A Mid Sussex woman has built her own fashion styling business after being bullied at school for how she dressed.
Susie Hasler, 36, from East Grinstead dressed differently to other children at school and was the subject of bullying for it.
Now, the mother-of-one is a fashion stylist who is fully booked until December 2020, and is so successful that she can afford to work four days a week and only during term time to spend more time with her son Clark, age 7.
Her speciality is women on a budget whose bodies have changed shape, whether that’s due to motherhood, the menopause, or losing or gaining weight.
Mrs Hasler said: “Even at primary school, I loved to look different from the other girls and I always experimented with hair accessories.
“At secondary school, the Spice Girls came along, and it gave me that push to explore my individual style - to me, they said it was OK to look different from others.
“But I was badly bullied by both boys and girls for standing out. Before I had braces, my teeth stuck out and I was picked on by the boys."
She said how girls made fun of her thick, wavy hair and she ended up failing maths and science, gaining Cs in her other exams.
Mrs Hasler said: “When I got to college, I reinvented myself, my style, became more confident, got a great group of friends and was regularly told off by the teachers for socialising more than working.
“I didn’t go to uni as I hated studying and didn’t pass my exams with good enough grades.”
She started admin work at age 18, a career she stayed in for 12 years despite hating it.
Colleagues would mock her for how she dressed, but she felt like she couldn't be a businesswoman because she is not academically gifted.
She said: “It felt like I was being stifled and I felt terrified it would be my life forever. I had so much creativity and had no idea where to channel it.
“My last job in admin was for a male-dominated engineering company. I expressed my style when I worked in the office and got ribbed regularly by the many older men I worked with.”
By 2011, Mrs Hasler had the £1,500 she needed to study for a diploma in personal styling at the Style Coaching Institute, wanting to 'help women feel good about their bodies'.
However, after her son, who she had at age 29, caught whooping cough and nearly died at six weeks old, she suffered from post-natal depression.
She said: “It was so hard and I felt out of my depth."
Despite feeling emotionally drained, she launched Styled By Susie, specialising in high street styling, without any financial help.
Mrs Hasler said: “I’m not from a middle-class, privileged background and have no amazing connections; and I had to work very hard.
"I used to work for free to help build up my client base.
"I would work Friday evenings doing group styling, until 1am, and would be in Bluewater on a Saturday morning at 9am the next day. My little boy was only 18 months and it was hard.”
Word spread through her social media, and she's since won a Best Stylist Award at the SO Magazine Lifestyle Awards in Tunbridge Wells.
She offers face-to-face styling sessions at Bluewater shopping centre for £150 for three hours that are booked up until December 2020, as well as online consultations ranging from £35 to £85 to women from around the world.
Mrs Hasler said: “I empower women to dress for their shapes as they are, and to shine to their full potential.
“I help clients of all shapes and sizes, and I work with realistic budgets and my clients like me because they can relate to me. I am not filtered, glossy or pretentious.
“In a world of Instagram fashion influencers and celebrity stylists, I like to fly the flag for real women, and offering realistic style tips on achievable and affordable budgets.”