Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in mental wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tanya Heasley, Chief Development Officer of Ascend Beyond, located in Harleston, Norfolk, United Kingdom.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

As a multidimensional serial entrepreneur, all of my businesses have one goal: to empower people to feel positive about themselves and live their most fulfilling life. With the social enterprise Ascend Beyond, I transform the lives of young people affected by adult anger and equip them to flourish and thrive beyond aggression. At Alpha Valour, we celebrate and strengthen women overcoming adversity. Then there's Momatuvi, where I make and sell encouraging gifts and handmade jewellery. Maintaining my own mental health, as well as cultivating joy and the gift of giving to others, is one reason I started Momatuvi. In addition, part of the profits from Momatuvi contributes to some of the running costs for Ascend Beyond.

Tell us about yourself

As a mum of four, I care deeply about the well-being of young people, and I believe that they all have the potential to become thriving adults. At Ascend Beyond, we believe mental fitness coaching is key to helping young people flourish in life. However, not every young person has a positive start in life or the foundation on which they can grow healthily. Growing up in an abusive household, my parents fought every day. They would verbally abuse each other, threaten each other with violence, and physically assault one another. This made me feel powerless, afraid for my safety, and frightened on a daily basis. They didn't know how to handle their anger, but neither did I. So, instead of learning how to manage my own emotions, I buried them deep inside until they began to manifest as depression.

My childhood was no exception to millions of young people affected by anger. In fact, over 1 billion children are exposed to or experience violence every year, such as verbal abuse, threats, and physical assault—and it's important for us to help them learn assertive behaviour before they become adults who display the same aggression towards others. My own experience inspired me to start Ascend Beyond because I want to help the young people who have witnessed violent behaviour and support teachers and parents who may experience it at home or school, respectively!

Besides having an adverse upbringing, I'm also autistic. As a young adult, I was diagnosed with psychosis. It wasn't until my late thirties that I discovered I was autistic. Masking my autism all my life was my way of seeking acceptance in the world. Despite my best efforts, I'd never quite managed to "fit in" with society's expectations. On certain days, my brain felt scrambled, I became overwhelmed, and I struggled to work. Therefore, I'd quit jobs before I got fired. Because of this, I felt inadequate and was afraid I'd just keep changing jobs. There had to be something that wouldn't overstimulate me but also provided a reasonable income. It made sense to be self-employed, but I didn't know where to start. It was only when I remembered I started my first business washing cars at 11, babysitting at 14, and selling jewellery at school when I was 16 that I realised I'd always been an entrepreneur. As a result, I trusted my ability to do it again.

As someone who's set up many businesses and overcome obstacles to achieve success, I was thinking about creating something that's both satisfying to me and helpful to others. That's why I started Alpha Valour to support and celebrate undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and unemployed neurodivergent women. As an autistic entrepreneur and business owner, I feel that I have a superpower when it comes to developing self-compassion, building confidence, and helping others succeed. It is my passion and desire to empower others to live their best life. And that motivates me to live my best life too, and to keep cultivating my businesses as well.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

In recognition of my outstanding achievements in social progress and development, I was inducted into the Royal Society of Arts as a Fellow and awarded the post-nominal letters FRSA. This award was a shock and a privilege to receive after overcoming years of psychological abuse that left me feeling rejected, worthless, and full of anxiety. It's been tough, but I also conquered my fear of speaking in front of large groups about my businesses. As well as that, I recorded a TEDx talk about positive anger. For setting up Ascend Beyond, I received a highly commended award for courage. My business accomplishments also got me an SBS award from Theo Paphitis.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Running a business on my own is the hardest part – it can feel incredibly lonely at times. Being a business owner means maintaining focus and consistency. I have eleventy-thousand business ideas a year and want to help everyone. It's just not feasible, achievable, or realistic for me. While I have grit and resilience, I also have limits. In my mind, accepting that I'm not Superwoman and that I can't help everyone feels like a failure. As a result of trying to do everything, I lose focus and can't stay consistent with my everyday tasks for running a business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Mistakes are part of the journey – instead of thinking you've done it wrong, see your mistakes as a progression towards doing it right.
  2. Cultivate perseverance – keep adapting, changing, and trying until it works.
  3. Remember the first love – starting, running, and growing a business is like being in a long-lasting relationship. There will be good times and bad times; remember why you started the business in the first place and work towards loving it again.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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