Tanya Eldridge is pint-sized, but makes up for it in her ambition. Her plan is to raise funds to eradicate mould from UK housing. Yes, that’s the whole of the UK. She is well equipped to do this. She is a perfect example of someone with a ‘portfolio’ career. In other words, she has discovered what she wanted to do by pursuing very different paths – every decade a different career – and collecting skills along the way. She left Helenswood school at 18, with an A level in Theatre Studies, joined Magnet, spent ten years as a financial consultant, then ten years performing in Children’s theatre and Opera. She had a spell in Italy as a mountain guide running a B & B from a palace. But now she has returned to Hastings, to a job in social housing and her first love, mould and damp.

Mould isn’t always a construction problem with a costly solution. Her mission is to make people understand the behaviours and habits which can encourage mould, and the ways in which they can adapt and manage their environment to discourage or eliminate its growth.

She is a single mum who has set up a business as a consultant, and her approach is impressive.

First she got an HNC in construction. Then she developed a methodology which combines knowledge of buildings with a knowledge of the kind of behaviour which encourages mould. (e.g. putting laundry on radiators) Once she had qualified and become a member of The Property Care Association, she gave talks in Manchester, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Crawley and Huntingdon to explain her approach. These were to gatherings of builders, letting agents, landlords and social housing groups. “I knew I had to go outside the local area to establish credibility” she told me. Although councils have provided information about the problems since the seventies, this is the first time that a dual approach combining building expertise and personal empathy and training has been put into practice. It is proving to be extremely effective. A vital part of her work with tenants is to listen to them, connect, and so create trust in order to get their co-operation with changing their life patterns.

The business has only been set up a year, but now local letting agents are approaching her for consultations. The council has employed her as a consultant and trainer, and individual tenants and landlords are also coming to her for advice. She currently has 13 local Sussex authorities requiring her to train people in her methodology. How did she establish herself so quickly? “I used LinkedIn.” she said, and she also used every networking opportunity that came her way. At just over four feet tall and a power house of energy and professionalism she makes an unforgettable impression. She also belongs to BNI business club and the Hastings Chamber of Commerce, and has worked with Energise Sussex. She has already taken on two casual assistants, training them to take on some of the burden of accounts and admin.

Mould and damp are serious problems which can lead to health issues, such as asthma and allergies which can be hard to shift. “Visits to GPS have doubled in Hastings in the last 10 years” she said. “These are two issues which can often be solved with little or no cost and the benefits for the community and individuals are huge.”

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