“Fortis has provided me with the tools and space to access the darkest recesses of my mind. I am a completely changed person and believe I have a life worth living.”
For someone previously left devoid of hope, to find the inner-strength to not only continue but re-discover life’s joys, is a gift that few have the skills or selflessness to provide.
If bringing a light into the life of one person is selfless, then to bring light into a town that has seen little for many years is closer to a miracle.
Fortis Therapy and Training is one of a number of small businesses in Grimsby built on foundations of generosity that has helped to regenerate a town caught up in the death of fishing industry, youth unemployment and a lack of transport infrastructure.
Having suffered with PTSD and unhappy with her own experience of mental health provision, Alexis Powell-Howard opened the doors to Fortis in 2012. She is now an award-winning business owner leading the charge for better mental health services in her community, and across the UK.
In those seven years Fortis has become an indispensable small business to the North East Lincolnshire town, demonstrated at last week’s Small Awards, where it took home two prizes including the coveted Small Business of the Year.
The fact its win came ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week is particularly apt. Having transformed the health of individuals in its care, and been part of a small business movement – including fellow Small Awards winner, Cleethorpes’ Riverhead Coffee – that has transformed the health of an entire region.
Mental health and small business do in fact go hand-in-hand. Research by peak b shows that small businesses are much more likely to be attuned to their staff’s mental health needs, and therefore more likely to offer support and flexible working to their staff, than a big business with a more formal hierarchical structure would be.
Where services are lacking nationwide is in mental health support services for entrepreneurs, who often carry the weight of staff and their communities on their shoulders.
When we think about local communities, we tend to think positively about their role in the local economy, and in educating their communities, but we don’t tend to think about the part they play in improving collective mental health.
In Grimsby though, the systems are there for entrepreneurs to thrive and support each other, with the likes of the Local Business hub, E-Factor. This not-for-profit independent business provides space for networking, business support and more, and acts as a springboard for the area’s driven and optimistic leaders to build for the future.
We know that making a profit is not the primary purpose of most small businesses, and what peak b’s report Small Business Opportunity Creators found this year is that they view their raison d’être as making life worth living; for their clients and customers, for their staff, for their community at large, and for themselves.
Fortis exemplifies this attitude, working with schools, the police force, and the YMCA, as well as its fellow local businesses. What it does for everyone it comes into contact with that needs help, is open them up to a life worth living. In turn it has contributed to the regeneration of a town previously on its knees.
The power of small businesses really can never be underestimated. They make all our lives worth living.