I'm running my own business at 20!
Hannah Ackroyd was determined not to rack up huge debts while studying at university and found the solution right on her doorstep – she became an Avon lady.
Hannah, 20, of Cottingham, is in her final year at the University of Hull, studying English with creative writing.
She became an independent Avon representative a couple of months after her 18th birthday.
"With Avon being so flexible, it doesn't get in the way of my learning," said Hannah, who is still living at home with her parents as another way of avoiding the money pit.
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Students who started university after September 1 this year faced new finance arrangements for their courses.
With learning institutions now able to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 annually – and with the cost of living ever rising – students are finding taking up part-time work while at university is increasingly necessary.
Hannah said: "I can fit in my Avon job in the evenings.
"All I would say to anyone considering taking on a part-time job while studying is, be wary of taking on too much.
"When you get into a routine, it doesn't interrupt what else you need to do.
"I've built up some fantastic relationships with my customers in the past two-and-a-half years, and I've learnt about working for myself and the self-discipline that's needed – but you always have the support of someone behind the scenes.
"At university my timetable often changes week to week, so the flexibility of Avon is really useful for that. I have also learnt some really great customer service and money- handling skills, which will help with my CV."
Does Hannah consider herself "young" for being an Avon rep?
"I started in my last year of sixth form," she said.
"Then, the other representatives seemed a lot older than me, but now there's a growing trend for younger people to get involved in Avon," said Hannah. "The brand is changing and it has lost that stigma of being for old ladies.
"I have a range of customers, from friends of my age to mat- urer ladies – a lot of customers are middle-aged with young children, and find it is more convenient to have our products brought to them at home.
"We always had an Avon lady from me being very little, so I have always been aware of the company, and had a rough idea of how it worked.
"When I showed an interest in being a rep, my sales leader came to the house for an informal chat, to see if it was something that could work for me."
Previously, Hannah found herself in the Catch 22 situation of applying for jobs to help pay her way through university, and being rejected because she had no retail experience.
"I saw a TV advertisement about becoming a rep and one of the attractive things about it was you didn't need experience," said Hannah, who uses Avon herself and particularly likes one of its hair products.
She is also pleased that Avon supports charitable causes for women – "I've worn my Breast Cancer Crusade pin since I started working for Avon," said Hannah.
"Another thing with working for Avon is that it helps to support my hobbies.
"Spare time is very precious at the moment and I enjoy arts and crafts when I can – I've been doing some cross-stitch and embroidery.
"Over the summer I wanted to teach myself how to crochet and that has exploded into patchwork and sewing.
"The money I get from Avon is really helpful because it's a guilt-free spend.
"The money I get from another weekend job goes to university for books and so on, but my Avon money I can spend on going out or buying some craft items."
Angela Tucker, head of recruitment and sales at Avon, said: "We have seen students enjoy self-employment throughout our 54 years in the UK, but there is definitely a rise in interest among students to join organisations like ours, which enable you to run your own business, set your own financial targets and demonstrate skills that ultimately help employability – being a business owner at 18 and juggling a degree with your own enterprise is very attractive to HR departments."