It is a family affair for an entrepreneurial bunch of relatives who are all running thriving small businesses out of the historic Whitbread Enterprise Centre, formerly the Whitbread Brewery, in Rhymney.
It isn’t a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker, but a hairdresser, a body repair specialist and a child care professional – all related to each other – who have ‘set up shop’ at the former brewery site, which is now managed by the specialist business support organisation for enterprise in Wales, Business in Focus.
When it was a functioning brewery, up until 1978, more than 200 people worked at the site. Now it is being transformed into a vibrant, thriving part of the community once more, with the capacity to house up to 25 businesses.
Laura Evans runs the busy Va Va Voom Hair salon at the Centre, while her partner Scott McLellan owns Valglen Garage and her sister and mum are at the helm of Firststeps Day Care.
Laura says: “Business is going well for all of us and the Whitbread Enterprise Centre has proved to be a good choice as business premises, not last because of the flexible terms on offer and the associated business support services from Business in Focus. We also expect the new South Wales Metro will give our businesses a further boost, since Rhymney will be the final stop on the line.
“I know some people feel that the climate isn’t ideal for SMEs at the moment, but I feel very strongly that now is a favourable time to be your own boss, not least because of the high quality support and professional advice that is available, for free, for people who want to set up or grow their business.
“I used to run a salon on the High Street in Rhymney but I was keen to move to new, larger premises, so I was delighted that Business in Focus was able to arrange for me to move to this office on the kind of flexible terms that suit my business.
“My clients have been happy to follow me to these new premises because it is such a beautiful building, in nice surroundings, just a few steps from the train station. So, not only do my customers feel they are being looked after somewhere special, it also couldn’t be more convenient for them. Many of my customers travel here from Cardiff, so once the South Wales Metro is completed, that will support my business further.
“It is great for us as a family – my mum, sister and partner - to have each other’s support and to be readily available to each other, under one roof, since we are all on the ground floor together. And I have found that many of my customers come to me from my mum and sister’s business, Firststeps, since they can drop their children off with my mum and sister then come over to me to get their hair done.
“It is also invaluable to have the extra business support services – the Business Advisors, mentors, Business in Focus’ support, a gym next door and more. We feel well looked after here.”
Business in Focus Property Manager, Gareth Jones, says: “I’m pleased to see this entrepreneurial family doing so well at the Whitbread Enterprise Centre and I think their success illustrates the fact that confidence among SMEs is high – and for good reason. There is, as Laura points out, a whole support network throughout Wales, to help entrepreneurs set up and to thrive. I feel that start-ups are becoming more knowledgeable about what they need in terms of transport links, good rental terms, and extra business services, and they are passionate and driven to see their business succeed by tapping into the support on offer.”