Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Let's Get Down to Business; Rebecca Jones, Henley Decorators

Let's Get Down to Business; Rebecca Jones, Henley Decorators

REBECCA JONES founded Henley Decorators in 2011, having spent 15 years working on property renovation projects in and around London. She moved from the capital to Henley in 2006 and her business was based in Duke Street, above what is now Spoon, for many years. It was only recently that Rebecca moved to Ewelme, where she now lives with her partner Bill, border collie Rosie and cats Harris and Jasper. Her daughter Jessica went to Gillotts School and is now in her final year at Bristol University, having spent her gap year honing her decorating skills with the business.

Describe your business

We offer a professional, bespoke decorating service, working within a 15-mile radius of Henley. We specialise in interior and exterior painting and decorating for discerning residential clients, using only high quality materials and paints.

How many people does it employ?

We have a house crew of eight, six of whom are female, and we also draw from a pool of reliable and regular contractors when we’re really busy. We are a close-knit team, with some staff who have been with us since the beginning.

What did you do before you started this business?

I grew up in the Bohemian, arty circles of Camden Town in the early Seventies (writer Beryl Bainbridge lived next door) and I was a bit of a maverick as a child. In an effort to improve my educational outcome, my dad packed me off to boarding school. After leaving school, I backpacked round Europe and then returned to London. I studied jewellery design and making at Central School of Art and Design, graduating in 1986. I spent the Nineties going back and forth to Bali, where I ran a business designing and commissioning silver jewellery and that’s where I met my then husband. Following the birth of our daughter, we settled down to life in London and, in between property renovation projects, I had a succession of jobs. But I always wanted to work for myself again and after moving to Henley I realised there was a gap in the market for a female decorator, so in 2011 I set up my own business, Henley Lady Decorators. After a while we realised we could do with a bit of extra muscle so we took on some chaps and changed the name to Henley Decorators.

What was your objective?

Having spent at least 14 years as an employee, I was determined to be my own boss. I also felt the need to do something both creative and physical.

Who influenced you?

My mother, an independent woman who renovated many properties with acumen and flair.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

David Haines helped me grow the business. He’s an excellent professional business coach.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

It would have been lovely to have had a lock-up with washing facilities so that at the end of the day I didn’t have to bring the paint and brushes home and put all the roller sleeves into my washing machine.

How is your business doing?

There was a wobble last year, possibly because of the political uncertainty, but we’re much busier this year and we are already booking in work for next spring.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Although work is seven days a week, as I am often working on quotes on a Sunday night, it’s incredibly rewarding and never dull.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Sometimes awkward things happen at short notice but we have learned to cope with surprises.

Where is your business headed?

I’m trying to make it less dependent on me. Team spirit is at the heart of Henley Decorators. The crew meets every month for coaching, updates and breakfast. On a day-to-day level the more experienced members of the team teach the newer ones our methods and all-essential customer service.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

To care about my team and myself.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

You will need masses of confidence and passion.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Probably trying to expand too quickly in the early days. There was big demand but I didn’t always have sufficient staff to meet it.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Being financially savvy, keeping overheads low and having the ability to think laterally.

What’s the secret of your success?

Learning new things every day and seeing good in everybody.

How organised are you?

Not very but I have great office support and we always meet our deadlines.

How are you planning for retirement?

I’m putting lots into my pension as fast as I can. I want to retire at 65 and go to travelling again.

How do you dress for work each day?

Nowadays smart casual but I keep my overalls handy in case I need to help out.

What can’t you be without every day?

My dog Rosie. She comes everywhere with me and we stop and walk in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside in between meetings.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I generally just snatch a sandwich.

Do you continue to study?

Yes. I love to keep up to date with new colours, eco- paint solutions and interior design trends.

What do you read?

I’m an avid reader of the Henley Standard and I regularly dip into The Economist, New Scientist and World of Interiors magazines.

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