Finding happiness against all odds

Anna Cannon lost her mother to cancer and overcame the murder of her brother to become a highly successful businesswoman. Belinda Walsh hears her story

For more information contact www.rainbusters.ie or call into 74, Main Street, Gorey. Tel: Anna Cannon on 087-2391450

Published 14/12/2010 | 09:17

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE may be frightful but for Swedish-born businesswoman Anna Cannon it is a time to celebrate, as her new company, selling outdoor waterproof clothing for children is doing extremely well. Since its conception one year ago 'Rainbusters' has been grown steadily and, because of our recent weather conditions, Anna's company is now working to full capacity supplying snow loving children across Ireland with her Swedish-designed clothing range both online and in her new shop in Gorey.

'Growing up in Sweden, I am used to much more severe weather conditions and I know how important it is to dress prepared for the weather when you go outside. Kids too, when they are warm and dry are only too happy to play outdoors. When I moved to Ireland I noticed a niche in the market for well designed, durable, waterproof kids' clothing and I set my mind to filling that gap.'

As a busy mother-of-four, Anna was fed up with multiple clothes changes and having her washing machine working overtime every day. So after searching high and low for quality outdoor clothes that didn't cost an arm and a leg, she found what she was looking for on a trip back to Sweden. 'We now have our own range of 'Rainbusters', dungarees, jackets and wellies that are 100% waterproof, colourful and durable. These clothes fit the bill perfectly for the cold, damp, snowy conditions we are experiencing at the moment and are flying off the shelves. I'm like Father Christmas with bag loads of parcels in the post office everyday.'

Anna Cannon's success today is well-earned and deserved, not just because of her hard work and determination but also her emotional strength and her ability to overcome appalling family tragedy and illness to remain one of the most upbeat, positive and enthusiastic people anyone could meet.

Born in 1969 in Uppsala in Sweden, Anna was just nine years old and her brother Carl, seven, when their father, a journalist with Swedish Television left them and their mother. They family moved to the middle of the country to be near their gandparents who lived in a large castle on the outskirts of Linkoping.

'We took our Dad leaving us very badly especially my younger brother. Mum brought us up as a single mother but in a way we had a privileged upbringing visiting our grandparents in their charming castle which is still there today and is now a museum. My grandfather was a gymnast who represented Sweden in the 1936 Olympics and was really like a dad to me. We spent a lot of time in the countryside as kids. In Ireland, I miss the focus on the outdoors that we have in Sweden where families go ice skating on the lakes together and bring hot drinks and a picnic with them. I don't think we do enough outdoor activities here, especially in the winter.

'When I think back on my childhood, I realise that my children, Molly (12), Patrick (4), Sean and Maisie (2) are so lucky to grow up with two parents who love them and are around them all the time.'

Anna also loved music growing up and at 15 joined a rock band with five other girls called Group 6 playing gigs locally in her area. 'I played the electric guitar. I loved being in the band, it was a great time. I can still bring out my inner "rock chic" when I want.'

A tall, slim, vivacious blonde, Anna has had a varied and interesting career to date, working for a time as a journalist, a model and in Stockholm's Hard Rock Café. At 21 she ran her own hotel and restaurant and up to having her own business, she had a career in Business Development with flagship companies such as Gateway 2000 and Siemens.

'I've done a lot of things and learned a lot mainly by my mistakes but one important think I have learned is that customer care is key to any successful business. This is an area I really focus on in my new business and it appears to be paying off.'

When Anna's father remarried an Irish woman and moved to Ireland to live, she and her brother came to visit him here. As they got older and their father had a new young family Anna and Carl didn't see their father as often. However, Anna had grown to love Ireland and returned here on her own bat to work when she was 25. 'I enjoyed coming to Ireland as a kid and love living here in Avoca now. Not only is Ireland a beautiful country but I'm amazed how gifted Irish people are culturally with so many having literary, artistic and musical talents here.'

In 2004, Anna met and fell in love with Des Cannon, a stonemason from Glencullen who hails from long line of Stonemasons in this area. The collapse of the building industry has meant less work here for Des but more help for Anna in her new business and it looks as if they make a great team. 'Des and I were introduced to each other by friends in a pub. It really was love at first sight for both of us. We got married a year later and then had three kids in three years. He's a fantastic father and a great worker. Because there isn't much work as a stonemason he's become very involved in the business, particularly the online sales part of it. We now alternate work and the kids between us. That means there is always one of us with the kids."

ANNA EXPERIENCED TRAGEDY early in her life when her mother died aged 50 of cancer. Along with brother Carl, 18 at the time, the two siblings grew very close. They watched on and comforted each other when their mother got sick.

