Friends in business

PUBLISHED: 11:38 19 November 2010 | UPDATED: 16:50 20 February 2013

Friends in business

Friends in business

Debi Hanley and Lisa Dawson at Lisa's soft furnishing business in Aylsham. Bethan Hensser and Kate Roscoe's, The Shabby Barn at Riddlesworth. Kate Starling and Michelle McConkey, Peppermint Dental Practice, Wymondham.

Best of friends

Friendship has blossomed into success for these three enterprising businesses as Gay Webster and Jo Malone discover.

Debi Hanley and Lisa Dawson

I love finding nice, imaginative things for my home, and was keen to have a go at making some for myself, says Debi Hanley, a life and business coach who has just launched her own interiors business. She had enrolled in a soft furnishings course run by Lisa Dawson, who runs an interiors shop bearing her name in Aylsham and, as they became friends, Debis ideas began to grow until she decided to approach Lisa about setting up a business.
The result is Flax & Finch, an interiors website stocking inspirational ideas for aspirational people.
Id always wanted to do something like this, comments Debi. But it wasnt until I had the support from Lisa and her experience in the interiors world that I had the back-up to give it a go.
Lisa has been responsible for choosing the range of high-quality linens and fabrics to work with, while Debi has come up with ideas for the home, from cushions to table accessories, aprons to childrens toys.
It has been lovely working with someone who I can bounce ideas off, and to have someone with Lisas experience behind me, adds Debi. Im not sure I would have gone ahead with it all if I hadnt had her support.
Lisa initially trained as a textile conservator and worked for 12 years at the National Trusts textile conservation studio on the Blickling Estate.
But she re-trained in the creation of new soft furnishings when she had a young family to consider. Her work now includes commissions from the National Trust, local interior designers, private owners of large country houses and local individuals, all of which she creates with her team at her expanding business on Penfold Street in Aylsham.
And the work for Flax and Finch has given her a new outlet for the quality linens and other fabrics she sells from her shop.
Its been wonderful to see this business grow from a seed of an idea into what we have now, says Lisa. Its been hard work getting everything ready for the launch, with a few late nights, but it has been worth the effort to see what we have achieved.
The website is also intended to give little-known craftspeople and artists the chance to show off their work both in Norfolk and further afield

Contact Debi Hanley on 01692 538204 or go to

Bethan Hensser and Kate Roscoe

A shared creative flair for turning old furniture into statement pieces for the home led to Bethan Hensser and Kate Roscoe setting up their own business.
Through The Shabby Barn, the pair sources unusual and classic furniture and accessories, then uses a variety of techniques and paints to make each item unique.
Says Kate: Our aim is to stock character pieces rather than reproduced items, ensuring each piece has its own charm. Apart from the items for sale at The Shabby Barn, we can also source furniture for the customer or give an existing item The Shabby Barn treatment. We have now undertaken several commissions in peoples homes.
Bethans background is in textile design, which she studied at Nottingham before moving to London where she worked for a furniture company. But she wanted to offer her family the kind of upbringing she had enjoyed, so, following the birth of their first daughter, she and her husband returned to her home county to be near her own family.
My second daughter was born the following summer, 2006. About this time I became a regular at Gaze auction rooms, where I would often meet up with Kate.
Both having a creative flair, we fully furnished our homes with pieces from the auctions that we then lovingly painted, re-upholstered and restored, giving these old unwanted items a new lease of life, and making our homes unique to us.
Once their homes were crammed full to bursting, the pair decided they worked well together. We did not want to stop there. This is when The Shabby Barn was born.
As mums with two children each, they find their time is precious, but the venture was something they felt could work around their families and fulfil their joint desire for a creative output.
Bethan continues: My parents have farmed in Riddlesworth for nearly 40 years and offered us an empty barn to store our furniture and create. Once we had sufficient stock we moved into some converted stables in the yard, and we now have an exciting and thriving shop.
Kate moved to Norfolk after meeting her now husband while they were both travelling in Australia. He happened to be a school friend of Bethans and the friendship blossomed.
Its really lovely going shopping every week with your best friend and working out what were going to buy and how were going to do it up, adds Kate. I feel very lucky.

The Shabby Barn, Thetford Road (A1066), Riddlesworth, IP22 2TD, 07779 120374,

Michelle McConkey and Kate Starling

When Michelle McConkey telephoned the department at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where she had applied for a job, little did she know that the person who answered the
phone would become a best friend and business partner.
It was Kate Starling who took her call and the two immediately hit it off. When Michelle got the job, the two became firm friends as they worked together as staff grades in oral surgery. They were dealing with anything involving the head and neck, from extracting wisdom teeth to fixing broken jaws.
That was back in early 2000, and through the years talk often turned to how they would do things if they had their own dental practice. Now their own Peppermint Dental Centre in Norwich Road, Wymondham, is in its third year.
Setting up the business was a big step, but as they discussed it more realistically and involved an accountant who helped with a business plan, they began to realise it really could happen.
It was exciting, and now it is great. We are working for ourselves, with one another, says Kate.
They provide high quality dentistry for the whole family, offering a very contemporary, patient-orientated setting. The women specialise in nervous patients, and in oral surgery
such as wisdom tooth extraction and dental implants. They also offer additional services, including tooth whitening and non-surgical wrinkle treatments.
Initially they both still worked part-time at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but as their business has grown theyve been able to devote more time to it.
Now they each work three days one week and four the next at Peppermint, and Michelle also works one day at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, while Kate values the extra days to spend time with her children Lexi, eight, and Giles, six.
The two women admit they talk about work a lot when seeing one another socially, which they do frequently. While work chat drives their families mad, they find being away from the dental centre helps them plan for the future. They work well together, knowing they share the same outlook.
Kate and Michelle would recommend other friends follow their dreams and work together if they are the right match for each other as business partners.
I think you know there are friends you could do it with and friends you couldnt, smiles Michelle. And Kate adds: Just like there are friends you can live with and friends you couldnt!

Peppermint Dental Centre, Norwich Road, Wymondham, 01953 603360,

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