Bexley is thriving with a range of successful small businesses, despite a damaging and difficult last couple of years for business owners due to the pandemic.
Here are some of the small businesses in Bexley that are making an impact on Instagram.
Lashes Lounge by Leash
Alisha Turner-Dolby, 19, runs her own beauty treatment business, offering treatments such as eyelash extensions and eyebrow maintenance.
Alisha said: “My favourite thing about being a business owner is the satisfaction I get after every set of lashes, brows and other treatments.
“I love to see my clients with a smile on their face and pleased with the treatment I have carried out. I love seeing the sets of lashes I create come to life and to see how unique they are to each individual client.
“One of my greatest achievements within my small business so far is gaining enough income to expand my working area.
“I now carry out all of my appointments in my brand new log cabin. This is by far my favourite thing I have achieved as a small business owner.”
Covid affected small businesses massively, especially the beauty community, as Alisha was unable to open for large periods of time.
The pandemic has also had long term effects, as Alisha lost many clients, however she is now comfortable with the direction of her business.
Alisha had wanted to run her own beauty treatment business from a young age and enrolled in beauty college after leaving school to pursue that ambition.
She added: “Enrolling in beauty college was one of the best decisions I made when leaving school, as it meant that I was able to make my dream a reality.
“If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her to keep smiling and keep striving to achieve all of her goals. They paid off in the end and now she is more successful than she would have ever imagined.”
Alisha hopes to continue to grow her business and would like to have a big enough clientele to be recommended to others, as well as growing her social media platform.
She said: “I would love to create an environment that is fun and uplifting for all my clients to create a safe space for all.”
Jessie Lilley, 40, runs the Bexley franchise of babyballet, which offers dance classes for preschool aged children with a syllabus specifically designed and structured for the age group.
Jessie said: “Dance has been my passion for as long as I can remember and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to work within the industry and bring ballet and dance to a whole new generation.
“I also love the flexibility of owning my own business especially when it comes to being a working mum and making sure the business fits around the needs of my family.”
Babyballet came into Jessie’s life when she was at a bit of a crossroads.
She had trained and worked as a professional dancer but the auditions had started to dry up.
She met the owner of babyballet at a baby show in Manchester, which gave her the opportunity to start a business in an industry she knew well and felt incredibly passionate about.
Jessie added: “I loved the idea of owning my own business but with the support and experience that comes from being part of a franchise network.
“I have always believed that every child should have the opportunity to experience dance and I stand by that today.
“The ethos behind babyballet that everyone is welcome at our classes is exactly the same now as it was 13 years ago when I taught my first class.”
Like with Alisha, Jessie’s business is customer-facing and as such was forced to close for long periods throughout the pandemic.
Online classes were available but with the age of the children taught these weren’t always accessible.
Financially, the business took a huge hit but by being sensible, researching and accessing financial support and by having complete belief that they would ‘get back’, they are now bigger than before the pandemic and with some exciting plans in the pipeline.
Jessie added: “I would like to continue to grow the businesses and have plans for new classes for the next academic year and into 2023.
“I want to keep the growth at a steady level and not add too much too quickly so that I can ensure the systems are in place to support the growth.
“I would like to take on more fantastic teachers so that the team can grow and we can reach more families.
“Ultimately, I just want to keep doing what we’re doing!”
Sophie Roads, 20, also runs a beauty business specialising in eyelash extensions and eyebrows, with a variety of treatments for both.
Sophie first started her business when she was 17, taking it on as a full time job.
At the start, she began to give up as she was trying to live her early adult life on a low income.
Sophie explained: “I was having retention problems, people were complaining, and it was a real emotion burner.
“I was close to giving up and thinking about getting an office job but I had no A Levels, no experience and I always said I couldn’t do an office job as I’d be too bored.”
Instead of giving up, Sophie took another course within beauty which she knew would get her more clients and expanded into doing volume lashes which were really popular at the time.
She then offered a giveaway of free treatments for three months for one person.
Within two days she had doubled her Instagram followers to about 800, at which point summer came and everyone was booking in for holidays and her clientele started to get busy.
Sophie added: “Sometimes you have to take a loss to make a gain and for me it really worked out. Consistency is always key!”
Due to having anxiety in group situations and classroom environments, Sophie chose to leave school at 16.
She said she’s actually very grateful for her anxiety because if she hadn’t dropped out of college she wouldn’t have been where she is today and definitely wouldn’t have had her own business.
During Covid, Studio S as a close contact service was always the last to be allowed to re-open, which had a big effect on Sophie.
As everything else was open again, she had expenses going out but no income.
She said: “Throughout Covid where people were not able to get their lashes done, a lot of people realised they didn’t need them anymore meaning some clients never came back.
“I want to look into training brow lamination masterclasses as I love teaching people – it’s so fun.