'Carl and I shared a great bond. He used to look up to me as his big sister although there was only two years between us. He became a restless soul after dad left us and it got worse when Mum died. As a man he would just disappear from time to time. Once I didn't hear from him for over a year when he went to Thailand.'

Anna's brother returned to Sweden in the late '90s but fell in with bad company. Then on that black, fateful day in January 2001, Carl was killed by a violent criminal with a fatal stab wound to the body. ' The man who murdered my brother was well known in Sweden and described as a real psychopath with a string of violent crimes and rapes behind him. I went through two murder trails having to face this man alone while my baby daughter Molly stayed with my grandparents. They were very cut up over Carl's death. They had already lost their youngest daughter Astrid in a car accident when she was 21 and then their other daughter Cecilia, my mum, at 50. It was a devastating time for all of us.'

WHAT FOLLOWED WAS a period of dark days in Anna Cannon's life where she struggled to come to terms with her brother's death, her feelings of guilt and ultimately to find a way to deal with the horror of it all. 'Carl's death changed my inner core. I was filled with guilt for a long time as I felt I wasn't there for him.

Now I know better, that he had to make his own decisions and follow his own way.

'For a long time it was hard to replace those violent pictures of Carl's death with good memories but I'm getting there. My daughter Molly helped to pull me through the hard times with her sunny disposition. I have found my faith again and I believe God's plan for me was to bless me with a wonderful husband and my own big family, having lost both Carl and Mum.'

As life would have it, this spirited young woman had one more hurdle to get over when in January this year, while working hard setting up her new business she suddenly became very ill.

She lost the power in her muscles and could hardly walk and ended up in Vincent's Hospital having blood tests and brain scans to find out about this mystery illness.

'It was a frightening experience. I was also getting dizzy spells and my eyesight was blurred. It turned out to be a neurological problem that can mirror MS but is not degenerate.

'I'm on a strict diet now that excludes dairy and gluten among other things and I'm seeing a specialist doctor in Cork who is helping me to recover.

Today, the very inspiring and determined Anna Cannon is happily 95% recovered from her illness and on her way to complete health. She is full of enthusiasm and is as ambitious as ever for 'Rainbusters' with big plans to open six more outlets in the next few years and create between 20 to 30 new jobs here.

'I am really proud of the fact that we have managed to start a successful business in the middle of a deep recession.

'Des and I work very hard, keep our costs low and have very clear goals. It's been a challenging year with my health but I've come through it and the future looks bright. It's so important to keep going in this current climate and to trust your instincts. I firmly believe that the survivors today will be the success stories of tomorrow.' THE WEATHER OUTSIDE may be frightful but for Swedish-born businesswoman Anna Cannon it is a time to celebrate, as her new company, selling outdoor waterproof clothing for children is doing extremely well. Since its conception one year ago 'Rainbusters' has been grown steadily and, because of our recent weather conditions, Anna's company is now working to full capacity supplying snow loving children across Ireland with her Swedish-designed clothing range both online and in her new shop in Gorey.

'Growing up in Sweden, I am used to much more severe weather conditions and I know how important it is to dress prepared for the weather when you go outside. Kids too, when they are warm and dry are only too happy to play outdoors. When I moved to Ireland I noticed a niche in the market for well designed, durable, waterproof kids' clothing and I set my mind to filling that gap.'

As a busy mother-of-four, Anna was fed up with multiple clothes changes and having her washing machine working overtime every day. So after searching high and low for quality outdoor clothes that didn't cost an arm and a leg, she found what she was looking for on a trip back to Sweden. 'We now have our own range of 'Rainbusters', dungarees, jackets and wellies that are 100% waterproof, colourful and durable. These clothes fit the bill perfectly for the cold, damp, snowy conditions we are experiencing at the moment and are flying off the shelves. I'm like Father Christmas with bag loads of parcels in the post office everyday.'

Anna Cannon's success today is well-earned and deserved, not just because of her hard work and determination but also her emotional strength and her ability to overcome appalling family tragedy and illness to remain one of the most upbeat, positive and enthusiastic people anyone could meet.

Born in 1969 in Uppsala in Sweden, Anna was just nine years old and her brother Carl, seven, when their father, a journalist with Swedish Television left them and their mother. They family moved to the middle of the country to be near their gandparents who lived in a large castle on the outskirts of Linkoping.

'We took our Dad leaving us very badly especially my younger brother. Mum brought us up as a single mother but in a way we had a privileged upbringing visiting our grandparents in their charming castle which is still there today and is now a museum. My grandfather was a gymnast who represented Sweden in the 1936 Olympics and was really like a dad to me. We spent a lot of time in the countryside as kids. In Ireland, I miss the focus on the outdoors that we have in Sweden where families go ice skating on the lakes together and bring hot drinks and a picnic with them. I don't think we do enough outdoor activities here, especially in the winter.

'When I think back on my childhood, I realise that my children, Molly (12), Patrick (4), Sean and Maisie (2) are so lucky to grow up with two parents who love them and are around them all the time.'

Anna also loved music growing up and at 15 joined a rock band with five other girls called Group 6 playing gigs locally in her area. 'I played the electric guitar. I loved being in the band, it was a great time. I can still bring out my inner "rock chic" when I want.'

A tall, slim, vivacious blonde, Anna has had a varied and interesting career to date, working for a time as a journalist, a model and in Stockholm's Hard Rock Café. At 21 she ran her own hotel and restaurant and up to having her own business, she had a career in Business Development with flagship companies such as Gateway 2000 and Siemens.

'I've done a lot of things and learned a lot mainly by my mistakes but one important think I have learned is that customer care is key to any successful business. This is an area I really focus on in my new business and it appears to be paying off.'

When Anna's father remarried an Irish woman and moved to Ireland to live, she and her brother came to visit him here. As they got older and their father had a new young family Anna and Carl didn't see their father as often. However, Anna had grown to love Ireland and returned here on her own bat to work when she was 25. 'I enjoyed coming to Ireland as a kid and love living here in Avoca now. Not only is Ireland a beautiful country but I'm amazed how gifted Irish people are culturally with so many having literary, artistic and musical talents here.'

In 2004, Anna met and fell in love with Des Cannon, a stonemason from Glencullen who hails from long line of Stonemasons in this area. The collapse of the building industry has meant less work here for Des but more help for Anna in her new business and it looks as if they make a great team. 'Des and I were introduced to each other by friends in a pub. It really was love at first sight for both of us. We got married a year later and then had three kids in three years. He's a fantastic father and a great worker. Because there isn't much work as a stonemason he's become very involved in the business, particularly the online sales part of it. We now alternate work and the kids between us. That means there is always one of us with the kids."

ANNA EXPERIENCED TRAGEDY early in her life when her mother died aged 50 of cancer. Along with brother Carl, 18 at the time, the two siblings grew very close. They watched on and comforted each other when their mother got sick.

'Carl and I shared a great bond. He used to look up to me as his big sister although there was only two years between us. He became a restless soul after dad left us and it got worse when Mum died. As a man he would just disappear from time to time. Once I didn't hear from him for over a year when he went to Thailand.'

Anna's brother returned to Sweden in the late '90s but fell in with bad company. Then on that black, fateful day in January 2001, Carl was killed by a violent criminal with a fatal stab wound to the body. ' The man who murdered my brother was well known in Sweden and described as a real psychopath with a string of violent crimes and rapes behind him. I went through two murder trails having to face this man alone while my baby daughter Molly stayed with my grandparents. They were very cut up over Carl's death. They had already lost their youngest daughter Astrid in a car accident when she was 21 and then their other daughter Cecilia, my mum, at 50. It was a devastating time for all of us.'

WHAT FOLLOWED WAS a period of dark days in Anna Cannon's life where she struggled to come to terms with her brother's death, her feelings of guilt and ultimately to find a way to deal with the horror of it all. 'Carl's death changed my inner core. I was filled with guilt for a long time as I felt I wasn't there for him.

Now I know better, that he had to make his own decisions and follow his own way.

'For a long time it was hard to replace those violent pictures of Carl's death with good memories but I'm getting there. My daughter Molly helped to pull me through the hard times with her sunny disposition. I have found my faith again and I believe God's plan for me was to bless me with a wonderful husband and my own big family, having lost both Carl and Mum.'

As life would have it, this spirited young woman had one more hurdle to get over when in January this year, while working hard setting up her new business she suddenly became very ill.

She lost the power in her muscles and could hardly walk and ended up in Vincent's Hospital having blood tests and brain scans to find out about this mystery illness.

'It was a frightening experience. I was also getting dizzy spells and my eyesight was blurred. It turned out to be a neurological problem that can mirror MS but is not degenerate.

'I'm on a strict diet now that excludes dairy and gluten among other things and I'm seeing a specialist doctor in Cork who is helping me to recover.

Today, the very inspiring and determined Anna Cannon is happily 95% recovered from her illness and on her way to complete health. She is full of enthusiasm and is as ambitious as ever for 'Rainbusters' with big plans to open six more outlets in the next few years and create between 20 to 30 new jobs here.

'I am really proud of the fact that we have managed to start a successful business in the middle of a deep recession.

'Des and I work very hard, keep our costs low and have very clear goals. It's been a challenging year with my health but I've come through it and the future looks bright. It's so important to keep going in this current climate and to trust your instincts. I firmly believe that the survivors today will be the success stories of tomorrow.'

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