The Lady Laura
It all started when I read an article about the great and late Laura Ashley. The story was how her house, Rhydoldog, is to be given to the National Trust and opened to the public. In the piece, Ashley’s daughter Jane was quoted: “The fact that the business was built in this house over decades is what makes it special”
The piece went on: “Although Ashley’s designs seemed to have deep rural roots, the business was actually started in her kitchen in Pimlico, London, where she created printed Victorian-style headscarves and napkins while working as a secretary. The family home served as an office and studio, as well as a canvas for her designs.” This smart lady started her business from home by ‘working 5 to 9’ and went on to build an empire that spanned continents.
In a second feature (Sunday Times, 21st June 2009) entitled ‘Catwalk Confidential’ we hear about Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm Modelling Agency, with a story that goes like this: “Her house, nestling in a row of Victorian terraces in Battersea, is a slice of fashion history. It was here, two decades ago, that Doukas founded Storm, the agency that has gone on to represent names such as Elle Macpherson, Carla Bruni, Sophie Dahl and, of course, Kate Moss. Doukas ran the agency with two friends from the house, driving round in her car all day, scouting for fresh talent. She often brought her ‘finds’ back there. “We didn’t even have a proper phone system, and would have to run up and down the stairs shouting to each other to come on the line. It was quite mad, but so exciting to start something new.”
There are many following in the footsteps of Ashley and Doukas. Heather Gorringe has turned the family farm in Herefordshire in to HQ for the highly successful Wiggly Wigglers (www.wigglywigglers.co.uk) business. The podcast recorded from her ‘wiggly sofa’ beats Chris Evans in the podcast charts and she sells to thousands of customers worldwide. From country to city, Simone Brummelhuis is the Founder of TheNextWomen.com, a site and resource dedicated to women in technology and once a month the kitchen table in Simone’s Notting Hill home becomes a dining place for tech luminaries.
These stories are a collection and but a reflection of what can be achieved with vision and from your own home. May there be more great ladies to come!
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’
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