Independent businesses are thriving in Lytham and St Annes
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
There is more to Lytham and St Annes than coastline and cafes. Meet the creative people showing these two towns mean business.
Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you launching a company takes sacrifice. But for Sophie Lowe and Sarah Burgess it took more than most - they moved almost 7,000 miles away. The Lytham pair, who became friends while studying journalism and law at Cardiff University, spent 11 months working in Malaysia so they could save up the funds they needed to launch Ride, the spinning studio they opened in December last year. The fitness enthusiasts had always longed to run their own gym but lacked the funds. Sarah's brother Stewart ran an English school in Malaysia and cheap living costs meant they could save money. While they were in South East Asia they attended a spinning class and they were hooked. 'We knew that was what we wanted to do straight away,' said Sarah, 24. 'It was such a different concept, in the dark, using your whole body for fitness while on the bike. We loved it.'
Although they both studied in different fields, they both have a love of fitness. Sarah was also a competitive body builder and won at the Show of Strength competition in Singapore. The business has been such a success they launched a second site, in Boundary Road, giving them a spinning studio and a separate gym at the first location in the centre of Lytham.
The Fylde AFC men's and ladies teams train with them as has Bradford City footballer Joe Riley and some of the golfers who recently attended the Senior Open Championship at Royal Lytham in July. They have also helped people recovering from chemo as well as those wanting to improve their fitness.
'We're so happy with how well it's gone,' said Sophie, also 24. 'Lytham has been so supportive of us and want to see us doing well. It's so good to hear people saying Ride has had a positive impact.
'Watching 40 people in class all doing something you have created is really special.'
They are one of a growing number of creative, ambitious people in Lytham and St Annes who are flying the flag for independent business. Walk down either of the high streets in the coastal towns and you'll find a healthy mix of independently owned businesses providing a diverse offer of shops, restaurants and businesses.
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In fact, Sarah and Sophie are supporting other growing businesses, including No Filter Coffee House, which has set up at their Little Ride premises in South Westby Street.
It is the second and newest coffee house founded by Natasia Hamilton her fiancé Paul Neil and sister in law Stephanie Neil. They opened their first in St Annes in last October. For Natasia, drawing up business plans was a welcome distraction from aggressive treatment for cervical cancer. Natasia had been diagnosed in 2016. She had a full hysterectomy but it returned the following year. Despite a terminal prognosis, she underwent intensive treatment.
'My oncologist never gave up,' said Natasia. 'He had never done as many rounds of treatment on anyone, especially someone of my age. I had 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 38 of radiotherapy. I had several blood transfusions and sepsis three times. It was a lot to deal with.
'Planning to do the shop gave me something to focus on. I did the business plan during my chemotherapy. It really helped to have that to think about and by the time I'd finished my treatment, it was almost time to open.'
The trio, who used to work for a national coffee shop chain, wanted to provide 'proper' coffee and they now sell their own blends. They work with other St Annes businesses including nearby cake supplier, Nom Nom. People undergoing treatment for cancer also visit the shop to speak with Natasia.
'It helps people to see that someone else has come through it and doing well,' said Natasia. 'I like that people feel comfortable doing that. It really has been a fantastic thing for us all to do together.
'We're excited to have the new place in Lytham and never expected to have a second site so quickly. The community have been so supportive and we're having a brilliant time doing it.'
Collaboration and support have also formed the backbone of Whoopsie Daisie, a clothing brand launched by St Annes mum-of-one Tara McKenzie. She started the business when she was pregnant with son Henry, now two. It was making items for him as well as family and friends that pushed her to launch the brand. It has gained popularity with parents and their children across the country and her designs have graced the pages of international fashion bible, Vogue. She designs and makes all of the clothing and accessories in a studio in her back garden.
The 27-year-old is also working to empower other mums by enlisting their help in producing her clothing and fashion lines. She already had two local women helping with packing orders and stitching clothes. She works in a studio in the back garden of her home in St Annes, where she lives with Henry and soon to be husband, Joe, a firefighter.
'It's incredible how people have really taken to it, I'm so pleased,' said Tara, who formerly helped small businesses with social media.
'It can be so hard as a working mum to find that work that fits your life. Although it can be hard work trying to schedule work around naps, it has been brilliant for me.
'I wanted to try and do that for other mums too. I have found two brilliant women who help me and are able to fit it around their children. I would love to have my own premises one day. I just feel so lucky.'
Just a few hundred yards away Helen Gillespie has taken her business from her kitchen table to her own studio in St Annes. She trained in Fine Art and Graphic Design and spent several years working in London as a model designer before moving back home and moving into teaching. When she became fatigued with teaching, daughters, Beth and Ella, encouraged her to make a change. That decision gave her the courage to launch Betsy and Els and she named it after them.
Helen, who also runs Etsy Lancashire and founded the successful Etsy Lancashire markets held in Preston last year, uses laser cutting techniques as well as engraving on paper, card, wood and acrylics to create everything from beautiful blooms of flowers, greetings cards, wedding décor and interior items from her St Annes studio. The business, which was launched in 2016, went from small orders to making hundreds of different pieces including for weddings, other special occasions, home décor as well as greetings cards and jewellery. She has designed for individuals as well as international brands including events hosted by Swarovski and Estee Launder.
'This area really is a fantastic place for creative people and independent business,' said Helen. 'It's a community I love to be a part of.
'Doing what I love is something that's extremely special. There have been times when I've done 18 hour days but I wouldn't change it for the world.'