Woman who left school with two GCSEs now runs £1million business

Mother who was raised by her alcoholic father and left school with two GCSEs now boasts a £1million business after inventing the world’s first leak-proof potty

  • Amanda Jenner, 45, of Portsmouth, had to bring up her siblings when mum left
  • Told how her father’s drinking spiralled and the family got into terrible debt
  • Amanda said they lived on Smash as her father rarely bought food for them
  • Left school at 15 determined to carve out a better life for her and future family
  • Launched My Carry Potty in 2009 and has written a book about potty training

A mother-of-three whose difficult childhood inspired her to start her own potty business is now turning nover £1million – despite leaving school with just two GCSEs.

Amanda Jenner, 45, from Portsmouth, spent her adolescent years helping to bring up her younger sister, now 42, and her older brother, now 47, under the roof of her alcoholic father, after her mother walked out when she was seven.

Determined to carve out a better life for her and her future family, Amanda left school at 15 and by 19 had opened her own clothes shop.

When her son George, now 23, was just two-years-old, Amanda had the idea of creating a new style of potty, after being shamed in public for emptying the contents of her little boy’s down a drain.

Mother-of-three Amanda Jenner, 45, from Portsmouth, told how her difficult childhood inspired her to start her own potty business

She launched My Carry Potty, the world’s first leak-proof toddler toilet, in 2009, and sold 768 in the first year. 

Now, a decade on, she’d already sold more than 100,100 in 2019 – and to mark its 10 year anniversary, Amanda is sharing her courageous story with FEMAIL.

She told how when her mother left after meeting someone else, she felt like her ‘world was over’.

‘Mum dropped us off at school and never came back to pick us up. It was a complete shock,’ Amanda recalled.

‘This had a huge impact on my life – I had suddenly lost my mum and almost had to become a mother myself at just seven years old.’

Now, a decade after launching My Carry Potty, Amanda has already sold more than 100,100 this year and is set to turnover £1million 

Amanda’s father’s drinking worsened after her mother left, and it began affecting his work, meaning the family got into debt.

‘He would drink every night and sometimes not come home, so I had to find things for us to eat – we mostly lived on Smash,’ Amanda said. 

‘The bailiffs used to knock on the door. We were home alone most of the time so we’d hide and not answer. 

‘Fridays in particular were really difficult as he worked a half-day shift – I would feel physically sick for the entire day, worrying that he would pick us up from school drunk. 

‘Most of the time he could hardly walk when he did collect us, and that was if he turned up at all.’

Amanda spent her adolescent years helping to bring up her younger sister, now 42, and her older brother, now 47, under the roof of her alcoholic father, after her mother walked out when she was seven

She recalled how weekends were also difficult as her father would often go out on a Friday night and not return, leaving the children alone with no food. 

‘I would walk to the pub with my siblings in the dark and in our pyjamas and ask the landlord if my dad was in there,’ Amanda said.

Due to her upsetting home life, Amanda struggled at school

‘This was at least a 15 minute walk under subways and areas that young children definitely should not have been in. 

‘We had so many incidents that children should never have to deal with – from overdoses to accidents, to losing our home. It was a completely life-changing experience.’

Under pressure from her dad, Amanda took responsibility for her siblings’ daily routine, doing the washing, cooking and food shopping.

Desperate to save face, Amanda used to pretend her mother had simply gone away in front of her friends.  

‘I was left out a lot at school and my peers used to tease me about my horrible situation, “You haven’t got a mum, your dad was drunk in the playground.” It was a really awful time,’ she explained.

‘I found what I was experiencing at home incredibly hard, so my education was not my priority, my home life was. This meant I did struggle at school as I had nobody to turn to for help with homework and I found myself making excuses. 

‘During lessons all I could think about was what would be waiting for us when we got home – no food, a drunk dad, maybe no home at all.’ 

Amanda’s father’s drinking worsened after her mother left, and it began affecting his work, meaning the family got into debt

The experience made Amanda determined to never live like this again, and she promised herself she’d ‘make a difference’ when she got older. 

