"They told me I was good for nothing. I proved them wrong."

By Ged Henderson

21 Sep 2023

Amanda Meachin

Amanda Meachin remembers word for word exactly what was said to her when she was expelled from school on her 16th birthday - it has been indelibly printed on her brain ever since.

It was blunt, cutting and incredibly cruel: “We no longer have to tolerate you Meachin, you’re good for nothing.”

She says: “I guess they had their reasons back then in 1982. I was a single mum at 14 and left home two years later with my toddler son.

“The odds on me being given any job, let alone being appointed a chief executive, were probably not great. Just to make it even tougher on myself I had my second son when I was 18.”

Amanda went on to prove her teachers and school very wrong. Working her way up from nothing, she was appointed chief executive at Blackburn headquartered Community & Business Partners CIC (CBP) in 2004 and, as she points out: “That wasn’t bad for someone who at that point had never even sat an exam.”

Now, as she looks forward to her semi-retirement later this year, she reflects on a career which has seen CBP develop and grow into a respected business and community support organisation with an annual turnover of more than £1m.

CBP focuses on four specific areas of social impact - business, community, environment and skills. It has a specialist bank of 200 industry experts offering business support.

Its CSR work sees it rescue manufactured materials which would otherwise head to landfill and taking in surplus food. The manufactured materials are then repurposed and sold on through an on-site scrap store to community groups, schools and individuals across the country. The food collected is supplied to local families in need.

It launched a membership offering in 2022 and reinvests all of its profits back into the community.

Amanda’s is a truly remarkable story of resilience and triumph over adversity. Both her parents died of alcoholism and her future was bleak when she was thrown out of school.

Her soldier father Arthur had worked alongside the resistance during the Second World War preparing for the D-Day landings. As part of his cover, he had a family in a Belgian village.

After the war he planned to reunite with his Belgian wife in Barrowford, but tragically she  died before they could be reunited, starting his descent into alcoholism.

Amanda’s mother Ann was also a heavy drinker, which became worse when she was involved in a road traffic accident.

One of five siblings, Amanda says: “It was a difficult family life. Mum and dad had a toxic relationship because of trauma he carried with him.”

At the age of 16 she had left home and was living in a council house in Nelson with her first child Michael, who is now 43 years old and a graphic designer. Her younger son Liam is 38 and a father of three.

She says: “The world was a massively difficult place then. It was a really difficult time. Where I lived the environment was challenging, with deprivation, a lot of alcoholism and drug abuse and domestic violence.

“Something inside said to me you’ve got to get out of here. The only road out was to work.”

And work she did, cleaning in a hotel in the mornings, working in a supermarket during the day and serving behind a bar at night. She did it thanks to friendly neighbours who helped look after her two young children. She says: “I did what needed to be done.”

Then another opportunity arrived, the chance to buy her council house under the ‘right to buy’ initiative of the Thatcher government. Again that wasn’t easy, single women with children found it hard to get a mortgage.

Eventually fixed up with an endowment mortgage and with a foot on the property ladder Amanda needed a full-time job.

What followed was a series of roles which gave her a massive range of experience and knowledge, all learned on the shop floor.

They included time spent at a large DIY store, and then in a sales office for an upholstery firm. Amanda says: “It was about learning the job from the very bottom.

“At every single point throughout my working life I was always the first into work, the first with my hand up when it came to the offer of overtime and training.

“My goal was always not to end up like my parents: penniless, homeless and destitute. That has been my drive all my life.”

She recalls working in a supermarket in Nelson, picking up her pay packet every week and every week asking her boss if he wanted her back on Monday.

Eventually he responded that she needn’t keep asking because she was his best worker adding: “If I had more employees like you I’d never have to worry again.”

Amanda says: “That changed my life, for the first time I believed I had some worth. I knew it was going to be okay because I knew I could work. And that’s when I started to challenge myself.”

A job at a fulfilment company in east Lancashire saw her move up from a telephone customer service role to team leader and onto managing the accounts of  its blue chip customers as she made her way up the career ladder.

Amanda has been in her current role for almost two decades. She is proud of her team, describing them as “incredible”. CBP won the accolade of top team at the North West Employer Engagement Awards 2021 and the Corporate Social Responsibility award at the Red Rose Awards 2021.

She also takes pride in her own journey, pointing out that she now has a qualification to her name. She earned an Executive Diploma in Management Studies in 2008. She says: “I’ve been successful and proved a whole lot of people wrong.

“I feel I’m living proof that you can overcome the odds - even when they appear stacked against you. You can change your own path but you need to be ready for it.

“Resilience is important. It is a bit of a buzzword, but what I mean is an ability to repeatedly bounce back and prove the doubters wrong. You can only learn resilience by taking those knocks and coming back again.

During her time as chief executive Amanda has seen the development of CBP into a significant business support organisation.

One of her first tasks was to oversee its mentoring work, going into local companies to talk about their needs and then finding someone to help.

After almost two decades of looking at companies at close quarter, asked what makes a successful business she says: “It is 100 per cent culture. It’s no coincidence that the most successful companies are really organised and have really good strong processes in place.

“Their offer is defined, it doesn’t change from day to day, there is also the value they place on their employees.

“Everyone deserves respect and deserves to be heard. Also, everyone should always be willing to put the effort in if they are employed in a job. There is no such thing as a bad job there are only bad employers.”

She also talks about the importance of businesses and individuals “finding their reason” and the need for employers to “seek the knowledge” of their workforce.

Amanda adds: “The organisations I’ve worked for, and there have been many, where the processes and culture were good were great places to work and to thrive and grow in."

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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