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From | Tuesday 10 March 2020

Sarah Fenwick and partner Gareth Pennington set up Tree Fellas after escaped issues around homelessness, drugs and mental health which trapped family members.

Sarah Fenwick and Gareth Pennington.

A Hull woman who built a successful business with her partner after they met in a Hull care home has been shortlisted for an international business award.

Sarah Fenwick and partner Gareth Pennington escaped issues around homelessness, drugs and mental health which trapped family members.

The pair set up Tree Fellas, a Hull firm of tree surgeons, last year.

And now Sarah is now down to the final two in the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) Student of the Year Award.

Sarah and Gareth met in a care home in Hull in 2005 and later lost touch. They were reunited after Sarah moved into her own place when she was 18.

She pursued a career in credit control before moving to KCOM. With two young children, she stayed with KCOM until 2019 while also building Tree Fellas and studying for her Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications in bookkeeping.

She also took the role of Young Person’s Youth Enterprise Champion after making contact with Hull-based John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank, which paid for her Level 1 training, and with HCUK Training, which secured funding for Level 2.

The training was provided by Golding Computer Services in Hull – with Di Garbera, a director of the company and IAB Tutor of the Year for 2019, nominating her for the award.

Gareth Pennington with the Tree Fellas team. Gareth Pennington with the Tree Fellas team.

Gareth joined Hull City Council on a care leavers’ scheme, gaining a diploma in horticulture and qualifying as a tree surgeon. He left his job early last year to set up Tree Fellas, which now has a team of five offering tree care and launching a huge campaign around tree planting.

Sarah heads to the awards at the House of Lords terrace On Wednesday 18 March, with Gareth accompanying her on their first visit to London.

Her application included testimonials from Charles Cracknell, youth enterprise micro business manager at Hull City Council, and Sean Royce, managing director of KCOM.

Sarah said: “I was surprised and really excited when Di said she wanted to nominate me for the award because it’s something I wasn’t aware of and I didn’t expect it. When I read the testimonials I was blown away that two such influential people would speak so highly of someone like me.

“I did an interview with a panel of four or five judges and it went really well. They asked me a lot of questions and gave me some good advice. Now it’s a case of wait and see but we both think 2019 was just a blast and nothing could really top it but it looks as though 2020 could be another great year.”

Di said: “Sarah’s story is amazing. In a little over a year, she’s secured the two qualifications, set up the business with Gareth, completed a year’s trading and changed jobs as well.

“Sarah told me that 10 years ago she probably used her past as an excuse because she didn’t think anybody from her background could do the things she dreamed of doing. Now she knows that no matter what your background you can still reach for the stars.”