Pinay School Owner in England Recalls Life as Fish Vendor and Domestic Helper

A Filipina who is now enjoying success as a business owner in England has shared her life as fish vendor and domestic helper to inspire others to not give up on their dreams of becoming successful one day.

In a feature article on ABS-CBN News, 46-year-old Nova Fossgard shared her humble beginnings as a fish vendor who started selling at the tender age of 5, in Tukuran, Zamboanga Del Sur. Her father had been a fisherman while her mother was a housewife.

Although she completed a degree in accounting from Southern Mindanao College in 1991, she worked as a domestic helper in Singapore as she hoped to help her parents send her younger brothers to school. In Singapore, she worked hard, even taking jobs during her days off just to earn extra cash.

Photo credit: ABS-CBN News

While working there, she received an offer from a former boss to take care of his octogenarian mother who is in England. She immediately grabbed the opportunity. It was there that she met her husband Jan Fossgard, a journalist who finished both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Oxford.

The year 2006 was the most challenging for your Fossgards. They both lost their jobs. Jan decided to apply for a teaching job at Purley Language College in Purley, a town in South London, but the owners asked him whether he wanted to buy the school because they were planning to retire.

The couple accepted the challenges; although things were difficult at first.

In the beginning, we borrowed so much money. We remortgaged and it tested us, our relationship, financially and emotionally. It wasn’t easy,” Nova recalled. But her basic background in business as a fish vendor, her accounting degree, and her bubbly personality moved their school forward.

Photo credit: Purley College

From one student, the school would grow and receive 3,000 enrollments per year. Her advice for everyone is to complete their education and follow their dreams.

How can you be successful without education? I kept telling my brothers, education is the best capital for you. Then once you have education, look for what you are passionate about. Then focus on that one thing,” she told ABS-CBN News.