Jan Flawn, a registered nurse who set up PJ Care in 2000, last night [Wed] scooped the 2013 ‘First Women of Business Services’ award, run by Real Business magazine and the CBI, the UK’s business lobbying organisation.
Judges praised Jan Flawn, who left school aged 15 without any qualifications, for her “inspirational story”.
They said: “Jan is the first woman to set up a care home dedicated to young people with neurological conditions and they are the first organisation to have links to major trauma units across the UK. To add to this, Jan has a very inspirational story – she left school with no qualifications, decided as a result of her own disabled daughter that she wanted to become a nurse, she then gained an MBA and eventually set up PJ Care.
“Her business is hugely successfully and incredibly important to a lot of individuals and their families. There is a huge sense with Jan that everything she does is driven by a need to care for people and this is not just for the people who use her facilities but also the people she employs.”
Jan said: “I am delighted to have won the 2013 ‘First Women of Business Services’ award. To be recognised by the likes of the CBI for what I and PJ Care has achieved is something I am immensely proud of.
"I sincerely hope that women reading my story of leaving school at 15 with no qualifications and starting my own business at the age of 50 will demonstrate that they too can achieve their life dreams, whatever they be."
Jan has over the last 13 years led PJ Care’s growth from the development of its first service, Bluebirds, a neurological care centre in Milton Keynes, to include Mallard House Neurological Care Centre, also in Milton Keynes, and the £12m Eagle Wood Neurological Care Centre in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
PJ Care now employs 450 staff and cares for 180 residents. The family-run business has won a string of awards, and was listed in the 2009 Sunday Times Fast Track 100 companies in the UK.
Jan puts her success down to self-belief, and a determination to overcome all obstacles put in front of her. “A few battles have had to be won to have got this far,” says Jan. “Firstly, none of the high street banks after first took me seriously because they saw me as a nurse, not an entrepreneur. They looked down on me, and thought a nurse could not possibly present them with a valuable business proposition.
“But I had immense belief in what I, PJ Care and our staff could provide for residents. I persevered. Thirteen years on the banks are now chasing us, which in these times is an unusual position to be in!”
“Secondly, it’s not always been easy being a woman in what, at a management level, is a male-dominated health sector. Men have, quite literally, turned their back on me on a number of occasions.”
Jan, whose childhood dream was always to be a nurse, first worked as an NHS nurse in Horsham, West Sussex.
Her seniors spotted her managerial potential, and she progressed to become acting head of community care and mental health at the Department of Health.
The idea to launch Bluebirds arose after Mrs Flawn witnessed young people with neurological conditions having to live in inappropriate care homes for the elderly.
“I felt younger people deserved a better quality to the end of their life and needed more dignity and respect,” says Jan.
One morning in 1998, when sitting at her kitchen table, Jan scribbled on the back of an envelope how much a neurological care centre would cost to build and expected income. This was the idea for Bluebirds.
“I have always been a passionate nurse,” says Jan. “But at the same time I’ve been a frustrated nurse because I felt clinicians were not being listened to by managers.
“I thought I could change things for the better, so that’s why I joined the Department of Health. But I found I couldn’t change things. So I thought I should do it myself and set up my own care centre.”
Because of her poor attendance at school Jan says she has had to further educate herself - from expanding her vocabulary by reading The Readers Digest, to embarking on an MBA which she graduated with in 1990.
Jan says: “My last school report read: ‘I hope her future employer sees more of her than we have. I would like to think that I have proved my school’s expectation of me to be way off mark!”
Katja Hall, chief policy director of the CBI, said: “All of this year’s winners are true role models for future generations of women. They are proof that the sky really is the limit when it comes to achieving and we are proud to sponsor an awards programme that plays such an important role in championing their successes.”
Visit the First Women Awards Website for more information