13 South East Entrepreneur Stories to Inspire You!

Brilliant Business leaders! We all need some inspiration along the way and these entrepreneurs can certainly help you with that! They’ve set up some incredible local businesses that we can all learn from and be inspired by – enjoy! 

1. Matt Sankey – Sankey’s

Be it their incredible range of Oysters, fresh crabs & lobsters, handmade burger buns or their unrivalled range of hand crafted beers, they are all what makes Matt’s business very special. In 2008 just as the financial crisis was about to knock everyone out, the bank lent Matt a large sum of money to purchase the business and premises from his father – since then he’s crafted a business that would inspire most! 

Tel: 01892 511422 • Email: sankeys@sankeys.co.uk • Instagram @sankeysrtw 

2. Fiona Russell McQueen Hair and Beauty

Fiona was responsible for fifteen salons in the greater London area, working with store and salon managers, turning them into profitable businesses, before she decided to set up her own Tunbridge Wells and Orpington based salons. She took on an existing business in July 2009, then very quickly went into a recession – she didn’t see that coming! However, even though the country was having financial difficulties, Tunbridge Wells was quite stable, and they stayed in business, it wasn’t easy and that was the first biggest hurdle she had with her own business. Fiona learned that business is like a tidal wave, you get the real troughs and then it calms and then it picks up – she just rides those waves. She survived a recession and a pandemic, and they were both tidal waves.

Tel: 01892 536464 • Email: mcqueenhairandbeauty@gmail.com • Instagram: @mcqueenhair 

3. Peter Hill Dominic Hill Chartered Accountants 

Peter set his accountancy business up back in 1992 when he was 28 years old! He admits that he made all the mistakes that some businesses make, employing the wrong people and waking up in the middle of the night wondering how he will pay the wages. He’s now got a vey successful Eastbourne based business with 25 staff! 

Tel: 01323 649509 • Email: info@dominichill.co.uk • Instagram @dominichillaccountants 

4. Pam Loch Loch Associates Group 

Pam has experienced the negatives and the challenges that come with starting up your own business. Her advice is to talk to people that have done it, learn from their experiences, so you don’t potentially make mistakes, keep your eyes open and realise what you’re going into. Having said that, she definitely wouldn’t change where she and her business is today.

Tel: 0203 6675 400 • Email: pam.loch@lochassociates.co.uk • Instagram: @lochassociates 

5. Neil Simmons TN Recruits 

Neil was a blue coat for Pontins and an entertainments manager for Airtours back in the day! He set his business up back in 2014 after his father passed away at the young age of 66. Neil said it gave him a kick up the backside to set his own business up, which now employs thirteen staff and has a very healthy turnover. 

Tel: 01892 571105 • Email: info@tnrecruits.com • Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tn-recruits/

6. Tom Moore Wells Transport Services 

Tom left school to study law at Kingston university but quickly realised it wasn’t for him, after a stint at Frankie and Benny’s he realised he had a passion for customer service. He then started work for a removal company, as a driver, then he ran the operations, then he saved up his money and bought the company! He started working for the company back in 2013 and still has the same passion for it as he did then! 

Tel: 07972 758958 Email: tom@wellstransport.co.uk Instagram: @wells_transport

7. Chris Mansfield Fusion – The Business Catalyst

It all started for Chris at a BNI networking meeting, he stayed there as a member for sixteen years when he decided to be a networker for other businesses. His story is a rollercoaster ride – you can read it here >> https://www.brilliantbusinesses.biz/story/chris-mansfield-fusion-the-business-catalyst

He was bitten by a spider after if fell down the trouser leg of his biking leathers, followed by other serious illnesses which led him to being in intensive care for six nights, leaving the doctors thinking that he wasn’t going to make it! He’s now been left with an incurable cancer which fortunately can be treated and is in his fifth year of remission. Chris’s attitude to networking takes him back to his BNI days of givers gain and how important it is to enjoy each day and see how many people he can help.

8. Craig Rodderick Catch A Fire Agency

Craig had been working for creative agencies in London and Edinburgh for twenty years when he decided to move to Tunbridge Wells for a less hectic career. He worked with clients in food and drink, cars, travel and fashion when he was with Tunbridge Wells based agency Southpaw as creative director. He didn’t really like some of the clients he had previously worked with – advertising cigarettes and all kinds of nasty things that he would never advertise anymore, he wanted to get out of all of that and just work on the industries and stuff that he liked and agreed with; so, Catch A Fire was born. 

Craig sat in a pub in Lamberhurst and agreed to work with his now business partner Toby Barty after realising – hang on, you’re a strategist and I’m a creative, we’ve got the beginnings of a great agency. We had a pint of Harvey’s and said, “let’s go for it” that was the summer of 2018, it was fortuitous timing.

Tel: 01892 887239 • Email: theteam@catchafireagency.com Instagram: @catchafireagency

9. Sean Smith Smart Chimp Business Consulting

Sean realised he could help businesses after helping his dad turn his business around from having a negative balance sheet to a positive one, all within three years. He  understands what makes a business tick, what’s good and what’s bad and what they should focus on and what they shouldn’t. The experience he had with his dad’s business gave him the ability to actually do it in practice, looking into a business and deciding on the best approach.

Tel: 07970 065239 • Email: sean@smartchimpconsulting.com

10. Suzi Mitchell Taylor-Made Dreams

Suzi’s son Taylor, was diagnosed with a terminal condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 11, he struggled for four years battling the condition, he had two brain tumours and multiple tumours in his spine. After Taylor passed away, Suzi started working on the ideas to set up the charity. It was a grieving process that turned into something very beautiful, it was very healing, but she also needed to do it, needing something positive to make some sense out of the madness.

Tel: 01892 655533 • Email: hello@taylormadedreams.org.uk • Instagram: @thetmdteam

11. Lorenzo Colangelo The Gallery – Hair and Beauty

Lorenzo is offering a real touch of the West-End in the heart of Kent, when you walk in, you get that wow factor that you don’t get from many places. But above all, it’s not about the chairs that you sit on, or the plushness of the salon, it’s about the welcome and that family feel which makes The Gallery very unique.

Tel: 01892 514900 • Email: info@thegallerytw.co.uk • Instagram: @thegallerytw

12. Jason How Rotosound 

Jason’s Dad – James How and John Entwistle from The Who got together and created the first bass string that sounded really good, the Swing Bass 66. The real turning point was when James asked John if he could tell people that he was using his strings – John said he would as long as he was kept supplied with stings. So, it was kind of like the first bona fide endorsement in the music industry. 

Tel: 01732 459838 • Email: jason@rotosound.com • Instagram: @rotosound_uk

13. Jon Traquair Fixio 

Jon spent months trying to convince NatWest to lend him £7k and in the end they wouldn’t even give him a £100 overdraft! That was in 2012 and post credit crunch. His school friend was running his MacMan business out of Brighton and Jon was convincing him to set up also in Tunbridge Wells, he managed to convince him and they merged the two businesses – he now has outlets in Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Horsham and recently re-branded to becme Fixio.

Tel: 08000 337 347 • Email: jon@macman.co.uk • Instagram @fixiogram