‘I made £20m after losing four stone – and fell for the woman I’m about to have a baby with’

Twenty years ago, Sam White was having five panic attacks a day and was working from her sister’s conservatory in Stockport.

At a dress size 24, the idea of any form of exercise ‘horrified’ her, she smoked like a chimney, and binged on junk food.

She had always dated men and was then in a long-term relationship with a bricklayer from Wythenshawe.

But fast forward to 2022, the now-millionaire is planning a trip to Beverly Hills with her new wife for IVF, following the success she and her first wife had with their two children.

READ MORE: Stockport has one BILLION pounds being injected into it – and some ‘radical’ changes are coming

Sam heads up a £20m motor insurance claims empire and now works from her own office in her converted barn, located in the Cheshire countryside of Lach Dennis.

The 46-year-old, from Cheadle, has come leaps and bounds, with many twists along the way, since her traumatic childhood.

She remembers her ‘dysfunctional alcoholic’ mother having problems from when she was as young as eight, and when she turned 23, her mum tragically overdosed.

By her mid-twenties, she knew she needed to make a drastic change in her life, and set off travelling around the world.

It was during this experience when something twigged that she now credits her huge success to.

“I set my first company up from my sister’s conservatory when I was 24,” Sam told the Manchester Evening News.

“I suffered badly with panic attacks, four or five a day, it was a full-blown panic disorder.

“It was a vicious cycle of me wanting comfort in junk food; anything that was bad for me and anything to do with exercise I was horrified by.”

Sam, who could no longer shop for clothes at High Street stores and once broke her leg during a water fight in their kitchen, which she believes was due to the sheer weight on her bones, had been back and forth to her GP about the attacks.

She was referred to different types of therapy and coping strategies, but nothing seemed to cut it.

They were triggered by an amalgamation of issues; her unstable home life which saw her quit her degree at Bolton University so she could go out to work instead, and underlying challenges with her sexuality, which she left unaddressed until she came out as gay at 30.

Sam is now the CEO of her own successful company
(Image: David Harrison)

“I was eating to suppress those feelings,” Sam, who went to Kingsway secondary school, added.

“But I always had success at work, consistent promotions, it was my one safe place.”

Her first business was Action365, a motor claims management business, which she built up from past experience working for a claims company.

“I sat with a phone, a desk, and started calling around insurance brokers, asking if they’d be happy to give me a chance,” she said.

Once the company had reached a steady point a few years later, Sam and her sister bought a large terrace house together in Bramhall, and converted the basement into offices for her team of eight staff members.

She then felt the urge to get away for a change of scene.

“I got this idea into my head that if I went travelling, I could sort myself out. I felt like I needed a dramatic change,” she said.

“I gave the team my number and said ‘you can call me if there is a problem, I’m getting off.’”

Between 2002-2003, Sam and her boyfriend travelled for three months at a time before returning to check in on the business.

They covered the Maldives, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, to name a few places, with the trip ending on the Inca Trail in Peru.

In each country, Sam tried out a new exercise, starting out with swimming.

Before long, she was hitting the gym with the encouragement of her ‘gym bunny’ boyfriend, learning Muay Thai and hiking.

On her return to England after a year, she was four stone lighter, at a dress size 12.

Sam in Thailand at the age of 27 – a turning point for her health
(Image: supplied)

“Thailand was a real turning point – there weren’t many fast food joints, certainly not on the islands, so I had to try different types of food,” Sam explained.

“Then I realised I liked things that weren’t wrapped in polystyrene and deep-fried.

“It started to shift my perspective.

“People thought I’d had surgery when I returned because I looked like a completely different human.”

Sam added: “It took me a good few years to nail this down but I realised there was a direct correlation with exercise and reducing my anxiety and panic attacks.”

Despite the progress Sam had made with her health, she admits that on her return to the country and for a short while after, she still had questions over her sexuality hanging over her.

“When I came back, I felt 70 per cent better, because I hadn’t yet dealt with my sexuality, that was the final piece of the puzzle in terms of being emotionally healthy.

“I never felt like I was hiding it, I had lots of boyfriends, there was a couple of women I met in my 20s that I realised I was attracted to, but I was still attracted to guys, so it didn’t seem like something I had to do something about.

“But when I did do something about it, then it was like ‘oh this is way better, I should have done this a long time before’.

“I didn’t realise what relationships could be like until I started dating the same sex.”

In 2005, Sam ended up falling in love with a female friend who she met through work, but who was straight.

Their boyfriends were also friends, which resulted in a messy breakup.

The women were together until their divorce in 2016, and share two children together, Harry, six, and Frankie, eight, of who they now share equal custody.

