Vanessa Heywood had the world at her feet, her talent as a actor, singer and dancer winning her roles in prestigious touring theatre productions such as West Side Story, Twelfth Night and Elvis: The Musical. But then she began to notice something was not quite right. To her disbelief, a brain scan confirmed she had multiple sclerosis.
According to a story in The Guardian, she saw a chance to reinvent her career, utilising her lifelong passion for music to write inspiring, interactive songs for young children. “I took my kids to a singalong session where the mums were drinking coffee and singing The Wheels on the Bus rather halfheartedly, and I just realised, I could do better than this,” she says.
Looking after her two young sons by day, and working by night, she wrote in her lounge, often sleeping on the sofa when the MS stopped her getting up the stairs. “I was writing frenziedly,” she says, quickly composing 36 songs and creating a group of characters, the Tiny Mites, which sprang from stories she told her sons.
Today her business, Tiny Mites Music, has contracts with a number of large holiday parks, nursery chains and schools and has released a Tiny Mites CD. Last week, she won the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK – an annual £50,000 prize awarded by EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s philanthropic foundation in association with Leonard Cheshire Disability, an honour she describes as “life-changing”.
Photo by Tiny Mites Music Limited.