An inspiring young woman from Monmouthshire who set up her own Welsh luxury hamper business aged just 20 has paid tribute to The Prince’s Trust, saying they “saved my life” after she fell on tough times. JONATHON HILL spoke to Abigail Chamberlain

ABIGAIL Chamberlain has described how pressure on charities like The Prince’s Trust is revealing the lack of support for young businesspeople at this time.

According to The Prince’s Trust, more than one in four young people claim their future career prospects have already been damaged by the coronavirus crisis, while 49 per cent say it will be “harder than ever” to get a job. Respondents in Wales are least confident about their future mental health.

This is Abigail Chamberlain’s story in her own words, from horribly dark times at university to renewed hope.

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“I always knew there was something not quite right with me academically when I was growing up, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“I loved music and I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life, and I went to university to pursue my dreams. Not long into the first semester, I received my first piece of feedback, and that was when I started to really struggle with my mental health.

“Up to then I had been a junior conservatoire student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and I felt confident about my skills. To all of a sudden be told I wasn’t producing a good standard of work was difficult.

“I started to suffer badly with my mental health which resulted in me dropping out of university.

“It felt impossible that I was going to be able to pick myself up.

“I decided I would go and get a test for dyslexia, but I never really thought there was a chance I would be diagnosed because I’d never been given an inkling I had it.

“Days later I received a diagnosis. I was 18 and I felt I finally had some answers.

“For years I’d wondered why I was the odd one out, and asked myself why I was getting all the wrong answers.

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“I felt like a different person and knew I needed complete change – to start afresh.

“The opportunity came up to start a business course at Coleg Gwent. I knew nothing about business, but I signed up because I felt I needed to find my way in something.

“The tutors at the college advised me to get in touch with The Prince’s Trust Cymru, and my life began to change completely.

“They not only gave me an opportunity to start my own business, I’d go as far to say they saved my life.

“They gave me the funding to get my business off the ground in September last year, but it was more about the mentoring they gave me to help me develop my confidence and get myself in the right mindset for the challenge.

“Thanks to the help I received, I’ve gone on to meet the first minister Mark Drakeford and actress Sally Phillips to discuss what the Welsh Government can do to help young people in business.

“I managed to win the Best Christmas Gift within a month of trading, and I was invited by John Lewis to open up my own temporary pop-up shop in its Cardiff store in Easter. Unfortunately it had to be postponed, but I can’t wait to join up with them at Christmas.

“While I’d like to think I’m an example of the power of The Prince’s Trust, the pressure they’re under at the moment is unbelievable, and I’d like to highlight the importance of the work they are doing for young people like me.

"In the ‘Young People in Lockdown’ report released by The Prince’s Trust this week, 46 per cent of 16-25 year olds in Wales felt confident about their mental wellbeing – which is the lowest across the UK.

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“Forty-seven per cent don’t feel in control of their lives. 66 per cent said they had ‘no idea’ what their next job will be.

“I fear this is potentially even higher for young businesspeople, especially because the majority of us, I am sure, have been neglected.

“A lot of us can’t get sufficient funding because we pay business rates as part of our rent rather than directly.

“I also don’t qualify for the self-employed grant because I can’t submit tax returns for 2018.

“The help is out there for established businesses, but for start-ups it isn’t, which is why there is such a high demand on The Prince’s Trust.

“I struggle to see a way through this period for young businesspeople that have not been fortunate enough to get the help I’ve received.

“I feel passionately that when this is over people need to try and support local businesses as much as possible, because small businesses will feel the impact of this pandemic the most.

“I’m very aware of not trying to take advantage of the situation, so I have tried to be careful about what I offer at this time. I have started putting together affordable ‘necessity hampers’ to help bring a smile to people.

“I hope this period of uncertainty doesn’t put off young people interested in business. I’ve never regretted trusting my instincts and jumping into it. I didn’t want to go through my life thinking ‘what if?’

“The support is available and so many people can help you. There has never been such an important time for all independent businesses across Gwent to connect and help each other.”

To find out more about Abi’s Welsh Luxury Hamper Company visit