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June 15, 2018 —

91 is reading…. Start up London

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This book had me on the first page. The welcome note from the founders of Hoxton Mini Press inspire with their own story of starting up their publishing house with a Kickstarter campaign, and encourage readers with: ‘Don’t wait for certainty. Go out and learn as you do. Start up!’

Start Up London book review

Writer Christina Hopkinson and photographer Rick Pushinsky share the stories of 30 small businesses from across the capital making this an inspirational guide rather than a ‘how to’. But to complement this, it does include a handy ‘tips and advice’ insert with some practical advice for entrepreneurs. 

I’ve picked out five of the businesses, all run by women, that I was thrilled to see featured in the book to highlight and give you some little snippets from their story…. 

Petalon - feature in Start Up London book

Petalon – flower delivery service run by Florence Kennedy

Florence’s business delivers flowers around London by bike and when she first started she was getting up at 3:30am to go to the flower markets, and initially struggled with cash flow issues. Her next stumbling block turned out to be a blessing in disguise and business is now going from strength to strength: 

“A second crisis hit the business in 2016 in the shape of Brexit when Florence was pregnant with Clover. Overnight the cost of imported flowers rose dramatically. She was also wondering how she’d get to the market at dawn with a newborn. Then a cold call from a Dutch wholesale flower distributor came at just the right moment. He offered to deliver anything from his website at far lower costs. ‘We went on his website and saw that a flower I’d paid £1.30 a stem for was selling for 90p. I really miss the market, but he saved my business.'”

Birdsong - featured in Start up London book

Birdsong – ethical fashion website run by Sophie Slater, Susanna Wen & Sarah Beckett

Birdsong is a clothing website selling products made by charities supporting women. The founders realised that many women’s groups were making beautiful clothes but had nowhere to sell them at a fair price. Sophie and Sarah started the business in their early twenties and feel lucky that it is so easy to start your own business in the UK: 

“Along the way, they’ve discovered that London is a peculiarly fertile place to set up a business. Says Sarah, ‘We sell a lot of our stuff in Berlin and talking to people there makes me realise how much easier it is to set up in the UK than elsewhere, in terms of bureaucracy. Here, £40 and half an hour is all it takes to register your own company. There’s so much help for start-ups – we’ve been on both free and paid-for programs.”

Riposte magazine - featured in Start Up London book

Riposte – independent magazine run by Danielle Pender

Similar to 91 Magazine, it was when Danielle could not find a women’s magazine she wanted to read that she decided to start her own. She is a great example of someone who is not afraid to take risks and more often than not those risks pay off. With no journalism experience, she simply followed her nose along with creative director Shaz Madani, and now prints 10,000 copies of the magazine. 

“In November 2013, Riposte was launched with a striking cover that had no image, only text with the names of the women featured inside. Although having a cover so different from the norm made them nervous, it also made them excited and as novices they had nothing to lose. It turned out to be an inspired move, garnering them press coverage and visually emphasising their credentials as an alternative to mainstream women’s magazines.” 

Quill London - featured in Start Up London book

Quill London – stationery shop run by Lucy Edmonds

We featured Lucy’s business way back in 2013 in the digital version of 91, and it’s been lovely to see Quill flourish from an online store into a bricks and mortar destination for not only your stationery needs but a place to learn calligraphy. An advocate for a detailed business plan, Lucy had never envisaged calligraphy being part of her business but she explains why she went ‘off plan’… 

“‘I’ve always been able to spot trends just before they go mainstream. I wish I knew how, it’s bizarre. I noticed on social media that calligraphy was becoming a big thing in the US but nobody was doing it over here.’ At the same time, she noted the growing trend for one-day or evening workshops as consumers became increasingly interested in buying experiences and knowledge rather than ‘stuff’. Melding the two, she decided to offer a one-off workshop to stationery customers taught by the calligrapher Imogen Owen. But demand was off the scale and the one-off soon became a regular offering, eventually leading to the lease of the Amwell Street shop, Lucy training to become a calligrapher herself and the commissioning of her book on modern calligraphy.” 

London Terrariums - featured in Start Up London book

London Terrariums – plant shops and workshops run by Emma Sibley

Emma’s business came from the desire for a garden while at university, leading to her experimenting with spider plants and kilner jars. Everyone’s approach to starting up is different, and Emma is proof that a detailed business plan is not always necessary… 

“As her enthusiasm grew, so did the idea for a business, although becoming an entrepreneur had never been something she’d imagined for herself: ‘I never thought I’d become this person – juggling an employee, premises and accounts.’ Instead the whole process has been spontaneous and guided by circumstances. ‘I’ve never written a business plan – it’s been a hobby then turned into more than a hobby and now a job.” 

What an inspiring bunch of ladies! And the book of course has many male entrepreneurs too, with businesses ranging from a London distillery to knife makers to sports nutrition. If you’d like to read more of these stories and the other 25 in the book then head over to Hoxton Mini Press (support indie publishers!) to order a copy and check out their full range of beautifully crafted books. 

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