Finding herself homeless at 17, Inge Hunter didn’t know what to do. She was too old to go into care, but too young to be considered an adult.
Instead, the entrepreneur from Cambridgeshire spent a couple of days street homeless before being put into a hostel for young people.
‘That first night in the home, I just wept and wept, but I had no other choice. I was in the middle of school and passionate about education, so I just put all my energy into that’, Inge Hunter tells Metro.co.uk.
‘But it’s incredibly hard to focus when you’re worried about being a homeless teen.’
Familial breakdown led to Inge Hunter, from Cambridgeshire, becoming homeless when she was 17. Now in her 30s, she’s a successful entrepreneur
Inge started receiving benefits, but after necessary expenses – like food and rent – she was left with £4 a week to live on. A return bus ticket to her college was £3.20.
‘I knew I needed to make money – especially if I was going to find myself on the street again once the hostel kicked me out at 18,’ she explains.
It was this motivation that led to Inge to start up her first business.
Inge runs her event management and wedding planning businesses alongside being a busy mother
‘I had a friend who worked in a bar, and I would ask him if I could buy some of his leftover alcohol because I couldn’t get it from the shop without ID.
‘I would make these long island ice teas and cosmopolitans with the alcohol. I used to get plastic milkshake containers and I would use the ice from the bar to shake them up. I’d wait until nighttime and then I’d go into the centre of town.
‘I’d look for clubs with long queues, or university balls, and I would sell them to people for like £15. I think homelessness breeds entrepreneurism and I had no other choice, so came up with this solution – which worked!’
A few months after starting her venture, Inge, from Cambridgeshire, had to leave the hostel as she’d turned 18. She began sofa surfing at friends’ houses, which was hard for her.
After starting out selling cocktails, Inge’s business grew over time and she ended up managing events
After other business owners started contacting her for tips, Inge’s career took a new turn and she’s become a consultant
‘All my friends were still living at home with their parents, and so I was confronted with a lot of well-meaning mums. These women were clearly trying to be kind, but it felt like they were doing it more for themselves than me.
They would try and get Inge to change her routine to match their child’s, and would insist she sat down for dinner with them.
‘I had a job in a bar that I couldn’t change to suit their meal times. My education, making money, security and protecting myself were the most important things – polite conversation over lasagne was not.’
That all changed when Inge went to stay at her friend CJ’s house. They’d known each other since they were 13 and while they were very good friends, Inge didn’t want to ruin their relationship by moving in.
The mother-of-two is successful in a job that she loves and has a family – something she never would have thought possible at 17
‘I turned up at his house with one bag and made a promise to his mum that I wouldn’t be in her hair for long. She told me I wasn’t leaving.
‘A lot of people had said that to me before, but she was quite lovingly strict with it. She proved herself different by just letting me get on with my life.’
In this safe, loving environment, Inge was allowed to carry on with her jobs, and it was here her bar event business began to grow. At the same time, CJ’s family encouraged her to apply to university, bringing her back to stay with them during summer holidays.
CJ and Inge began dating, and when she fell pregnant between second and third year, his family did everything they could to support the couple and Inge’s education.
‘CJ used to come to university with me and sit in the car with the baby. I’d come out to breastfeed and then go back in to lectures.
Inge now has three digital marketing businesses, all helping people navigate how to promote their companies and brands in different ways
‘In the evening, I’d go and do bar events, and CJ’s mum would come and sit in the car with the baby while I’d go in to work. They’re really good people.’
Despite having a small baby, Inge graduated with a first, before evolving her business into event management and wedding planning. Within a couple of years, her and CJ had another baby.
‘I’d grown my business really successfully using Instagram and in time, I had other business owners asking me for tips. That’s when I decided to pivot to being a consultant for others.
‘I like to see it as holding a hand down to other people and pulling them up the mountain; I want to be the person I wanted.’
‘I’ve now got three digital marketing businesses, all helping people navigate how to promote their companies and brands in different ways.
‘I’m successful in a job that I love, with a family that I love, and it’s something I never would have thought possible at 17.’
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