The businesswoman in California with her daughter
(Image: Supplied)

The birth of their IVF children is what led the couple to live out in Beverly Hills for a couple of years from 2010.

They initially visited to check out the fertility clinic but loved it so much they stayed and rented a home there – at a point when her business had grown substantially to achieve an £18m turnover.

It’s the clinic she is set to return to this year with her new partner, Jennie Guay, who she met on Tinder following a year of dating after her marriage break down.

The pair tied the knot just last week, as being legally married is a requirement for the IVF process in California.

Over there, donors don’t have to be anonymous, so the couple can see pictures of the potential donors as a baby, child, and adult, and you also get to hear from candidates through audio interviews.

You can also pick the sex, which is an important factor for the newlyweds.

“Being a blended family obviously has its own challenges, and add the lesbian parent component and some people’s heads spin,” Sam laughed, who says Jennie is super supportive with looking after her children from her former marriage.

“But our family is more conventional than you may think. The fact that we are lesbian parents doesn’t detract from our family unit.

Sam and her children with Jennie
(Image: David Harrison)

“Jennie has even written a children’s book called ‘Howie Blend’ to tackle the lack of blended family and diversity representation currently in the children’s market and goes into schools to educate around this.

“But as far as our kids are concerned, our family is conventional to them. They are super excited at the idea of another sibling and ask often when the baby will arrive.”

The businesswoman, who has her own home gym, says her panic attacks completely eradicated once she introduced exercise into her daily regime.

Sam works out not just for managing her weight, but for her mental health too, she says.

“It took me a few years after I got back [from travelling] to make it into something I do consistently,” Sam, who eats a healthy, balanced diet, continued.

“It doesn’t have to be major, just something to get the blood pumping around the body.

“For me, it solves so many problems.

“When you do exercise to lose weight, it’s always short-term. If you focus on exercise as a means to an end, you’ll jump in and jump out.

“The real shift for me was properly focussing on how I felt, really making a conscious effort to sit in that moment after exercise and ask myself how I feel, and knowing I feel calm, happier, it just locks that memory in for me.”

“Another thing is not allowing yourself to overthink it,” Sam added.

The couple met on Tinder in 2016
(Image: supplied)

“I set businesses up, I’ve had successes and failures, but I find doing is more important than thinking.

“Get yourself out the door, put your trainers on… I will put my gym kit out the night before so I can put it on first thing, and I train first thing in the morning so it’s done.

“You almost trick yourself into doing something rather than having a conversation with yourself where you can talk yourself out of it, creating action than negotiation.”

Sam recognises that she is in an extremely privileged position to be her own boss who can manage her own time, coupled with a great support network, including having her own PA, who help her juggle life as a working mum-of-two.

She manages her daily life through her diary, and schedules into it what is important to her.

But for those who feel they don’t have the time to exercise, Sam argues that prioritising just 20 minutes will give you more energy in return to do the things you love.

“When I have the children, I will scale down my work meetings,” the CEO said.

“I hire good people, I trust them, I don’t need to be involved in every meeting or decision.

Exercise changed Sam’s life
(Image: supplied)

“I have a lot more free time than other people and I’m deeply aware of how privileged I am to be in the situation I’m now in.

“I look at struggling single mums and I totally get why they might say ‘it’s okay for you, you’ve got x, y, z.’ But what I am passionate about is that it’s just 20 minutes of movement, even if you just get up 20 minutes earlier, I guarantee it will enhance your life massively.

“For a lot of people it seems like too much with everything they have got going on in their lives, but it gives you time, energy, calm; it’s really priceless.”

Sam feels that her old lifestyle before shedding the pounds was holding held back.

Her anxieties made her fearful over decisions, and she shied away from public speaking, worried that it would cause another panic attack.

Reflecting on her progress, the now-podcast host also feels introducing exercise into her day-to-day routine gave her a sense of direction.

“Getting up and going to the gym sets me up really well for the rest of the day,” Sam said.

“It may sound boring but I love routine.

“As a child, I had no routine, and it can leave you feeling directionless, like you have no purpose.”

This year, Sam aims to grow one of the companies under her Freedom Services Group umbrella – Stella Insurance – which she set up in Australia, designed completely for women.

With each policy, the business donates $5 to a domestic abuse charity, and plans are underway to launch in the UK.

She says she never thought her brainchild of a business would grow to the lengths it has, and that her driving force resolves around her desire and need for independence.

“In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought it could become the size that it has,” Sam said.

“Because my childhood was so unstable, I always wanted and needed to be independent and I didn’t feel like working for someone else gave me that, my future would still rely on someone else.

“I was washing cars when I was 14/15 to make cash, I always needed to have that feeling I could take care of myself and no one could take it away from me.

“That drive has stuck with me.”

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