Woking Business

A BESPOKE curtains and blinds business run by a young Goldsworth Park mum has expanded so much that she has had to move into a shop in Horsell High Street.

Sophie Wickenden started Sophie Sews six years ago at home after studying interior design at Guildford College and then learning how to make curtains through adult education services in Woking.

“I first made curtains for family and friends and it took off from there. I set up a website and it continued to grow,” Sophie said.

The Mayor, Cllr Will Forster, at the official opening of the shop, with Sophie Wickenden left) and some of her family, friends and customers

Storing material and curtain poles at home became a problem and so Sophie found an empty shop that was formerly a dry cleaners and started setting up in June.

“I wanted the holidays to be over and get everything ready. Having the shop means my life is divided into home and work and its also made the business easier,” Sophie said.

She has so much business that she has contracted out the curtain-making to a specialist company in Norfolk. Sophie designs all the curtains and helps customers to choose the fittings and soft furnishings.

The curtains are then installed by her fitters, who are from Chobham and Knaphill. At the moment, the only other staff is Sophie’s PA, but she is hoping to employ another local person.

Sophie went to Sythwood School and then to one in Esher. Her husband, Paul, is a landscape gardener originally from Chobham.

They have two daughters, Poppy, 8, and Ebonie, 4, who go to Beaufort Primary School in Goldsworth Park, where Sophie is joint chairman of the PTA.

Poppy is already showing special awareness above her years, one of the qualities needed to be an interior designer.

Sophie said bespoke curtains are not cheap but are priced competitively compared with similar services elsewhere.

“It works well for a lot of people who are not sure what they want and what exactly to get,” she said.

Sophie held two opening days at the shop on Friday and Saturday last week and said that many local people she hadn’t previously met, as well as former customers, popped in to congratulate her.

“It was really lovely. Now it’s back to work – there a lot going on,” she said.

HEALTHCARE company GlucoRx has been named one of the UK’s top 100 tech firms in a new Sunday Times league table published on the weekend.

The Woking supplier of diabetes products to the NHS recorded a 66 per cent sales growth over the past three years and was ranked 70th in the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 league table.

GlucoRx group managing director Chris Chapman

The table ranks Britain’s private technology, media and telecoms companies with the fastest-growing sales and GlucoRX, in Monument Way West, is one of only two in the county and seven in the region to feature.

Chris Chapman, group managing director, said: “We are immensely proud to have appeared in the Tech Track 100 for the first time. It’s a vindication of our desire to make a real difference to the care of people with diabetes and we will continuously innovate on their behalf to develop technology with a real purpose.”

For full details, pick up a copy of 13 September edition

A WOKING mother of five is featured in a new book of inspirational stories of women who have launched their own businesses overcoming all kinds of life challenges.

Inspirational Serena Novelli and her husband Adriano

Serena Novelli, 40, from Sheerwater, is one of 25 women featured in the book, Mumpreneur On Fire 3, that is due to be launched on Amazon in this month. It’s the third volume in a series that draws on the stories of members of Mums in Business Association.

Her story tells of how she coped with having a baby at only 18, her struggle to build a business despite suffering from depression and subsequently the death of her mother while she was pregnant with her fifth child.

“I have gone from being on housing benefits and miserable to supporting my whole family and being financially free to live a comfortable life,” says Serena.

See full report in the 6 September edition

BUDDING entrepreneurs looking to launch a business with a social or environmental focus in Surrey can benefit from a major international project.

Sweet success for The Candy Care team at work in the County Care headquarters in Addlestone

A total of £1.45 million of National Lottery funding, through the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund is being made available for a two-year programme called Inspiring Enterprise.

Among those who have already benefited is a local group of adults with learning difficulties who have been able to set up a business as The Candy Care group making and selling sweet bags, helped by Woking-based specialist support provider County Care. It is now selling the sweet bags in nine Addlestone High Street shops – clearing £150 in the first month alone.

Candy Care products

Their enterprise joins an estimated 80,000 autonomous businesses already with a social or environmental mission already operating in the UK that contribute £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly one million people.

The project is reaching out to unemployed people, young people not in education, employment or training, lone parents, older workers, people with disabilities and people in minority groups to make a difference to their communities. It aims to help at least 500 unemployed people take steps to set up a business or improve their work readiness.

See full report in the 6 September edition

BUSINESSES  in the Thames Valley region now have a chance to enter one of the most prestigious multi-category awards events in the area.

The Thames Valley Business Magazine Awards, now in their 23rd year, have a a tight deadline of less than a month, with final entries due on 28 September. The eight categories acknowledge profitability, innovation and employment as well as the contribution made to the local economic community and the provision of support to culture and charities in the region.

The awards ceremony takes place on 15 November at the, Madejski Stadium, Reading, and will be hosted by BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast presenter, Rachel Burden along with special guest, presenter and journalist, Sir Trevor McDonald.

A CHOBHAM-BASED training provider has been praised by a government minister for their efforts in receiving an Outstanding rating from Ofsted.

