Hilda’s Lounge – Lesley Bushell

After 6 years working for a furniture manufacturing company, and a further 6 years for a busy upholstery business, it was during COVID that Lesley decided she wanted to be her own boss….

Having done various pieces of private work before, Lesley knew there was potentially plenty of work, but how to win it, deliver it and then get paid? With advice from family and friends, Lesley took the plunge into self-employment and established Hilda’s Lounge in 2020. 

I’d been thinking about it for a few years. I’d always done private work and it almost took over my normal work anyway, so I just thought I’ll leave my job and take the leap. It seemed like the right time.

Lesley found herself busy with small jobs working from home, but soon needed investment and space to grow. Fortunately, Lesley managed to get a place with The Makersguild which provided workspace and joined Abri Housing’s Create programme for start-ups. Whilst the work continued to flow in, by the time Lesley found out about the Outset Start and Grow Programme, the early challenges of running her own business were mounting.

I was at a point where I was just feeling really overwhelmed. I knew I needed to grow, but I didn’t know quite how to do that part. I’d hit a bit of a wall, I had lots of interest, lots of work, but my pricing wasn’t quite right. I hadn’t really got any business experience. When I joined the Outset Programme, it really changed everything.

The Outset Start and Grow Programme provided Lesley with the business skills, grant funding and mentoring support that she needed to establish and grow her business.

This was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. The workshops taught me how to grow, how to write a business plan, how to apply for grant funding. I was like, why doesn’t everybody’s grant programmes do this? This is what you need to be successful! We all have these great ideas, but we don’t know how to do the business part.

“I got a lot out of writing my business plan, and having that relationship with somebody guiding me through it was priceless, because it really helped establish what I was trying to do – what are my goals? How am I going to be successful? How am I going to feel like a proper business rather than just somebody who wants to do upholstery and pay their bills? It did really make me feel like a proper business, I needed that confidence boost.”

Lesley was successful in securing £8,184 grant funding which not only enabled the company to expand with additional workspace, equipment and branding support but was seen as a great endorsement of her craft skills. The company also secured a £5,000 bursary to fund three p/t interns to assist with the upholstery projects and social media marketing. Lesley plans to retain two p/t interns and build her core team and support their training and development.

Getting the internship made a huge difference. Now, there’s a lovely sense of teamwork here.  I’ve always worked hard for other people, and I’ve really appreciated the businesses that appreciated me, and treated me like I was part of the team. And that’s what I want Hilda’s Lounge to be, where we grow together and offer a real opportunity for everybody.”

Lesley reflects on the positive changes that have taken place in her business in less than a year thanks to the support from Outset Start and Grow.

I thought, I’ll just be a sole trader and do my own thing. But it’s interesting how quickly that changed. And actually, I’ve found I need people around me; I enjoy working with others. Having the internship opportunity enabled me to start doing that. And once you begin to share all the different aspects of running a business, everybody’s working with you, it makes it a bit less daunting.

Lesley’s planning the next steps for her business, developing the creative side as well as commissions and building the Hilda’s Lounge brand. In time Lesley hopes to make enough money to work from her our own premises in the city, with a shop and a team.

Follow Lesley’s progress and explore Hilda’s Lounge on Facebook, Instagram and their website.

Find out more about how Outset Start and Grow can support your business to get off the ground or reach the next level.