Sophie Epstone is the founder and CEO of Trekstock, a charity committed to supporting and advising young adults with cancer – working tirelessly to ensure that no young adult ever has to face cancer alone. She works with the arts, music and fashion industry to touch upon and enhance the lives of those they support, counting Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Henry Holland and Ella Woodward as ambassadors.
We talk to Sophie about the charity, her vision, challenges, successes and the steps she takes to make her life more positive.
Tell us how the idea for Trekstock came about
In 2006, I had a close family friend who had cancer. I saw his world and the world around him change, it was clear that there was little support for him in his early 20’s and what support there was, wasn’t age appropriate, relevant or engaging. I wanted to do something to bring this to light and signed up for a trek to Everest to raise funds and awareness of cancer in young people. My fundraiser for the trek was a little music gig called ‘Trekstock’ (Woodstock meets Trekking) and with help of some celebs and musicians being happy to pose with a Trekstock badge – Trekstock came to life. It was something I was doing in my spare time whilst working in fashion and I never thought that a couple of years later, I’d be registering a charity and embarking on a mission to help change the game for young adults living with cancer.
What is the vision for Trekstock over the next five years?
There are more than 115,000 young adults in their 20’s and 30’s living with cancer in the UK today and every year, another 11,000 receive this life changing diagnosis. We’re working hard to ensure that we can reach, be there for and support every young adult diagnosed so that they have the right and relevant support and they don’t have to face cancer alone. The physical and emotional impact of cancer remains life long and over the next 5 years I’d like to think that with the kind help and support of the public, we can continue to grow our strong digital footprint and achieve a physical presence in many of the major cities of the UK.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in running a charity?
The ability to juggle, learn and grow on the job, and to create a work/life balance. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, there’s so much to learn, be mindful of and take on when you’re leading a team – and I like to take on everything! In the early days of running the charity, I was flying solo, with the support of some great friends and my Trustees but it really was 7 days a week and I didn’t switch off. 7 years on, I’ve built a small passionate, creative and hardworking team around me and it’s allowed me to take steps back when I need to, and focus on growing the organisation.
To what do you attribute your success?
One of our Trustees Andy very sadly passed away last November from cancer, he really was instrumental in helping me set the charity up, we spent many a hour at the kitchen table with a cup of Yorkshire tea brainstorming and he always said Trekstock is unique because we ‘dare to be different’ and he was right. For me it’s about not conforming, being creative and not being afraid to ask. I’m quite headstrong, ‘where there’s a will, there’s (always) a way.’
I remember a friend Deb (from She’s Back) saying to me in the early days, write down 5-10 brilliant people and just ask them to have a cup of tea with you, often people are happy to give timed advise if that’s the approach and you never know where it will lead.
So dare to be different and explore your network, because six degrees of separation really is the key to expanding any business, preferably with a cup of tea and a nice hand written card to follow up…
Tell us about a time you felt most inspired
I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the courage, determination and inspiration of the young adults we support and the passionate and kind people who fundraise for us.
With Ruth, it goes beyond inspirational – a fellow Yorkshire girl, friend, cancer patient, Doctor, member of our Trustee board and Support Network all in one. To manage a diagnosis, juggle day to day life, a busy job caring for other patients and be the most selfless and lovely human being is an inspiration to anyone and I’m exceptionally lucky to have people like this around me helping guide and shape the services that trekstock delivers. It makes what we do every day very meaningful and puts life’s little worries and woes into perspective.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
Time again, I come back to this quote by James Allen from As A Man Thinket which I love and makes sense to me;
“Cherish your visions.
Cherish your ideals.
Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts.
For out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment, of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.”
Some life advice would be from my friend & fellow entrepreneur Lily of the Detox Kitchen, who always says, everything will work out in the end, so don’t stress or worry about anything, just keep going and it’s very true. You really do have to take things as they come, and keep going.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
It’s quite apt as I was talking about this with my fiancé this weekend. He embarked on a new adventure with his own brand Form&Thread and we were both saying, if we were to give advice to our younger self – it would definitely be ‘just do it’ and live a happy life with no regrets. So much time can be wasted procrastinating over whether to say yes/no to opportunities and thinking about what was, or might have been. Oh and breathe – it sounds crazy but reading Michael Townsend’s book ‘Do Breathe’ really has shaken up my way of thinking about a lot of things, it’s encouraged me to simply breathe more and create more balance in life, I’d highly recommend it.
When you hear the word “successful”, who’s the first person that comes to mind?
Sir Richard Branson and the extremely stylish and lovely Jane Shepherdson. I’ve had the opportunity to meet them both and they’ve kindly supported the charity too. I find both of them incredibly inspiring, influential, extremely down to earth and figureheads to look up to.
How do you try to live a positive life?
I try to have an open mind, practice mindfulness and do my best. I love spending time with my dog Serge and of course partner Rich. I try to get out into nature as much as possible, it’s what grounds and centres me. I still trek up and down mountains for Trekstock and with friends and you can’t beat the feeling of standing on a peak, disconnected from a busy life, looking out to stillness and taking a deep breath.
Describe your job in three words
Inspiring, creative, rewarding.
Find out more about Sophie’s and Trekstock’s work by visiting their website