Girls just wanna run businesses

Some of the many women who run businesses in Francis Road, Leyton
Some of the many women who run businesses in Francis Road, Leyton (credit Greater London Authority)

Discover the Leyton street where women are leading the way

A street in Leyton is gaining recognition as a thriving centre for female entrepreneurship.

Thought to have one of the highest concentrations of women-owned businesses in London, Francis Road boasts 14 independent, female-run shops. Together they have helped revive the street’s fortunes.

Elisabeth Lennard owns Ella Pop Shop, which sells vintage ladies clothes, hosiery and jewellery. She said: “Being able to share my love of fashion has always been a little dream. I started selling vintage in different outdoor markets in and around Waltham Forest six years ago.

“My new shop in Francis Road opened in September. I was just starting to look at availability in Leytonstone, where I live, but all the shops I saw were very expensive. One day, I saw an affordable rent on Francis Road, went on a Sunday morning for a coffee at Phlox Books with my family, and fell in love with the street.

“There is such a good relationship between other businesses and the locals. With the street pedestrianised, the people walking around are very relaxed, there’s lots of families with children and it creates a lovely atmosphere.”

Ethical chef Henrietta Inman runs a café at Yardarm, an off-licence and grocery shop. She says: “I had been looking for a location in the Walthamstow/Leyton area and Francis Road provided the right audience for my food.

“Fulfilling my ambition of having a café which displays my talents, caters to the local community, and uses UK producers, has been fantastic. We are full most days which is totally wonderful!”

Other female-run businesses in Francis Road include Time Out Love London Award winner Marmelo Kitchen, which both serves and sells seasonal food; Phlox Books, an independent bookshop run by Aimée Madill; art shop Venner, run by illustrator Tiff Howick and jewellery designer Lucie Ellen; tattoo parlour Last Call Ink; and Edie Rose Designs run by florist Helen Clarke.

Jo Sealy, who runs Waltham Forest Business Network (WFBN), said: “It’s brilliant to have so many female entrepreneurs in one street.

“Women face a number of difficulties running a successful business in comparison to men. Women often start businesses because of limitations in the workplace, personal responsibilities, or the challenges that come from a market that fails to meet their needs. They are more likely to experience a lack of financial support, the need to balance family responsibilities, and issues around confidence.

“Yet, approximately 60% of the members of WFBN are female-run businesses. It originally began as Waltham Forest Women in Business.”