TWO friends have lifted the lid on how they overcame lockdown and personal tragedies together to build a successful finance firm.

Nicola Hardy and Sarah Farnworth, both from Bolton, first founded Transform Mortgages, now based at the Atria on Spa Road, in 2017.

They knew the road ahead would be difficult entering into a primarily male dominated industry, however the onset of the Covid crisis proved a challenge neither could have predicted.

Ms Hardy said: "Initially it was just the two of us working in the annexe of Sarah’s mums house, we started with nothing, a handful of lenders and we have worked our backsides off to get our business off the ground in this predominantly male industry.

"We were growing gradually and employed a couple of staff, moved into offices and then lockdown hit.

"We had to furlough the staff and it was just Sarah and I hustling for every bit of business we could get, we were able to get a fair amount of first charge business as we ensured when we set up that even though second charges was our area of expertise, we would diversify so that we were not solely reliant on that one area of business.

She added: "We worked from home, both home schooling two boys aged 11 and 13 and facetiming each other to try and get each other through this really difficult time."

However, as well as lockdown, the two friends also had to face immense personal challenges together.

Ms Hardy said: "Also during that time my kids dad was diagnosed with cancer and died so my boys were in absolute turmoil and Sarah's family suffered multiple tragic losses so we had lots of personal tragedies to deal with as well as what felt like losing our business we’d worked so hard to build.

"We did whatever we could to make it work and whilst other similar businesses shut up shop, we fought our way through, got a new partnership in place with a lead provider and actually we hired, went back to the office and expanded our business during lockdown and we just had our best year ever."