldn’t keep up with them.”

Caroline’s home was repossessed in April 2013 after she was unable to make her mortgage repayments.

She said: “I was homeless with two kids and I felt mortified.

“I ended up having to ask my dad to be my guarantor so that I could rent somewhere, which I found so embarrassing.”

At her lowest point, she admits to feeling suicidal.

She said: “The only thing that kept me going was the kids.

“Even on the nights when I couldn’t afford to feed myself and felt like it was never going to get better, I knew I couldn’t give up while I had my two children relying on me.”

To have my kids see the work I’m doing and be proud of their mum just fills me with joy. Caroline Strawson

Caroline started looking for work, but also tried her hand at starting her own venture to make some extra cash.

She said: “It started just as a little home based business at the end of 2013.

“It was a network marketing company which I built using Facebook. It worked well for me because I could hide behind a screen, as I was suffering really badly with anxiety.”

She added: “The only reason I didn’t become agoraphobic was because if I didn’t take my children to school, nobody else would.”

Perseverance soon saw Caroline turning a corner and her business providing her with a steady income.

She said: “Within about a year, the business completely exploded and I was earning a great income. I was chipping away at all my debt.”

She added: “Then, as I got to know the people I was working with, I realized a lot of them were dealing with trauma from past relationships and, with a divorce under my belt, I wanted to be able to help them.”

Deciding to retrain as a therapist, once qualified in 2017 Caroline started setting up a free advice group alongside her paid for counseling work.

She said: “I wanted to help people in any way I could, so I am now an accredited divorce coach with psychotherapy training.”

She added: “I have a Facebook group of over 24,000 women who I help on there for free and I have a podcast which is free to listen to and has had over 1.7 million downloads in the last 18 months.

“I also offer paid for healing and coaching programs to help people move on from their past and, in the last year alone, my business has turned over £1.3m. I also employ eight people now which is incredible.”

But it is not just her clients who have benefitted from Caroline’s new career path, she also says her children have noticed a marked difference in their mother.

I feel a new zest for life that I thought I’d never have again. Caroline Strawson

She said: “To have them see the work I’m doing and be proud of their mum just fills me with joy.

“When I think of where we were and where we are now, I have to pinch myself.

“I look back at old photos and I don’t even recognize the woman I used to be.”

She added: “There’s an old photo of me wearing a gray tracksuit and I can remember very clearly feeling so low at that moment, I just wanted to be invisible. I don’t feel like that now.

“I’m building a legacy for my children now, so they never have to go through what I went through.”

And despite helping people with very tough life stories, she does not find her counseling work draining.

She said: “I’m living with purpose now and my aim is to give hope and inspiration to others, so that when they’re at their rock bottom, feeling like they’re in a dark tunnel with no way out, I can be that chink of light for them.”

Helping others has, says Caroline, in turn enabled her to dig herself out of the dark hole she had fallen into.

She said: “Last year I bought a £600K house entirely in my name.”

She added: “Getting to share this exciting moment with my kids was wonderful. I think it’s really opened their minds up to what’s possible in life.

“William goes to university next year and he’s thinking of becoming a lawyer. I think the work I do with domestic violence survivors and women leaving toxic relationships has influenced him, because he no longer wants to go into criminal law and is instead interested in family law.

“My children both also see what’s possible with the money that I now have, with the people that I help and the charities that I donate to and that makes a really big difference.”

I’ve rebuilt my life from the ground up and it feels amazing to be self-made.Caroline Strawson

She added: “It’s great that we can go on nice holidays and do lovely things. They’ve gone through a private education and they’ll go to university, which is brilliant.

“But it’s important that they realize the money we have has given us security and that they see the good we can do with it, too.

“I’m always reinvesting and looking for ways of helping and supporting other people as well.”

Ironically, while coaching women through divorce, Caroline found love again – marrying her second husband in 2018.

She said: “I met my husband Simon on the Plenty of Fish dating app and we just hit it off. He has three children from a previous relationship and was really family focussed.

“My children adore him which was so important to me. We got married in 2018.”

She added: “I feel a new zest for life that I thought I’d never have again.

“I’ve rebuilt my life from the ground up and it feels amazing to be self-made.”

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