‘I was looking after other people’s kids more than my own’

Overcome by the harsh realities of teaching, Alwen Lewis transformed her life for the better after leaving the profession to launch an independent business

Career change transformed shop owner's life
Alwen Marshall Lewis has turned her life around since leaving teaching to open an independent, sustainable health foods and re-fill store

After 20 years of teaching, Alwen Marshall Lewis experienced a dramatic incident that awakened her to the strain teaching had put on her health, and her family. 

Having taught for 12 years in the Rhondda, and an additional eight years at a school in Cardiff, the mother of two was no stranger to the demanding workload and hectic teaching schedule.

However, after an evening spent working late, Lewis fainted in her living room; leaving her with a broken nose, a broken cheekbone and eight stitches down the side of her eye. 

“I just wasn’t looking after myself at all, health wise”, the 46-year-old sighs, pulling at the sleeves of her jumper. The incident was a wake up call for Lewis to prioritise her wellbeing in order to care for herself, and her two young children; now aged 10 and 14. 

“You do get to a point where you think there’s more to life than work,” she says, taking a sip from her cup of tea. “It really was a life changing experience.”

An eco-friendly ethos

With a determination to create a better life for herself, Lewis left teaching and opened Iechyd Da @CF14 on Merthyr Road in Whitchurch in June 2019; an eco-friendly, single-use-plastic free, health foods and refill shop. 

Translating to ‘good health’, Iechyd Da encompasses the concept of a healthy lifestyle, supporting Lewis’ determination to improve her wellbeing.  

Having spent her teenage years working in the visitor shop of a butterfly farm in Anglesey, being in a shop environment was something Lewis always enjoyed. 

“I thought, that’s another place I enjoy, I’m really comfortable, and I know what I’m doing”, she says confidently, surrounded by the walls of her store which display an array of product dispensers.  

Influenced by her grandmother’s waste not, want not attitude, Lewis has always been frustrated by plastic packaging, which she believes to be the biggest environmental issue today. Lewis settled on the concept of a refill shop in order to begin reducing her own family’s waste, while hoping others would join them. 

“I don’t like wasting”, the Whitchurch-based shop owner states firmly. “But also as a family we love nature, we’re obsessed with David Attenborough, he’s a god!”, she chuckles gleefully. 

Lewis says people shouldn’t expect to change their habits overnight, but rather begin by changing one thing at a time. “If we all do the small steps together, then the impact will be great”, she says eagerly. 

I was winging it, and I’m still winging it to be honest with you

A risk worth taking

Having found herself overwhelmed with support since opening her store, Lewis claims that despite her career change being the biggest risk she’s ever taken, it has been worth it. 

“Having the shop is a million times easier than teaching”, she laughs, referring to being able to set her own deadlines. 

Speaking of her future aspirations, Lewis radiates happiness, and it is evident she has transformed her life for the better. 

“Being able to enjoy life and keep healthy. Those are my hopes and dreams. Keep enjoying life”, she grins.

Listen to Alwen share her story