Successful Elaine Fogg and Beryl Arnold’s friendship grew even closer after developing a successful business, and they would recommend working alongside companions to anyone.
Simply B’s interior
The ladies run Simply B, a homely, feminine shop offering beautiful giftware and accessories. Primarily stocking unusual jewellery and clothes, the shop is in the heart of the New Forest, set in the grounds of the Sammy Miller Motor Museum. “We have never really argued, ever,” says Elaine, aged fifty-six. “At first I think it was strange for Beryl because she began the business alone and then had to get used to my input in buying in stock, opinions on layouts and so on.” Beryl admits that at first it was hard getting used to having her best
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friend has her colleague, but loves every minute of it now: “When someone buys half your business, you do worry you will lose control. But I have known Elaine for years, and we have such different personalities and tastes we balance each other out.” Age sixty-four, Beryl was a branch manager of the Oakhaven hospice charity shop in New Milton. After retiring from her post Beryl would keep herself occupied with crafts and artwork, mainly cushion making and knitting scarves. “I began by selling a few bits and pieces to friends for presents, and after
encouragement I went and started setting up stalls in vintage markets and craft fairs,” Beryl explains. After demand for the products went sky high Beryl thought about starting up a permanent shop, and with her experience in retail it wasn’t long before her business plan was in motion and she found an available leasehold in 2005. Simply B is bursting with personal touches by both women: “I wanted a shop that could be a haven for women who come with their families to the motor museum”, Beryl says.
Picture Credits: Larissa Hirst
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<<< Section Header The Sammy Miller Motor Musuem isn’t exactly feminine, but Simply B is situated right alongside a pretty tearooms, and fits in with the cottagey appeal the New Forest offers. Elaine and Beryl go way back, they met at a local Weightwatchers club in the 1990s and became firm friends. After socializing for many years Elaine decided Beryl needed a break on her new venture at Simply B: “Beryl was working seven days a week in the shop, and in the evenings she would be doing paperwork and stock taking. “I started to help out every so often as a sales assistant. It can get surprisingly busy in the summer months, and it gave me a bit of a hobby and Beryl some time to herself.” Elaine invested into the shop in late 2009 and is now co owner with Beryl. The ladies admit that owning a business is
Simply B’s regular clientele consist of mainly older women who are ladies of leisure, and have the resources to invest in the higher end pieces. Elaine says: “ We started off with simple gifts and aimed towards the tourists coming in to the museum. However, once we got established we realized many customers kept coming back, and we tapped into what they indulged in.” The shop carries Italian handbag maker’s Smith and Canova’s creations, all real leather, as well the cheaper Claudia Canova option which is non leather. The Gabby jewellery the shop sells is highly sought in the region after it was stocked in the exclusive Chewton Glen hotel, which is just down the road. “That’s the best thing about working with a friend,” Elaine suggests, “Through word of mouth we find out about things like what other shops are
parties are the main way the women earn from Simply B: “Being friends means we know pretty much everyone in the area and helps us sell because people pop in for a chat and end up buying pieces. The parties are where girls get together and bounce off each other’s styles, so the selling potentional is huge. Beryl and Elaine have both spotted another big client at their shop: “My daughter is getting married, and we noticed that many of our friends daughter’s were getting to the stage of proms and weddings. So we began to make part of the shop younger and more aimed at occasion wear.” Elaine continues on: “The biggest selling items at the moment are evening bags. We now buy them as sets so the girls have the option of having matching accessories like jewellery to look more classy.” The only downside the ladies
It’s selection of Smith and Canova handbags, pictured right.
tough, but they wouldn’t have it any other way: “It can be a strain to some people’s relationships, but we assign different tasks to one another so we never tread on each other’s toes” Elaine explains. Their favourite thing they do together is buying in stock, Beryl says: “We have very different tastes. I am more conservative and colourful while Elaine likes more innovative pieces. I love buying stock for the summer season because the accessories are just so bright and beautiful, and getting to play around with fashion with your best friend makes it more like fun and less like work.”
stocking, and being able to gossip about it makes it more interesting.” The boutique has also begun to offer Simply B parties, which is where Elaine goes round to clients houses and sells the products with certain discounts: “It is great fun meeting new people and entertaining whilst selling. I thrive on socializing, and getting free wine and nibbles while the girls try on clothes make it a great way to earn money”, Elaine says. The parties have been hugely successful, and are based on the model that make up companies such as Avon and Virgin Vie use. Beryl says that the
have with working together is they do find it hard thinking outside the box, as Elaine explains: “Working with someone you are so close to means that we both have to remember that we are not buying for each other. You get distracted easily working with a friend and sometimes forget the serious side of the business, particularly stocking.” Beryl continues: “We have to reign each other in, but it really does work and the shop is now a hub for our group to chat, meet and hopefully buy!”
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Simply Be interview regarding local shops.