To honour International Women’s day we are featuring this updated article from Issue 1 of Celebrating Poundbury.
Maybe it’s the work-life balance that drives all working mums to set up their own business. Perhaps it’s the freedom and liberation of planting a seed and watching your dream grow. Whatever the inspiration, one thing’s for sure – Poundbury is making it happen.
Inside shops, cafes and offices all over Poundbury there are start-up businesses who are making their own way in business.
Some are driven by teams of like-minded professionals, others husband and wife duos, but interestingly behind many of these businesses are passionate, driven working mothers.
Now, it would be wrong to say that there are more female business owners than anyone else, especially on a development which is home to 185 businesses and 2,100 employees. But in one area in particular – The Buttermarket – nearly every retail unit is owned or rented by a female businesswoman.
When trying to find out the reasons Poundbury has been such a draw, it is apparent that the cost effective rental prices and the friendly nature of the community has played a big part.
Mum-of-two Charlie Polley, opened the doors to Boo’s Toy Shop in Buttermarket in 2013. She had set the business up three years previously running it as a website from home so she could look after her children, aged three and eight at the time.
“I had just taken redundancy from an extremely demanding job at New Look and I wanted to get the right work-life balance for my family,” she says.
“I was determined to set up my own business and give it a good go.”
Five years on and Charlie’s Poundbury shop is known throughout Dorset for its extraordinary tasteful children’s gifts that capture the imagination and install traditional play values. She has also been able to buy the next door shop and to expand the business.
“I was drawn to Poundbury because it was affordable and I saw a gap in the market which meant I was able to carve this unique business,” she says.
“Of course starting a business in a new development takes times and effort and sacrifice. But I’ve been able to use my own creativity to bring customers to the shop.
“We don’t experience the footfall of the town centre but instead of finding that a negative I find it empowering that customers travel to see us and we offer a unique experience.”
Charlie personally organises two popular seasonal events in Poundbury, the Easter egg hunt and the Santa’s Grotto, which both draw in hundreds of parents and children.
Having met The Prince of Wales twice in the last few years and handing him presents after the birth of both Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Charlie said it is a real privilege to work in such a prestigious place.
However, success for Charlie is when she hears children in her shop using their imagination when perusing the toys on display. “It just is such a great feeling when you hear a little girl talking about being a princess or her brother running to be a shopkeeper in the wooden shop,” she says.
“That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
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Also in Buttermarket there’s Julie Hebblethwaite who opened Christabel’s Linens after sourcing linens and materials from all over Europe.
Just a few doors down is Jacqui Cheke who owns the busy Capelli of Poundbury hairdressing salon.
Jacqui moved from another location in Poundbury, so she was able to help her daughter Jordan Summers set up a beauty business next door.
At just 21, Jordan was able to create her own business Allure of Poundbury – not something every 21 year old can say.Dorchester Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic was set up by duo Sophie Dorkings and Samantha Firkin. Their charismatic approach to business is refreshing and their loyal customer base speaks volumes about their approach.
Five minutes walk away, in Pummery Square, the first phase of Poundbury, you’ll find Sue McCarthy-Moore of Stitchinghouse Design. She was a true pioneer in Poundbury after starting her business from her Guinness Trust home in 1994 where Poundbury was in its infancy.
She said people were “very supportive” of her and her passion to work hard to establish her business. Twenty three years later and she has one of the longest serving businesses on the development, which is testament to her determination to succeed.
In an office with a view of a beautiful fountain sits Maria Kemp. She owns a successful estate agency Kemp & Co, which today employs seven members of staff. Maria, a working mum also, originally opened an office in Challacombe Square in 2008 and describes being taken aback by the kindness from the residents, community and support she was given. Starting in the estate industry business at 22, Maria entered a very male dominated world and it wasn’t until she was 35 that she decided to take the plunge and make a go of it alone. “I was determined to do it my own way. I had the vision and wanted to provide a life for myself on my own terms,” she says.
“But the business just grew and grew so quickly. I remember moving into Challacombe Square wondering how we were ever going to fill all the space and five years later needing a bigger premises.” Maria’s business acumen has been recognised throughout her industry and last year she was also proudly awarded Professional of the Year for Dorset in the Venus Women’s Awards.
“I’ve found there are a lot of women in business in Poundbury,” she says. “I think that there are a lot of women who are very supportive of other businesses around them and that helps. I feel like people are keen to see you make a success and that makes me very privileged to be part of it.”
She describes the tremendous support she has had from local residents and said that running her business from Poundbury feels like a big village which is very community orientated despite the number of businesses based here.
“Without a doubt, my business would not have survived if we were in the high street during the recession,” she adds. “Being in Poundbury made all the difference and I love everything about it. I will always be grateful of what my business has become after such humble beginnings.
Next door, mother and daughter duo Gill Symes and Kelly Maston opened Café on the Green in Dinham Walk in 2010. Gill wanted to use the skills she learnt working at Weymouth College to give students with learning disabilities a place where they could work and learn vital skills for the workplace. Since then they have done a remarkable job resulting in more than 40 staff members have been trained in the café, many going on to full time employment.
“We are very passionate about what we do and really we are like one big family. It is second nature to us to help teach these vital working skills for people who have learning difficulties.
“We are just so grateful to our customers and the families and groups that support us.”
To find a directory of all businesses in Poundbury visit our Directory
To read this story within Issue 1 click here