Barkingside mum overcomes multiple sclerosis and son’s stroke to set up business

Renée Wallen, social media consultant, from Imaginative Training and Development, with her son Olive

Renée Wallen, social media consultant, from Imaginative Training and Development, with her son Oliver - Credit: Archant

A businesswoman has built up her own communications consultancy despite facing two significant challenges – her young son suffering a stroke and her own multiple sclerosis (MS).

Renée Wallen, of Glenthorne Gardens, Barkingside, set up Imaginative Training 15 years ago and specialised in helping government bodies, including Redbridge Council and private companies to use plain English.

But her life was turned upside down when her son Oliver, then 13, had a stroke which meant she had to stop working completely to care for him.


And at the same time, her MS, a disease affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord and causing problems with muscle movement, worsened. She said: “It was probably the stress of what happened to him and caring for him. I didn’t think I’d work again.

You may also want to watch:

“As I started to feel better, I thought, ‘no, I won’t let this beat me, I’ll make the most of every day’. You never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Renée is now a member of a Stroke Association advisory panel on childhood stroke and visited Parliament last week to help launch a report into support for carers. She said: “Childhood stroke is more common than people realise. That’s why we’re raising awareness.”

Most Read

Oliver, now 18, made a full recovery and is planning to go to university, but when his mum made steps towards re-entering the business world, she said “everything had changed” and prospective clients wanted to know if she could help with social media.

Now, while still working with companies to remove “gobbledygook” from their literature, she helps small businesses and start-ups with their marketing and social media profiles.

She said: “As a small business, they’re doing everything so they don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it.”

• For more information about Imaginative Training, visit

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter