3 brilliant West Essex women blazing a trail in businesses
- Credit: Archant
We catch up with three inspiring young individuals who are running their own companies here in West Essex
Fern Andrews, 19, from Buckhurst Hill
Founder of the fashion brand All From Fern
All From Fern has always been a reflection of my personal wardrobe. If I had a party or event, I would go down to the east London markets and grab some eye-catching fabrics, show my nan an outfit I had seen in a magazine, add my own touches and voila! I would always wear pieces that no-one could get their hands on, which wouldn’t go unnoticed by friends, family and even strangers – this was the moment that I knew I could make a business from my philosophy of fashion. I took the leap into starting up a website this year, which I created from scratch at home.
I gained a diploma in Art and Fashion Design at The Fashion Retail Academy in London whilst I was building my business at 16. Design was already second nature to me, but the challenge was putting the image in my mind onto a hanger. I owe All From Fern to my nan, because she has taught me the ins and outs of machining, pattern cutting and grading, and with her help we have created a factory out of a bedroom and we’re now a well-oiled machine. From working in a factory making mini-skirts, she has now become All From Fern’s very own sample machinist. We are lucky to have now expanded the team to a community of other talented machinists.
Having an online business is like having a 24-hour job – my mind is constantly focused on our next move and in order to continue to be successful, I have to be forward-thinking. At the beginning of lockdown, I decided to use my initiative to inspire people’s creativity whilst at home, and also bring a bit of fun to my followers. I created a ‘Pillow Challenge’, which was where we posed for and captured photos using a pillow as a dress or garment. All of a sudden this went viral, and thousands of people shared their posts on Instagram. All From Fern was featured on Boohoo, Cosmopolitan and many more Instagram pages, and even celebrities got involved! For me, that was the ultimate career highlight so far.
Ella Heath, 20, from Chingford
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Founder of the cake baking business, Ella Bella Bakes
It’s funny really because I never used to think I actually liked baking because it’s so precise, but I did a lot of cooking instead. Then for my nan’s birthday in February, I made her a cake and everyone gave me loads of compliments and asked why I never did it properly. Then I made my friend’s boyfriend a cake too, and set up an Instagram account in March. It was literally about two weeks before lockdown, and obviously we were all stuck at home so it was quite good to have that to keep me busy – I go to City University in London, but wasn’t going in during lockdown and I didn’t have another job, so I had a lot of free time.
My main objective is for the cakes to be as personal as possible. I always ask people what their favourite chocolates, sweets and colours are so then it really looks as if you’ve thought about what goes into the cake. A lot of other cake companies sell their cakes for £100 plus, so I’ve tried to keep my prices reasonable so that people my age can afford to buy them for family and friends. My favourite cake so far is one that I did for my friend’s birthday in June. It was a surprise, and I went to the florist, and picked out roses and little pink flowers to decorate it with.
There have definitely been a few times where I’ve sat there and thought ‘I can’t do this anymore’. I find time management hard, and I think I’ve come to realise that I can’t take on too much. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so sometimes I feel a bit unhappy with my cakes, especially nearer the beginning when I first started. But the main thing for me is making people happy – some of the reviews I’ve had back have really made my day. One girl messaged me to say that she and her family had tried a number of cake companies, and my sponge was her favourite!
Message Ella on Instagram at @ella.bellabakes to place an order and to see her amazing creations
Olivia Jay, 22, from Loughton
Eyelash technician and founder of the salon Lashes by Livvy
To be honest, Lashes by Livvy just happened. It wasn’t a plan, but it was a lot of hard work and dedication; I was working as a PA in Canary Wharf and I hated it. I always felt like I needed to prove myself, and I’ve always been into beauty. Since I was in Year 7, I would get my eyelashes, my hair and my nails done. I realised that, at the time, no-one was really doing eyelash extensions so I booked onto a course and from there it really took off. I have friends from a lot of different areas, so I was lucky because I ended up getting fully booked quite quickly.
When the business started getting bigger, I think a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon, so I wanted to step away from everyone else and try to still be on top. So that’s when I started looking to launch my own products, and it took me over a year with samples being sent back and forth with the manufacturer as I tried to perfect something that I wanted to put my name to. Then people jumped on it again, so I knew I needed to do something else to separate myself. I would often get asked whether I would train other people, but you need to be certified. When my baby Darla was a couple of weeks old, I took my qualification and I ended up doing it within a couple of months. Now I have my own training manual and run my own courses.
It was hard – after I had my baby, my whole world turned upside down, but I just had to make sure that we were going to have a good life, so I persevered with it. I couldn’t believe the response I got to the training courses, and soon we were fully booked all the time!
Darla is definitely my biggest achievement. Everyone says she’s so funny and loving and it makes me so proud. My piece of advice to other young women looking to start a business would be to make sure you’re doing something you love. As long as you put your all into it, you’re going to get amazing things out of it.