Sally Allen: Who would have thought it!

Sir David Frost, Sally Allen and President Bill Clinton

Sir David Frost, Sally Allen and President Bill Clinton - Credit: Archant

I only recently realised that I had come full circle. From my very first job, Saturday mornings washing hair at Stredwicks in Torwood Street when I was 15, to opening a shop less than 100 yards away, all these years later. Beyond spooky!

From the Abbey School, Marist Convent and Torquay Girls’ Grammar School to leaving at 16 with the words in my testimonial from Miss Robertson, the headmistress, imprinted on my brain: “A little adversity in a harsh world will do Sally no harm.”

I started my three-year apprenticeship at Stredwicks as a hairstylist and beautician. Great fun, of course, but I actually had no plan for my life at all. I imagined that I would just get married and have a family – how wrong I was.

I also had no idea then, how many times I would think back on those words while I was pulling myself up by my boot straps She was right of course, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I was brought up with huge love and fun but with great importance being put on my always telling the truth no matter what by my father.

This has caused some problems in my life as I have always told it as it is – not always welcome, but if I even get close to telling a ‘porkie’ I start to blush, so honesty is my only course.

My first experience of truth being a double-edged sword was when I left a duster beside some hair dryers I was cleaning during my time at Stredwicks.

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Not a heinous crime but Mr Stredwick was extremely fierce and so locked me in his office to read my apprenticeship indentures as a punishment.

When he came back a few minutes later and asked where I was up to, I honestly replied ‘the holidays’! Ergo - I spent a few more hours locked in his office to contemplate my future!

Then two life-changing experiences changed the direction of my life forever.

The first and most devasting was my father dying in 1971. Very young and heart-broken, my mother’s wellbeing became my responsibility over night.

The other life-changing experience was not being able to have children due to a badly treated case of peritonitis, chronic endometriosis and a very short but physically violent marriage.

So, I left Torquay in 1975 to try to make my way in life.

Now business became my focus. I have had some extreme highs and lows but I have grabbed or made opportunities as I have gone along and based most things on the fact that the worst anyone can say to me is ‘no’ – so why not ask.

Who would have thought that with this basic philosophy I could have achieved some of the things I have – chutzpah out of necessity for survival.

I have met and worked with some amazingly awesome people in my life, none more so than President Bill Clinton.

Working with him, the Secret Service and his staff for a year, to bring him to London to headline a charity event for me was exciting, difficult and rewarding. His legendary charisma is well documented and very evident when turned directly on to you or when he speaks to a room of thousands of people.

My old chum Sir David Frost hosted the evening and we raised more than £250,000 on the night for the charity. A special night.

I often wonder how the young girl sitting in Mr Stredwick’s office in Torwood Street came to do all the things I have.

The lesson in life for me is, tell the truth and never give up.