10 Women running unconventional businesses (Part 1)

Just Entrepreneurs


We decided to run a series on women running unconventional and I’ve been blown away and completely inspired by the women I’ve come across and their business endeavours. So much so, that we’ve decided to make this post the first in a two part series so sit back and prepared to be inspired!


Frances Cain (Founder), A Girl for All Time®

Frances founded A Girl for All Time - a unique toy company which focuses on designing intelligent, creative toys for girls 7+. She founded the company because she became quite disillusioned about the toys he found for her daughter at that age. 

Frances now runs a multi award winning company which boasts a collection of beautifully crafted dolls, novels and books which promote creative play.  

A Girl for All Time highlights include winning the 2014 Playdoll of the Year Award from Dolls Magazine.


Camelle Daley (Founder), House of Ilona

Camelle is an entrepreneur in her thirties who founded a fashion company in 2009. House of Ilona is however no ordinary fashion company as it specialises in making clergy wear for women.

Since launching, the company has received thousands of orders worldwide and has received a lot of media coverage from the likes of the BBC, The Voice newspaper, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Telegraph and Portuguese Press.


Selma Altay (Founder), Vaporium Café

Before starting the Vaporium Café, Selma had been a dedicated smoker since the age of 12. She tried everything to stop including therapies, hypnosis and even acupuncture however it wasn’t until her son introduced her to vaping that things changed. Before Selma knew it, she hadn’t smoked a cigarette in 5 days. That was her turning point.

She gave up her teaching career to help others who were struggling to stop smoking tobacco and opened Vaporium Café in Palmers Green, London.

The café hosts regular events where others who are trying to stop smoking are encouraged to attend for tea, cakes and vapes. They even run competitions for cloud chasers and tricksters!


Asma Majid (Founder), Maza Chocolate

Asma is a self-confessed foodie so when she was unable to find a sugar free chocolate bar for her daughter, she went about investigating the entire chocolate production process. Then she came across something quite special.

“Maza is the only chocolate in the UK to use palmya nectar, a traditional ayurvedic ingredient that is nutrient dense and particulary high in Vitamin B12 – the mood boosting vitamin. Palmya nectar has a glycaemic index of only 40 so compared to that of sugar, at 100.” This essentially means that it is less disruptive to blood sugar levels than sugar and as such, is better for you!

Maza comes in three flavours: dark, almond and coconut and is gluten, soya and dairy free.


Sophie Boyce (Founder), Spirit YPC

Sophie founded Spirit YPC which is a pioneering performing arts company and training ground for 5 – 18 year olds, based in London

Sophie founded the company when she was only 21 years old after leaving a job at Channel 4 where she was a promising Script Writer. She is now 24 years old and is a mentor to 150 of the UK's most exceptional young performers and runs a hugely successful YouTube entertainment channel for musical theatre fans which has an audience of 16 million worldwide and over 70,000 subscribers.

Over 50% of Sophie’s students have performed professionally in west end shows. 


Dawn Barber (Founder), UKTights.com

In 2005, Dawn discovered she was pregnant with her fourth child and was forced to give up her telemarketing business owing to the inconvenience and logistical nightmare it would create trying to make sales calls from home with a new-born baby. 

She initially embarked on the project to help out with the bills but fast forward 10 years and the company is now the largest tights and hosiery distributor in the world! The company grew by 100% in the first two years and their success has showed no signs of slowing down.

The company are now on course to turn over £2m this year, a record profit to date and partly due to the fact they were recently able to buy out their biggest competitor; My Tights. They have 12 members of full-time staff, 60+ brands, 1400 products and over 28,000 variations of products.


Chika Russell (Founder), CHIKA’S

Chika is 31 year old entrepreneur who left a promising career in the City as a Financial Analyst to start her own business when she was 6 months pregnant.

Her business, CHIKA’S, is a GMO, vegan and gluten free snack range influenced by the flavours of her childhood in Nigeria. The range includes Plantain Crisps, Hand-toasted Peanuts, Sea Salt and Black Pepper Cashews, as well as Smoked Almonds and Chickpea Crisps. The products are made with the highest quality natural ingredients and packed with West-African seasoning and spices. Since launching 2 years ago, her product was stocked in Ocado, Waitrose, Whole Foods and is soon to launch in Holland & Barrett.  CHIKA'S is now stocked in over 1,000 retail outlets Nationwide.

Chika is also up for this year’s Black British Business Award.

Bev Pashley (Founder), Down the Cove

Bev Pashley was working in IT as an accountant, when she decided to take on the challenge of designing a website as a side project. Her husband Roger works as a fisherman off the coast of Mullion, on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, and Bev noticed that many people were curious about catching and preparing their own seafood but didn’t know how to go about giving it a go.

Bev founded Down the Cove in 2013 to give people the basic knowledge and access to the equipment needed to catch, prepare and eat seafood, and has since branched out to also sell Cornish and nautical themed gifts and decorations.

“I first started on Down the Cove in 2013, when I noticed the curiosity and excitement that people went through when talking to my husband about his work as a fisherman. It seemed that people really wanted to be able to give it a go, but were nervous or unsure where to start. I set up the website in 2013, selling the equipment you need to catch, prepare and eat seafood. “


Jane ni Dhulchaointigh (Founder), Sugru

Jane raised the fourth largest amount ever raised on Crowdcube (£3.3m) in May 2015, and her pitch also attracted the largest single investment to date of £1m.

Sugru is a mouldable glue which sculptor-turned-inventor Jane created after teaching herself chemistry; it's a colourful putty which sticks to almost anything and turns into a strong flexible rubber overnight.

Sugru is named by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best inventions in the world and dubbed “21st Century Duct Tape” by Forbes, the patented product is now used by more than 1 million people in 160 countries.


Lucy Wilson Storey (Founder), Storey by Storey

Lucy studied Fine Art and Fashion at London College of Fashion before heading off to Hong Kong to become a handbag designer. After not being able to personally find gold jewellery that lasted, she changed direction and created Storey by Storey which features chic designs with a modern twist, hand-crafted with pearls and high quality gold fill. A longer lasting alternative to gold plate to ensure the pieces stay beautiful worn throughout the day, night or on a salty beach. 

All I want to do is make women feel elegant. I want to make someone feel just as confident and elegant in a t-shirt as in a designer dress. We make luxury jewellery more affordable for women so they don’t have to worry about the quality.”

Storey by Storey is now a successful e-commerce store and is enjoyed by the Instagram elite and is stocked by luxury five-star hotels throughout Asia starting with the Four Seasons Hong Kong in year one and then in Langkawi, Malaysia and Macau, China. The brand’s move back to London this year coincided with the Four Seasons Park Lane stocking the brand for their high profile guests.



Melina HarrisComment