After being expelled from school, and a series of dead end jobs, Lee Cartwright decided to take life by the horns and set up his own computer repair business.
From a very young age I have always been into electronics and money. I always wanted to do something in life but my stammer kept putting me off. School life was terrible. I was very clever at school but because I could not communicate by talking I used to lash out and be the class idiot. Eventually I get expelled from school at the age of 15, no qualifications!
When I turned 16 I found myself a job in the local fish factory, working very hard earning only minimal money. I tried to speak with the manager to tell him I could do a website for him, but because of my stammer it all came out wrong so I was stuck.
I did various dead end jobs, but one day I got an urge to do something with my life. I always was a quick learner so I got on the internet and learned all about business and what I needed to do. In March 2004 I finally had enough information to set up business repairing computers.
First call out
I always remember my first call out, I was very nervous and stammered like mad. The customer I had was very sympathetic and told me to calm down, it's alright. Gradually I became confident in running the business and my stammer became less of a problem. It seemed to disappear when I knew I was good at what I was doing. When I first started the business I was answering the phone to jobs and losing half of them, because people thought since I couldn't talk properly I probably couldn't repair their computer.
A couple of years later the local newspaper got hold of what I had achieved and published a story about how I set up business and my stammer (www.timesandstar.co.uk). From that day my customer base expanded and word of mouth soon got around, I also found many people who stammer came to see me with computer problems they had. Customers who stammered knew they wouldn't be judged because of a stammer.
6 years on I am still doing what I love best, but it is now slightly easier for me as I have a receptionist who takes the calls. I still have difficult days where I have been working flat out for weeks with no rest. My stammer becomes really severe when I am under pressure.
Many people who stammer came to see me with computer problems they had. They knew they wouldn't be judged because of a stammer.
Now I don't care about my stammer, I don't let it rule my life like it did in my teens and early twenties. I used to hate going to places where I had to ask for something. Now I just get on with it, if the person does not like it then I just deal with it and move on.
I would never turn back the clock. My stammer used to rule my life and put a damper on my ambitions, but now I am in charge not my stammer.
I now have 3 children ages 2 to 10. They don't stammer. When they were growing up I tried not to stammer around them as I was concerned about triggering the same in them (though BSA tell me I needn't have worried about this). Life is good and my business portfolio keeps expanding into new ideas. I would say this if you stammer and are in the same situation that I was: take note you only live once, make the most of it with what you have!
From the Winter 2010 issue of Speaking Out, page 12