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Business owner tips: lessons from my business heroes

When running a business, it is easy to get bogged down in day-to-day detail. Having other entrepreneurs to look to for inspiration can be really motivational. Here we asked some business owners which well-known entrepreneurs they admire and why

Kelly Hopper

Kelly Hooper, director and creator of The Barn

Kelly opened her Somerset-based retreat and beauty salon ten years ago at the age of 26. A single mum with high ambitions, Kelly started the business in a standalone converted barn with a £25,000 bank loan secured against her house. The business has won national Salon of the Year and been a finalist in three other years. Kelly has also won local awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year and Small Business of the Year, amongst others.

The business person Kelly admires most is Jane Wurwand, owner and creator of Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, who she says is a massive influence for female entrepreneurs.

Jane Wurwand was a beauty therapist in England who moved to LA to start a skin training school. Realising there was a gap in the market for skincare with great ingredients, she now supplies more than 80 countries and has the biggest selling professional brand worldwide.

Kelly has heard Jane speak many times and the main thing she takes away from it is to aim higher than you think. “There are no set goals or levels anyone can go to. We all have to start somewhere. Even the most successful people start at the bottom,” says Kelly.

Despite her success, Kelly says the Dermalogica creator is still passionate about what she does. Above all, she has shown Kelly what is possible. “If I believe I can do it, then I’ll do it. Jane proved that with a handful of products almost 30 years ago and she is still the leader in the skincare industry,” adds Kelly.

Steve Hale

Steve Hale, owner of SJH Machinery Ltd

Steve Hale is the owner of SJH Machinery Ltd. The company sells, services and repairs agricultural, professional groundcare and garden machinery and employs 13 staff.

Steve has worked in machinery since leaving school and had previously co-owned a similar business with a partner. Steve sold his share of that business in 2008 and started his new venture.

The business person he most admires is Peter Jones CBE, the serial entrepreneur who became a well-known figure as one of the original dragons on the BBC Two television show Dragons’ Den. The successful entrepreneur saw his first computer company collapse but persevered and now owns a number of successful businesses. “He lost everything but bounced back again. It is in his DNA to do well in business. He is more than a one-trick pony with good all-round business acumen,” says Steve.

Steve admires the entrepreneur’s persistence and that at the age of 52 he still has a hunger to succeed. Steve, who turns 50 this year, continues to have high ambitions for his business and hopes to continue its growth in the future. “Peter Jones has several enterprises but is continually looking for another investment. He still has a hunger and passion and that is how I see myself,” he adds.

Ben Louca

Ben Louca, owner of WSM Car & Van Centre

Ben Louca is the owner of WSM Car & Van Centre. The business carries out vehicle maintenance and repair services including MOTs. It employs ten full-time staff.

Ben says one business person he admires is Theo Paphitis. The former Dragon left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications, something Ben can identify with having left school himself with one GCSE pass (grade A-C). The Theo Paphitis Retail Group now has a portfolio of more than 350 stores, including Ryman Stationery, Robert Dyas and lingerie brand Boux Avenue.

Ben has something in common with his hero. Paphitis was born in Cyprus as was Ben’s paternal family and he has links to Ben’s home town of Weston-super-Mare. Ben says he admires the entrepreneur’s drive to succeed and his constant seeking of new business ventures.

Since opening in 2014, former transport manager Ben is always on the lookout for expansion opportunities too. The business’s mobile division has already increased from one van to four and is now covering the whole of the South West. He has also started a separate specialist delivery business, 9 Trak, which has five self-employed drivers. “I wanted to set up my own business after spending many years working long hours making money for other people. Paphitis has taken every opportunity he can to succeed and that is what I want to do,” he adds.

Henry Miller-Robinson

Henry Miller-Robinson, co-founder of K & H Design

Henry Miller-Robinson launched interior design and decorative consultancy K & H Design in 2015 with co-founder Katie Glaister. Now employing nine staff, K & H Design works with private clients, hotel operators and developers in the UK and overseas.

Henry, who has 15 years’ experience as a project manager in commercial construction within the steel industry, decided to pursue his life-long passion for interior design following the successful sale of the construction business.

The entrepreneur Henry most admires is British fashion designer and businesswoman Dame Vivienne Westwood. British Designer of the year in 1990 and 1991, Dame Westward started designing clothes in 1971. Influenced by the Punk movement, she opened her first shop Let It Rock in London. Westward’s collections are now sold worldwide. Now aged 76, her label is still going strong, and she uses her platform to campaign for many causes.

Henry says as a business owner it can be easy to become preoccupied with the day-to-day nuances of running a profitable business, but Westward demonstrates how you can combine your beliefs with being a successful entrepreneur. “She has an unwavering nerve and talent to always be bold and individual. She has strong beliefs - not only in fashion and design - but also on climate change, social responsibility and politics, yet still runs a highly successful and non-mainstream business,” he says.

Her outspoken style also encourages Henry to be bold and not compromise in what he believes in. “In this globalised world where mediocrity would like to rule it is very important to maintain individuality and character as a strong and unique identifier. This is particularly important in a visual and creative industry like ours where highly bespoke couture design solutions are required to meet our clients exacting standards,” he adds.

Claire Thompson

Claire Thompson, Arbonne UK

Claire Thompson has recently launched her own business under the arm of Arbonne UK. She sells skincare, bath, nutrition and make-up products through table tops, parties and by giving testers.

Claire, whose background is in the travel industry, most admires Sir Richard Branson. The well-known entrepreneur dropped out of school aged 16 and launched Virgin Records - later known as Virgin Megastores - in the 1970s.

Branson, who is one of the UK’s most well-known business leaders, had to sell the Virgin record label to EMI in 1992 to save his airline company Virgin Atlantic. The multinational Virgin Group now includes Virgin Trains, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Holidays, Virgin Media and space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Claire says she admires Branson’s story of trial and error and the fact that things went wrong but he persisted. “It is that mentality. People can look like they are successful and it all looks easy but there is a lot of resilience behind the scenes. He has gone out there and done what he wanted to do. He has had failures along the way but he has learnt from those mistakes rather than giving up.”

Read more:

Business owner tips: What I wish I’d known when I started my business

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