Youngster overcomes adversity to start business

Father and son Neil and Liam Gawthorpe have set up an independent pet shop after Liam (who couldn't find a job) started making birdboxes. Their success led them to start the business. (D532C319)

Father and son Neil and Liam Gawthorpe have set up an independent pet shop after Liam (who couldn't find a job) started making birdboxes. Their success led them to start the business. (D532C319)

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An inspirational youngster has transformed a small home based business into a high street success after being diagnosed with a serious illness.

Liam Gawthorpe of Hindley Road, Liversedge, was preparing to take his GCSEs when doctors discovered he had a brain abscess.

The 17-year-old underwent emergency surgery and suffered severe memory loss following the operation.

He could only recall what he had learnt from his ICT and wood work lessons.

Liam, who was born with heart and lung difficulties, could not find work after leaving school so took it upon himself to start his own business.

His father, Neil, 41, said: “He used his initiative and said he wanted to put the skills he could remember to use and decided to build bird boxes and planters.

“After three months of success selling them on Ebay, Liam decided he wanted to open a stall on Heckmondwike market. In the second week a customer told us the stall we were using was previously a pet supplies business.

“This started Liam looking into different pet products and within 10 months the stall moved to the biggest pitch on the market.” As business continued to grow, the father and son team were offered a chance to expand into Heckmondwike town centre.

The pair opened their independent pet store, Hecky Pets, in Market Street in February.

Neil said: “Liam has had a lot to deal with but I’m so proud of what he has done and achieved. He has had nine operations since he was born but he doesn’t let any of that effect him.

Hecky Pets also provides opportunities for people who have learning difficulties and disabilities.

Neil said: “Liam always puts others first and having gone through so much himself, he wants to give others a chance to gain some work experience. It is all about giving people the confidence to find work and Liam is passionate to help anyone and give back.”