Emma hits the high notes

13 November 2019

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On Tuesday 24 September 2019, I received an email and I couldn't believe my eyes...

“Dear Emma, I’m delighted to let you know that the submission we received nominating you for the British Business Awards was successful and Emma's Music Tuition has been shortlisted in the prestigious ‘Young Business Owner Of The Year’ category. Congratulations!”

I haven’t had the easiest run in life and to have been noticed meant so, so much to me.

My road to success

At the age of 17, after what was years of torment, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease; an incurable, chronic and severe illness that has a range of hideous side effects. I had spent years being dismissed for my problems and to finally be able to put a name to what I had been dealing with, came as a form of closure for me. What I didn’t expect however, was how much of an impact it would have on my life.

My diagnosis fell at the critical time of my AS Level Examinations; I got through them, finishing with an A, B and C, but the stress was making my Crohn’s worse and so I had to leave. I had also started a course of steroids, which eventually lead to weight gain and a complete personality transplant. The happy, bubbly and lively Emma, became angry, sad and tired (of everything).

I began to find comfort in food, I guess it became a crutch for me. My appetite was insatiable, and food filled the void that this illness had created for me. I couldn’t be out of education, so I auditioned for The Leeds College Of Music; I was accepted onto the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma and then fast-tracked onto the Classical Performance BA Hons Course.

Everything was going well, I was invited to Alencon, France, to study for a week with notable musicians, my grades were good; but the stress was just too much and my mental health plummeted alongside my physical health. I left the college after my first year and began treatment for Bulimia Nervosa in 2018 after a 2-year, silent battle.

In April 2019, I was discharged from The Yorkshire Centre For Eating Disorders. In April 2019, Emma’s Music Tuition was born.

Within the space of 6 months, I had taken on over 40 students, run multiple workshops, created two youth groups (Top Notes Choir and AMPLIFY Youth Band) and provide affordable and accessible music tuition to people aged 3-60+.

My Crohn’s has truly fought me all the way and sent obstacle after obstacle flying at me, trying to knock me down. It triggered the worst battle of my life, dealing with an eating disorder, and I feel it took away what should’ve been some of the best years of my life. 

The Awards

Wednesday 30 October, I attended The British Business Awards in London and won Young Business Owner Of The Year.

"This year’s Young Business Owner has used their setbacks to propel themselves in a direction of giving back and building a community around music, for those who previously would not have been able to access this. The award goes to: Emma Illingworth from Emma’s Music Tuition!”

My short life has thrown some pretty horrible things my way. I live in constant pain, suffer from severe fatigue, must be committed to a lifetime of drugs; some days, my mental health still causes me havoc and hurts me.

Emma Illingworth, 
Young Business Owner of the Year, Living with Crohn's Disease

Living with Crohn’s Disease and the direct (AND indirect) side effects of this illness is hard. But the encouragement, support and kindness shown from my IBD team at hospital, my family and friends, as well as all my students has made me the person I am today.

Incredible. Brave. Determined.

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.” – Anon.
Follow your dreams, Emma.

Want more inspo? Check out Unstoppable