Amanda left school at 15, with two GCSE passes in cookery and drama, and had her first child at 20. 

As her son would only ever use his own potty she took it everywhere. 

‘One day I poured the contents down a drain in the high street and a man came up to me and shouted, “That’s a disgrace you can’t do that”,’ Amanda recalled.

‘I was 22 with a two-year-old and a newborn, which really shocked me and upset George. 

Amanda left school at 15, with two GCSE passes in cookery and drama, and had her first child at 20. Pictured with two Mr Carry Potty designs

‘I went home and thought, potty training is hard, but there has to be something better than this. I wanted to create something that would help little ones and parents potty train without any stress.’

Amanda came up with the idea for My Carry Potty, but parked the idea as she didn’t have the money to pursue it. It was only when her second husband Darren, a furniture designer and manufacturer, saw her drawings that he encouraged her to take the plunge. 

The couple invested £20,000 from their savings into developing a prototype and the first shipment of 3,200 potties – the minimum she could order from China – was sent to her house.

She then roped in friends to test every single one with water to make sure they were loyal to the ‘world’s only leak-proof potty’ USP before targeting potential stores.

Amanda came up with the idea for My Carry Potty, but parked the idea as she didn’t have the money to pursue it. It was only when her second husband Darren, a furniture designer and manufacturer, saw her drawings that he encouraged her to take the plunge

‘I wanted to start at the top so I picked one of the best, which was John Lewis,’ she recalled.

‘I begged them to see me, even if it was just for 15 minutes. It took so much convincing but eventually they agreed.’

After four agonising days, the retailer placed an order for 365 potties – and Amanda burst into tears. 

‘I still to do this day cannot explain how much this meant to me,’ she said. 

The business is now turning over more than a million pounds and is launching in over 30 countries worldwide. 

‘It’s growing at the correct speed,’ said Amanda. ‘I have lots of patents and now have 12 designs of My Carry Potty and four new products, which is very exciting.’

Amanda said the business is growing at the right speed and she has lots of patents and 12 designs of My Carry Potty and four new products in the pipeline

Amanda’s next venture saw her start up the Potty Training Academy, to address the huge problem of children not being toilet trained before school. 

She created a pack for nursery schools and parents which is now used in over 150 schools in the UK, and it’s about to launch internationally. 

‘The impact of the Potty Training Academy is huge, not only for the little ones, their parents and for schools, but also for encouraging and aiming to reduce the 8.5 million nappies we throw away each day, which is a massive environmental issue,’ Amanda added.

The inspiring entrepreneur has gone on to win British Female Innovator of the Year at the International British Awards, and the Diamond award for International Invention of the Year at the British Inventions awards.  

In April this year she published her first book, Potty Training Magic, with Penguin Books, which soared to the number one bestseller spot in the Parenting and Toilet Training Amazon chart – selling thousands of copies within its first two weeks alone.

In April this year she published her first book, Potty Training Magic, with Penguin Books, which soared to the number one bestseller spot in the Parenting and Toilet Training Amazon chart

Amanda told how she handwrote the book herself and her husband typed it up for her.  

Now Amanda, who is also mum to Hollie, 21, and Olivia, 12, still sees her father, who is happily married and has curbed his drinking, and is trying to rebuild a relationship with her mother.  

While recalling her childhood still makes her sad, Amanda said it’s made her who she is today and instilled a desire in her to want to help other families and children. 

‘I will never take anything for granted,’ she said. ‘My childhood has led me onto so many different things too; from working with families on food issues, to toilet training and teenage behavioural problems.  

‘If you have an idea and truly feel passionate and believe in yourself and the idea, go for it. Never feel your idea is stupid or too small.

‘Great things can come from an initial idea and anything can be achieved if you want it enough, so follow your dreams.’ 

For more information about potty training guru Amanda, visit her website: www.pottytrainingacademy.co.uk or follow her on Instagram.

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