In part two of Expert Insights, where we speak to experts across the business and entrepreneurship space within Leicestershire to get their thoughts on the current business landscape and the opportunities that are available, we’re delighted to introduce our Patron, Barrie Stephen…
Firstly, please can you provide a brief overview of your career up to this point?
I launched my first salon, with support from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, in 1996. Bringing a high-end boutique salon to a small village like Anstey was a totally new concept then. Lots of people doubted that I could make it work, but the business really took off. At the end of the day, it is the clients that matter and they were so pleased to be able to access contemporary styling services close to home.
My flagship salon in King Street, Leicester, followed in 2002 and now the salon group consists of four locations and a partnership with a really innovative barbers in the city centre. I lead a team of 60 and ensure that the business keeps on evolving to cater for our clients’ changing needs.
What do you feel makes a successful entrepreneur?
You’ve got to have a real fire in your belly to carve out a successful business. At an early age, I had a desire to be a success and I always wanted to do that on my own terms, with my own company. That probably says a lot about my personality, because it isn’t a path everyone would choose.
Entrepreneurs need to be able to listen to their instincts and be decisive in their actions. You have to accept that not every decision you make will ultimately turn out to be a good one! But be humble enough to learn from your mistakes and use that learning to build something better. That way you can really live the mindset that failure is not an option, because you are able to adapt when circumstances change.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self when entering the world of business/entrepreneurship?
Be flexible. Your ideas and your aims may stay the same, but the landscape around you will continually change. We all have to deal with trends, new technologies and economic upheaval and you need to adapt so you don’t get left behind. Be open to learning new things throughout your career, build new skill sets and bolster that with the lessons you take from your experiences.
And be flexible in a measured way, don’t just flit around from idea to idea. Set goals and strive for them with all your grit and determination but don’t be afraid to evaluate them regularly to make sure they are still fit for purpose.
In the current economic climate, do you feel that now is a good time for aspiring entrepreneurs to be following their dreams and setting up a new business?
We have been through unprecedented hardships in recent years. The pandemic, the high cost of living and rising business costs have all been tough to weather, but now we’re seeing a degree of shakeout. There are opportunities to reinvent and refocus for those who are up to the challenge. I am definitely seeing green shoots in my own industry and I think this is a great time for young people with fresh ideas to really make an impact.
How valuable do you think The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s offer of interest-free business loans up to £20,000 is to new and existing businesses in Leicestershire?
It’s free money! Why wouldn’t that be appealing with interest rates as they are? Banks can be inaccessible for young people and STWLC offers a professional, approachable alternative for them. Two banks turned me down for a loan when I started out, but STWLC believed in me and my ideas. It was the start of an incredible relationship. The additional support that the charity offers is of as much value as the money itself – support and a way into a fantastic network of fellow aspiring entrepreneurs.
To find out more about STWLC’s interest-free business loans, which are available up to £20,000, please click here