Entrepreneur thanks parents who started new life abroad for instilling resilience

Yvonne Bignall
Yvonne Bignall of Y B Limited

From the late 1940s, thousands of men, women and children have left Jamaica for Britain.

Yvonne Bignall’s parents were among those who left their family and homes to travel thousands of miles for opportunities abroad.

Today the successful businesswoman from Radstock, who has written a best-seller and offered training courses world-wide, credits her parents for instilling resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The award-winning women’s health advocate and self-care coach said: “I think my parents were entrepreneurial as they left the life they knew behind and were driven to succeed abroad.

“My mum is a driving force – great at making connections and facing challenges head-on. In contrast, my dad was a great listener – quick to absorb and learn.

“They were an equal partnership and together showed me I could do anything I wanted to do.”

Yvonne and family
Yvonne Bignall with her mum and brother.

Emigration

Yvonne’s mother, one of 11 siblings, left her hometown of Trelawny, while her father left his home of Kingston.

They travelled with their two young children at the time, finding work as a nurse and train driver respectively.

Towards the end of his career, Yvonne’s father started to train new drivers. He died in 2013 and his strong work ethic lives on in his children.

Racism was a common experience and immigrants could be refused jobs and accommodation.

Yvonne, 55, who has three siblings and heads Y B Limited to support women prioritise their self-care and personal development, said: “My mum was adamant we would rent until we could afford to buy.

“And within 3 short years my parents bought their first home in Langroyd Road, Tooting, where I was born.

“My father arrived ahead of my mother and they stayed with family, not having to experience the racism that was common-place with some landlords.”

Their family moved into their second owned home where an Irish family rented the basement and Yvonne remembers a strong sense of community – with everybody knowing each other on their street.

Equality

Yvonne has worked to tackle inequality, including volunteering with W4 (Women’s WorldWideWeb), an organisation providing mentoring to women in developing countries- in which many go onto graduate and find work.

She also does philanthropic work through Bath Women’s Fund, helping community and charitable organisations access much-needed funds.

The author of Suck it Up or Change has also visited Downing Street to look at ways of increasing government support for single parents in business.

She has welcomed the Black Lives Matters movement and encourages people to call out racism, sexism or any form of inequality.

She said: “Lockdown meant that people had been still and able to look at issues they previously had not considered.

“I think more people are willing to re-educate themselves, which has been shown in increased sales of books about race and black history in the wake of protests.

“If it leads to people calling out racism within their own circles, it’s a good start. It’s important to act and speak out so that life can be better for everyone.”

Yvonne's parents
Yvonne’s parents, who emigrated from Jamaica.

Opportunity

Yvonne has many achievements to her name – from becoming a Miss Universe contender during her bodybuilding days, to writing a book to hosting a local radio show.

Yvonne, who heads Women’s Power Hour on Somerset Valley FM, said: “Without shadow of a doubt, I believed I could achieve whatever I set out to do thanks to my parents’ influence.”

She believes in the power of role models, mentors and finding opportunity from adversity.

Yvonne Bignall
Yvonne Bignall of Y B Limited

Yvonne, who is now a proud grandmother, said: “We should all have the right to be treated with respect and equal opportunity, no matter what our sex, race or class is.

“It helps to have role models as a source of inspiration, mentors for guidance and supporters for encouragement along the way. I know I did.

“It’s my personal belief that opportunities can be found at difficult times and we have seen that change is possible.”