“Also I will be getting into semi permanent makeup soon which includes treatments like microblading and lip blush which will be a big focus.
“Long term I would love a salon with a passionate team of girls that started where I started.”
Bows of Bexley
Domenico Leccacorvi and his partner run a business that creates beautiful balloon pieces as well as colourful door bows.
The door bows that they make are all hand made, with lots of time dedicated to design and production.
They also look to make every one of their balloon designs special, so dedicate plenty of time to researching and designing to get the right colours for each event.
Domenico said: “Being two guys that front this company surprises people as they always expect women!
“There have been times of frustration when designs haven’t been as popular, but we just put those in the ‘learning’ box and move forward.
“You’re not going to please everyone with what you design. Our only regret is not starting the business earlier.
“Our advice to young people starting their own businesses is research, practice and don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re starting new and everyone has been there.
“Also find your point of difference and play to it.”
Abby Ball, 33, offers a biscuit baking business offering bespoke designs for any occasion.
Customers are given free reign to design their own tailored biscuits, making each item a unique and individual gift.
Abby said: “I remember my second Christmas since running Bespoke Biscuit. It was hard, as I had so many orders to get through and four children to look after.
“I worked late nearly every night and got up at 5am to start before I had to deal with the little ones. I was burnt out and just wanted to quit.
“I love owning my own business, I can work it around my family and never have to miss sports days, school assemblies etc. I hope my eldest will join my team in a few years.”
Abby really wanted a creative business as in her previous job as a hairdresser she had always loved expressing her creativity through her work.
She remembered seeing a few pictures of people in Australia who had made beautiful biscuits and decided to try her hand at it – and has not looked back since.
Abby said: “If I could talk to my younger self I would say, don’t give up! Everything takes practice, practice and more practice, you won’t wake up and be an amazing baker or an amazing footballer for example.
“You have to work and you will see your progress. The sense of achievement is amazing.”
Compared to other businesses, Covid actually really helped Bespoke Biscuits to grow.
Lots of people ordered as it was a way to send a gift or message without having to have personal contact.
Abby wants to expand her services to offer biscuit cakes – layered biscuits making a cake – and also cake pop towers.
She has recently launched smash hearts and offered mini smash hearts filled with smarties for Valentine’s Day which were a huge success.
Blush parties and balloons
Blush Parties is run by Julie Hill, 51, and offers lots of different themed birthday parties and school holiday workshops, all at their locations in Bexley.
The name Blush was used as the origin of the word means to shine brightly, which was perfect for this business as they are passionate about children shining brightly.
However, like many others, Julie’s business did struggle at points during the pandemic.
She said: “The only time I have wanted to quit was as Covid struck. Being a hospitality business I couldn’t see how we could survive.
“I found a way around this by offering non-contact delivery of balloons which kept us extremely busy and saw us through the lockdown periods.”
Julie’s favourite thing about being the owner of the business is being in a position to constantly try to add value, increase turnover and become more successful.
She was a single parent for many years and couldn’t secure funding to get started, which is her biggest regret due to not being able to begin her business earlier.
Julie explained: “I had always been inspired to start my own business, I knew I had the capability so it was just a matter of time before I took the plunge.
“My advice to my younger self would be to be brave, realise your worth and believe in yourself!”
The aim for the next five years for Blush Parties is to open two more stores, one of which is going through at the moment.
Instagram and Facebook: blushpartiesandballoons
Louise Hopkins, 33 sells seasonal and every day gift items plus a small range of home items.
Louise will only sell things she loves, and as a perfectionist she will go over and above to make sure her customers are happy with their order.
From the colours to the placement of vinyls – everything is customisable.
Her aim is to try and make items as affordable as possible whilst not compromising on quality.
Everything is hand-packed in tissue paper, usually with a lollipop or some sweets, as Louise wanted it to be like receiving a present when you open your order.
She said: “I love that I am in complete control of what direction I can take the business.
“I also love talking to customers and other small business owners, and I’ve met some really lovely people because of it which I am very grateful for.
“My biggest regret is spending a ridiculous amount of money on a very unusual colour of a specific product I stocked – to this day, I haven’t even sold one, lesson learnt!”
Due to starting her business just before the Covid outbreak in February 2020, Louise doesn’t know a business life without Covid.
For her, as most of her sales are via Etsy, so she was still able to carry on as normal.
Louise could never find exactly what she wanted when trying to buy personalised items, so instead invested in all the equipment that was needed and after some trial and error and figuring everything out, LBL was born.
She added: “Initially it was going to be just vinyl decals but I loved sourcing fun seasonal items and it evolved from there.
“I still get a little buzz of excitement when I receive orders and I genuinely love making them all.”
Facebook, Instagram and TikTok: @labelsbylouise