I’m told I was 2 when I saw my neighbour dressed in her pink leotard and skirt heading off to ballet and announced I wanted to go too! Like many younger girls ballet was a once a week hobby but up until the age of nine it played second fiddle to riding. I had my own (very naughty) New Forest pony called Max and when I wasn’t at school I could be found at the stable; riding, mucking out or cleaning tack! But as I’ve mentioned Max was naughty, in the sort of way that his life’s ambition was to throw me off and one day he did, quite spectacularly!
I recall walking away from the riding yard that day giving one little girl my crop, another little girl my gloves meanwhile my Mother behind me was wondering what was going to happen with the pony! I was done, too many falls and we later discovered this one has caused a broken collar bone, I recall announcing I was going to stick to ballet – it was safer than riding!
So ballet it was. By the age of 10 I was performing solo in competitions and by the time I was a teenage I’d won the All England Dance competition and when all the other girls at school were doing PE I was in the changing room doing a ballet lesson. This was no longer my once a week hobby, it was every night for 3 hours, all day Saturday at Central School of Dance in London and then back up to London on Sunday to the Royal Ballet School. Ballet was my passion and my purpose, I lived, dreamed it and at 16 I moved up to London to join the Royal Ballet School and from there began my professional career.
You weren’t paid much as a dancer but that really didn’t matter, it was enough to eat and for lodgings and I was rarely at those as I was on tour – I was living my dream dancing from morning to night. It was around the age of 19 that my Father said to me I didn’t realise how lucky I was to get paid to do something I loved, most people had to go to work to earn the money to then do what they enjoyed. If I’m honest whilst I understood what he said and was so grateful each day, that statement only hit home when my career came to an end.
I won’t go into the details of the accident but let’s say a gasp from an audience after a loud crack from your back isn’t the greatest! I did recover, my mindset helping me to visualise getting back dancing but my back was never the same and in my early 20’s my dancing career came to an end.
I retrained as a ballet teacher, but it was all still too raw – I needed a complete break from ballet from the reminder of what I had to leave behind. So I did what everyone else did, I got a job!
To be honest to start with it was quite exciting and felt quite grown up putting on a pencil skirt, high heels and suit jacket but it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off. I was no longer following my passion, I had become that person who earns money to then do what I enjoyed.
Working in an office was a nightmare for my body too, it just wasn’t used to me being so stationary, muscle started to decrease and my hyper mobile body was causing me more injuries. I needed to rethink. This coincided with panic attacks. I’d managed to hide them for years – they’d only shown up really when I went to sleep, a panicked gasp of air as if I was being choked before falling to sleep but they got worse, to the point I couldn’t get in the car and drive. This was not the life I had planned out when I was a child and I thought my only worry was a naughty pony!
So I had a choice – stay where I was or find my new passion, what did I want to do, what did I love? Ballet and dogs had always been part of my life. I saw a gap in the market for exclusive dog boarding and in 2006 I began providing holiday homes for just one family’s dogs, a year later and Wagging Tails was born. I had no business experience but I was so passionate about customer service and providing the best care for dogs and complete peace of mind for owners that with a website made by my husband (he taught himself) and me being guided by my instinct within 6 months we were fully booked and I was needing to take on other people to look after dogs. Within 3 years I’d launched our first franchise and that was over 11 years ago.
During that time I’ve got married, gone through IVF, thankfully had our beautiful daughter, grown our business (my husband was able to come and run it with me) and won numerous business awards including from Dragon’s Den Theo Paphitis.
Now this may sound like a pretty rosy story (minus the back injury part!) but what I’ve not mentioned is my body is not the shape of a ballet dancer – I have flat feet, bowed leg and a scoliosis. I was told to lower my standards and not aim for the Royal Ballet but I was determined that I would get into the best school in the world. I saw it in my mind, I held unwavering faith and I created it in my reality. The same with Wagging Tails. I could see the demand, I even had dog owners driving over from Mainland Spain to board their dogs with me so they could go and enjoy a beach holiday. Yet when I went to my bank I was talked down to, they weren’t interested in a little dog business.
My story is one of success mindset and this is something I now coaching others who have been through the same as me – dancers, athletes, elite sport people. There is life after that purpose ends. You get to chose. You get to create what you want.
I chose to only aim for the Royal Ballet and make that my reality, I chose to set up a business which to date has helped nearly 100,000 dogs and raised over £30,000 for dog charities and I chose to ignore it when others couldn’t see how it would work. When others allowed their own fear to get in the way I trusted in me.
Whoever you are, whatever you have been through the only thing preventing you from having the success that you desire (and let’s be clear success will look differently to each of us so this isn’t about trying to fit in or competing) you can do it.
That’s why I support others to create the business and life they want and find their passion and purpose so they can’t help but say “Just Watch Me!”
Lisa Suswain, Wagging Tails Director & Franchisor, Mindset Coach & Business Mentor at Just Watch Me! Certified Coach, NLP & EFT Practitioner.