By Shanai Dunglinson
A West Leeds mum who runs her own business says the love and warmth of her customers helped her battle both cancer and covid over the past nine months.
Sarah Todd is the owner and founder of Wonderwall Art, a small business operating in Stanningley which makes handmade gifts and home decor.
In September 2021, during lockdown, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. While undergoing treatment, Sarah has been running her small business, Wonderwall Art, and working her part-time sales support job.
Wonderwall Art will have a stall at this month’s Kirkstall Abbey Market on Saturday, 25 June – Sarah’s first market since finishing her chemotherapy in late May.
Sarah, 39, of Half Mile Lane, said:
“We’ve been to visit plenty of times, but we’ve not been this year yet so I’m really excited. Because everyone is local and ever since covid, people have just loved supporting small businesses, and then with my story behind it as well, people are even more supportive.”
Sarah’s diagnosis came as a shock after she had found a lump in her breast during September last year. Since being diagnosed Sarah has been through five months of chemotherapy and underwent a Lumpectomy – a surgery to remove the lump – in October.
She said: “I started my treatment on the 8 January, and I’ve just finished it, so I’ve done five months. It’s been gruelling, it’s totally changed me. It was difficult with the girls, getting them to understand, I think I’ve pretty much cried so much I’ve got no more tears left in me.”
The overwhelming nature of cancer treatment and diagnosis was heightened by the pressures of lockdown and Covid-19. Sarah said:
“I lost my hair day 13 after my first treatment, and at the time when I lost it my husband and the kids all had covid and I was isolating in my bedroom alone with my hair just falling out. Then a few weeks later I got covid, and it has just been the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do in our lives.”
The response from the local community and her local customers has been immense. During lockdown when Sarah expanded her product range to include mason jars, she received a great surge in interest in her handmade products. Then after her diagnosis later that year, the same growing customer base turned to Sarah to offer their support:
“In September when I got diagnosed, they were more like friends, it was really bizarre. And even now the messages I get from people, customers, new customers, people that are just following my story. They’ve just been incredible.
“I get people who come to collect things and bring me gifts and all sorts, it’s just so so lovely. It’s weird how I’ve ended up with so much support through the business.”
As a mother of two young girls Sarah has to not only get through this but attempt to explain her diagnosis to her kids and family. Earlier in May, her friends and family attended the Race for Life Leeds.
“We did race for cancer, but more of a walk. I was between chemotherapies so me my friends, my two girls and my husband all did it, which was brilliant and we are still getting donations in. It was a few thousand pounds donation between us.
“It was nice to get the girls involved, because the girls are so much more educated on it now, which is good so they know when they are older to be checking themselves.”
Alongside the multitude of jobs Sarah keeps busy with, she also sells products on her website that are attached to a donation to the Pink Ribbon Foundation. They fund both charities that support sufferers of breast cancer and charities that research cancer treatment.
Through lockdown Sarah was able to grow her business in a way she hadn’t before. This is because working from home Sarah could explore new items and additions to her small business that set it apart from the rest. These additions include hand-decorated mason jars, and an expansion into Halifax Piece Hall, where some of her items are for sale in the handmade gift shop.
Later this month at Kirkstall Abbey Market, Sarah will be selling her products. Sarah said that:
“There are going to be new products on the stall as well, which I’m not announcing on the page to try and entice people down. It’s exciting, and Kirkstall Abbey is absolutely gorgeous and hopefully if the weather stays nice, people will be down there.”
Kirkstall Abbey Market returns on 25 June, 11am-3pm.