“Stacey Solomon bought our toilet fizzers and within two hours our online shop was empty”
Mum-of-three Bridie Hodgson graduates from the University of Sunderland this week with a First-Class Biomedical Sciences degree – but the journey to reach this point has proved even more remarkable.
Diagnosed with dyslexia at age 15, leaving school with poor GCSE results, completing a BTech, then a stint in the RAF as a medic, and managing a child-minding business for the next 10 years, left 40-year-old Bridie feeling she had more to achieve as she raised her three children.
At age 33, determined to overcome the challenges of dyslexia, Bridie went back to study an English, Maths and Biology GCSE, and passed with flying colours. This led to completing an Access to Higher Education programme at Sunderland College with high scores, and she was accepted onto the Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Sunderland.
A truly proud moment for the mum. However, before she had even stepped foot on campus, COVID-19 struck and the country went into lockdown. With no money coming into the house, Bridie, with the help of husband Rory, launched a bath bomb business from the attic of their Roker home, through the Government’s ‘bounce-back’ loan scheme.
After four months of ‘Bridie’s’ Bath Bombs’ ticking over, the mum, needed to push the business further and sent an Instagram message to Stacey Soloman. As a result, the singer and TV personality mentioned Bridie’s products in her Instagram Stories and the business instantly rocketed.
“Within days we went from 7K followers to 44k, it was a moment that changed our lives forever”, Bridie explained. “The moment Stacey Solomon bought our toilet fizzers, within two hours our online shop had emptied. The business just grew, and we found our name mentioned in lifestyle magazines and online, getting big orders from warehouses. It became a little crazy.
“It was so busy that in the first few months of my degree I decided to quit the course. However, I instantly regretted it and 20 minutes later I’d returned to my studies, and scaled some of the business back.
“It was the best decision I had made, and got the balance about right. I was still making money, we could still pay the mortgage, and we still are in contact with Stacey, but I could fulfill my dream of becoming a scientist, as well as dedicate time to my children, twins Mikki and Mollie, aged 11, and Rory Jnr, aged nine”
The decision paid off, and Bridie achieved a First-Class Honours degree.
She even hit the headlines with her final-year project, drawing on her scientific and personal knowledge to discover more about any biological changes to cold-water swimmers’ bodies – the Wild Sea Women – to shed light on the mental and physical health benefits they experience.
“To say it’s been a rollercoaster is an understatement, but I was determined to become a scientist, and this is the direction I want to continue in. The support from my lecturers has been outstanding, there have been challenging times, including supporting my son Mikki, who has epilepsy and learning difficulties, but it’s been worth it to reach this point.”
She added: “All those years ago blagging myself through school, coping with dyslexia, assessed as having the spelling age of a nine-year-old, I’d never imagined one day I’d step on stage at the Stadium of Light to collect a First-Class degree. It’s really a dream come true!
“I just hope my story acts as an inspiration to others struggling at school. Dreams can come true and I’m living proof!”
Bridie will now continue her journey as a scientist, as she begins a Master’s Degree in Drug Discovery and Development in the autumn at Sunderland, then eventually onto a PhD.