Norfolk multi-millionairess aiming to inspire the county's youth...
PUBLISHED: 11:54 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
...to emulate her success-but first she wants them to pull on their running shoes, as Angi Kennedy discovers.
Nailing her colours to the mast
She's the Norfolk multi-millionairess aiming to inspire the county's young generation to emulate her success-but first she wants them to pull on their running shoes, as Angi Kennedy discovers.
When Yvonne Mason sold her internationally successful business back in 2005, she could have easily walked away with millions in her pocket and had a work-free, stress-free future ahead of her.
Instead, she listened to her heart, ploughed millions back into an innovative trust, and launched herself into a crazily busy new role inspiring Norfolks young people to achieve their dreams.
And now, just when most lesser mortals might consider taking a breather, 50-year-old Yvonne has set herself a new challenge to organise a massive fundraising run for the countys youth, to raise awareness about climate change and how they can capitalise on the move towards more renewable sources of energy.
On September 24, she hopes to see thousands of young people from across Norfolks state and private schools converge on the beautiful estate of Holkham Hall, where the countys first Climate Run will take place.
The idea of organising the Norfolk Climate Run crystalised in her mind after she heard about a similar event in Bremerhaven, Germany. As well as feeling strongly about environmental issues, Yvonne is passionate about developing a new young workforce in the county that can respond to the future demands of the energy industry.
This is the new area of opportunity, she explains. Young people have a view of what has been available in the gas and oil industries in the area in the past, but they need to have cognisance of what will be available in the future. We need to get into their mindset that they may be in Year 10 at school now, but by the time they have finished their education and training, this whole new industry will be on their doorstep and if they are not ready for it, other people will step in and grab those chances.
And so she has thrown her own indomitable energy behind the Norfolk Climate Run, aiming to get between 3,000 and 5,000 youngsters running on a three mile circuit in the wonderful surroundings of the Holkham Hall estate.
If that was not enough of an organisational headache, Yvonne is also arranging a marquee village that the youngsters can tour on the day. This will house exhibitions about further and higher education courses and the sort of opportunities that the energy and shipping industries will be able to offer in the future. There will also be benefits for the schools taking part, with students encouraged to collect sponsorship for
the run to be shared between their own eco project perhaps installing a wind turbine or solar panels at their school and a country that has been hit by climate change, such as Kenya where an increasing number of Norfolk schools now have strong links with the Starahe School in Nairobi.
I want it to be a real learning experience for the children, getting them involved in raising the money, doing the run and taking it right through to the project in their own schools, enthuses Yvonne. It will show them about entrepreneurship, about industry and
Yvonne has been working with many schools in Norfolk since she set up The Mason Trust with a large slice of the 12 million from the sale of her Fender Care business. She gives motivational talks to the students, encouraging them to consider the possibilities of working in the offshore, energy and maritime industries when they finish their education.
The trust also funds a wide range of projects and individuals, from young carers to confidence-building activity holidays, from websites to radio stations, as well as developing partnerships with local and international businesses.
Money is no good if it is dead; it has to be live, says Yvonne, who is a mother and stepmother. In my mind there is not much good to having lots of dosh just sitting in the bank; it is better for it to be being used. But then it was never about the money for me I did it because I wanted to achieve.
And achieve she certainly did. Norfolk born and bred, Yvonne began her working life at Great Yarmouth Borough Council before indulging her love of horses by working in the equine industry around the country.
Returning to her home town of Great Yarmouth, she became a lousy secretary for a subcontractor dealing with the massive fenders used by maritime and energy companies. It was time well spent as she built up a huge network of contacts and, at the age of 28, she was approached by Shell to set up her own fender company.
Fender Care grew into a multi-million pound marine group with markets around the world. But in 2003, Yvonnes husband, David, died and she was faced with the decisions about the future for her and their young son.
Part of coping with Davids death was going back to work, but out of that started to come the ideas of the trust, she reflects. When I left Fender Care I asked key contacts in the oil and ship-owning community what I could do to repay their 20 years support of our endeavours. The message was clear and resounding: Give us young people we have an ageing employee profile and we need new talent in the industry who can work with the high tech innovative projects that the industry needs to grow and survive.
The world is coming to Norfolk and I cant sit back and do nothing; I like watching other people doing well, she adds. And I have been that Norfolk youngster, not knowing what do to and thinking that this cant be all there is to life. I have experienced so much, but if I dont pass that on what was the point of experiencing it?
Find out more at www.themasontrust.org or write to The Mason Trust, Unit 5, Diss Business Centre, Dark Lane, Scole, near Diss, IP21 4HD. More details of the Norfolk Climate Run will be available through the year at www.theclimaterun.org