Wisdom of Women: Jo Tutchener-Sharp shares how brain surgery inspired her business idea

A portrait shot of Jo Tutchener-Sharp
Living life to the full: Jo Tutchener-Sharp describes how surgery changed her as a person Credit: Billie Scheepers

An interview with entrepreneur Jo Tutchener-Sharp describes how brain surgery led her to re-evaluate the ageing process

Four years ago, Jo Tutchener-Sharp, 43, was juggling a successful career running her own beauty PR agency with raising two small children, Jude and Sonny (now four and seven). A spasm in her face was dismissed as stress-related, but when unexplained headaches followed, she was sent to hospital for a brain scan. What doctors told Jo that night upended her life completely.

What happened to you?

After suffering terrible headaches, I’d been admitted to hospital for tests. Doctors woke me up at 1am and told me they’d found a lump on my brain and asked if there was a history of cancer in my family. It was the worst moment of my life. My kids were one and three at the time and I was up all night thinking: I can’t leave them.

The next morning I was told I’d had a brain haemorrhage. They weren’t sure what the lump was and wanted to see if it grew before they operated.

A couple of months later I had brain surgery to remove what turned out to be a cavernoma [cluster of abnormal blood vessels], not knowing if I’d come out the other side.

How did life change for you?

I had 10 days in hospital away from the kids, as I didn’t want them to see me with my head shaved and with staples in. I worried so much about how they were coping and lay there wondering what I could have given them to make them feel more secure while I was away. That’s when I came up with the idea for my clothing brand Scamp & Dude. First I started with Superhero Sleep Buddies, which were cushion comforters shaped like dinosaurs and rabbits, designed to sit on a bed and watch over a child while they sleep, with a pocket to put a photo of their parent in.

I also decided to do T-shirts that had a superhero on the back and we added an embroidered lightning-bolt-shaped ‘superhero button’ on clothes that kids can press when they’re nervous. Before I knew it I’d designed a whole range.

Did your surgery change you as a person?

Yes. I don’t see any barriers any more. Anything that I used to be scared of, now I think: ‘I can do that.’ You definitely realise how short life can be and how precious it is.

Did it alter how you feel about growing older?

I don’t worry about getting older. Maybe it’s because I came close to not living. I’m glad to be here. We all get wrinkles, but as long as you’ve still got that twinkle in your eye you’ll still look beautiful.

What does beauty mean to you?

Inner warmth, spark and character. For me, beauty is also about having a few minutes each day to look after yourself. I always wear tinted moisturiser and like illuminating powders to give a fresh look. I wear a lot of under-eye concealer, too – an essential when you’ve got small kids!

How do you look after yourself?

I love a bath. That’s my chill-out time. I lock the door so my kids and husband can’t get in – it’s time for me. I’ll put on a face mask; I really like Shiseido’s sheet masks, and relax. Getting out of the city and being around nature is important. I can get caught up in the adrenalin of running a business, so I need to slow down now and again.

What’s your greatest achievement?

My business. I made a pact that if I made it through the surgery I’d do something to help others. I want to give people superhero powers and help them feel braver and stronger.

The evolution of beauty

Attitudes to beauty are evolving and natural-looking, healthy complexions are taking centre stage.

To celebrate this shift, Shiseido has partnered with Telegraph Spark to bring you a series of interviews with high profile women sharing their life lessons and beauty journeys alongside expert deep-dives on the new aesthetic.

For more information on Shiseido’s intelligent skincare offering, visit Shiseido at johnlewis.com