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Melissa Strevens

"Because I’m dyslexic I was worried that university would be too challenging. But I knew I wanted to run my own business"

Fortunately, Melissa Strevens didn’t give up on her ambitions – a friend at Harper Adams asked her to come along to an open day, where she learned how much help is available for students with dyslexia. “The staff were so approachable and I could see there would be plenty of support for me. I was impressed to see all my time would not be in a classroom and practical assessments were also included. This swung my decision away from going straight into work and choosing university instead.”

Lecturers and the Learner Support team are experienced at helping students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, and Melissa benefitted from many of the services on offer such as free dyslexia screening and assessing study needs, exam support, assistive software and technology, and dyslexia qualified tutors.

And so Melissa not only has a good degree in Food and Consumer Studies but is now running a unique business: couture clothing for female clergy. When the Rev Sandra Sykes, who became a priest in her 60s, could not find any suitable clothes to be ordained in, she asked advice from her friend Mandy Strevens, who was already running a successful online clothing boutique. The two women, and their daughters, Melissa and Sarah, saw a niche in the market, and Collared was born, using each of the four women’s skills. “Your role within a team should play to your strengths,” says Melissa, now 24. “I look after the social media accounts and website management as well as general admin. I also love a customer facing role so when we attend shows and fairs I handle customer transactions.

“Although my Food degree does not directly relate to fashion the experience of university taught me vital work and life lessons. It has taught me to step back and look at the bigger picture; to persevere and be patient when you are faced with a new challenge. Do not give up at the first hurdle as there is usually another way to tackle a problem.”

The Rev Kate Bottley, a star of the reality television programme Gogglebox, was among Collared’s first customers and their clothes have been featured on BBC’s The One Show.

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