Weir Training was given the rating after a full inspection earlier this year, making them the only apprenticeship provider in the country to have been marked Grade 1 in six key areas of the business.

The Weir Training team celebrates in The Greatest Showman fashion

News of the Ofsted accolade reached Anne Milton, the apprenticeships and skills minister and Guildford MP, who wrote to congratulate company directors Julie Ridley and Sarah Caines.

“I know how pleased you will be with your result,” Ms Milton wrote. “It not only provides recognition for your work and commitment to improving outcomes for learners, but will also act as a powerful example to other further education providers.

“I firmly believe that excellence in further education is vital to help young people and adults achieve their potential. Please pass on my congratulations to all in your organisation.”

Operations director Sarah said Weir provided apprenticeship training for anyone aged 16 to 66. One side of the business was from people looking for training and applying to enrol, while the other side was companies seeking apprentices.

For the Weir Training staff, it meant they could add the Outstanding Ofsted grades to the firm’s Gold Investor in People, Matrix and Disability Confident Employer accreditations. Plus celebrate by making a mad-cap video filmed around their offices paying homage to the film The Greatest Showman.

Julie and Sarah decided on a musical dance video based on the hit film starring Hugh Jackman.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Sarah, who rates The Greatest Showman as her favourite film. “We do what we do well and treat it seriously. But we also strongly believe that everyone should have fun at work.”

The video has been viewed nearly 6,500 times and has attracted a lot of comments on social media.

Sarah said that the happy atmosphere in the Chobham Business Centre offices in Chertsey Road, was obvious to the Ofsted inspectors.

“Everyone knows we’re a little crazy – sometimes you need to make people laugh,” she said.

“We run the company as a family and treat the staff as family – we look after them. We also get that back, as well as quality work.”

To see the Weir Training team in Greatest Showman action, visit youtu.be/0WSoJkBgtAA

AN EVENING of fun and general knowledge involving Woking businesses helped raise almost £600 towards local good causes last week.

Eighty people enjoyed a pub quiz – plus drinks, food and a raffle – at the Ogilvy in Chertsey Road, as part of a fundraiser for the Community Matters Partnership Project, local businesses giving a hand to local causes to help improve the health and wellbeing of people in Woking.

“We had a fantastic turnout to our pub quiz and raised £593.35 to go into the ‘health & wellbeing pot’ which will eventually make up grants to help local charities,” said CMPP fundraiser Debbie Hickman.

“To all CMPP partners who came along, we look forward to seeing you at the next event soon – whether that be another day volunteering, giving our time to help those who most need a hand in the community, or at another fundraising or partner event.”

See the 2 August edition for the full story

CHOBHAM-based business Weir Training Limited has been named as a leader in people management practice, having been shortlisted for Gold Employer of the Year in the Investors in People Awards 2018.

The company, which operates from the business centre in Chertsey Road, is a finalist in the category for firms with two to 49 members of staff.

Weir Training directors Julie Ridley (left) and Sarah Caines

“It is a privilege to be shortlisted for this award; a clear indication of the dedication and hard work the team has invested in the business,” said operations director Sarah Caines. “It is a great honour that we are a finalist in the Gold Employer of the Year award and we are extremely proud to have got this far.”

The awards celebrate the best people management practices amongst Investors in People accredited businesses.

Weir Training will find out if it is taking home the trophy at an awards ceremony in London in November.

A HORSELL-based organic cosmetic business is once again celebrating success, after its Super Colour Bath Bomb won bronze in the Achievement Award category in the Free From Skincare Awards.

“I’m so pleased that our Super Colour Bath Bombs have received this award,” said Tess Ackland, founder and owner of ON! Juniper. “We think they are really super and given the rigorous judging process involved with these awards, we can now proudly say that many experts in the skincare field agree.

Tess Ackland, founder and owner of ON! Juniper

“We are particularly proud of winning in the Achievement Award Category, which is a special award for a skincare product with particularly exceptional free-from qualities or which meets a particular need in skincare for consumers with skin allergies.”

In addition to winning the bronze award, the bath bomb was also shortlisted in the Family Skincare Category. Last year ON! Juniper’s lip balm received a 2017 Best Buy Award from The Green Parent Magazine and in 2016 ON! Juniper was a finalist in the SME Surrey Business Awards.

For the full story, see the 2 August edition

WOKING is a town on the up, which is borne out by the success of companies such as Menzies LLP, a top 20 accountancy firm, which has recently expanded its Woking office.

One of the people spearheading the firm’s focus on owner-managed businesses is Chris Maloney, a partner who moved to Woking from the firm’s London office in October.

“The thing I like about being in a town like Woking is getting involved with the local community and getting closer to the businesses that are operating here too. I particularly enjoy advising smaller and growing businesses and playing a role in their development.”

Menzies has a strong track record of support for local charities as well as its local business support through Woking Chamber of Commerce.

For the full story, see the 12 July edition