Mother of three Paula Perry has followed on from her award-winning success as a student by opening her own complementary therapies clinic.

Paula, 35, completed a diploma in holistic therapies at Sussex Downs College, Lewes, earlier this year.

The course was developed to train practitioners in aromatherapy, reflexology and body massage and in June the Further Education Skills Competition Council (FESCC) awarded her its top prize for aromatherapy in its annual contest.

This week she opened Natural Ways in Lewes, which will also be a base for a number of her colleagues from the college course.

Paula, who lives in Nutley, near Uckfield, said: "I had the department here for the launch and I think it was very inspiring for them to see someone launching a business on the back of what they've learnt."

She has three children, aged ten, six and 23 months, and prior to the course looked after them, helped to run Nutley's village hall and did "a bit of this and that".

She started the course purely to learn more about complementary therapies.

Paula said: "I'd started doing Reiki a few years ago and that got me interested in complementary therapies.

"I was going to do a reflexology course so I called to book a place.

"While I was on the phone I happened to say I was actually most interested in the holistic therapies course but I couldn't afford the childcare.

"They said they might be able to help and they ended up paying for my childcare so I could do the course I wanted.

"I have to say the college tutors and the support I got were absolutely fantastic."

Although she had not intended to use her learning as the basis for launching a business, Paula said it was too good an opportunity to miss.

She said: "We worked very well together at college. I thought someone could really do something with this and then I thought maybe that someone should be me.

"I started looking around for premises and found this space on the top floor of a 17th Century building."

She has also received assistance from Eastbourne & District Enterprise Agency Ltd (Edeal).

Paula said: "I went to them with a business plan and they were very helpful. They've suggested courses and assigned me a mentor."

Paula specialises in back, neck and scalp massage and hopes to attract stressed business people during their lunch breaks.

She said: "We're a bit different from everyone else because our main room has been designed almost as a drop-in centre, while the room in the back can be used for other treatments.

"I'm also going to be doing stone therapy, which involves using hot and cold stones to enhance a massage.

"Basically, it's such a lovely place to work and it's great to be doing something that I love." Natural Ways is at 15 Malling Street, Lewes.

Wednesday September 24, 2003