‘The Pantiles is a really lovely environment in which to work’

‘The Pantiles is a really lovely environment in which to work’

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The Pantiles Tunbridge Wells

The Times speaks to two leading businesswomen about why they’ve chosen to run their successful enterprises on The Pantiles and the benefits of being based in such pleasant surroundings.

Caroline Pickering runs Style My Home. She talked to us about her interior design business and why being based in The Pantiles inspires her work.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Ten years. I worked for various companies gaining experience in interiors, bathrooms and kitchens, then set up a small office sharing Rencraft Kitchens’ building on Calverley Road where I worked with them on certain projects as well as independently.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT?
I was working for companies where I didn’t always feel I could create interiors without limitations. Of course there will always be certain ones, but I feel I can now source independently and offer a range of services to suit each client.

ARE YOU INSPIRED BY LOCAL INTERIORS BUSINESSES FOR SOURCING ACCESSORIES OR IDEAS?
I am and I do try to source locally where possible. It is nice to build up a relationship with local suppliers and craftsmen, and I think the clients like that too.

DO YOU HAVE A TYPICAL CLIENT?
I work for a range of customers, with different backgrounds and ages. Many are time-poor professional people who need someone to help them focus and source products they like. I also project-manage for many of these people, giving them a more seamless service from start to finish.

HOW LONG DOES EACH PROJECT TAKE?
Some may only involve short-term consultancy work but with other projects I have managed and worked with architects and contractors for several years before finishing a refurbishment or new build.

HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING ON THE PANTILES AND WHY?
I’ve been on The Pantiles for 18 months and it is a lovely environment to work in. The people in the bars and cafes are all so friendly. The summer is very buzzy with the Jazz Nights and lots of visitors. Our offices are light and spacious and in the summer we can lunch out the back on the balcony which is very civilised. It’s always nice to meet clients and take them for a coffee in the area.

WHAT ELSE INSPIRES YOU WHEN IT COMES TO INTERIOR DESIGN?
Definitely travel: Architecture and colours always appeal when experiencing different places. I worked on a seaside apartment once after a holiday in the Caribbean and it was really inspirational. I like to visit trade shows and I regularly travel up to the design mecca at Chelsea Harbour to keep up to date with fabrics and products. It has a great atmosphere and is full of light and beautiful things.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?
I like light, airy spaces and architecture is very important to me. I see my work as a challenge to draw on the features of each property and also lead the client into a place they would not have gone to without my assistance. I guess I like taking them out of their comfort zone.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU HOLD AND HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO INTERIOR DESIGN AS A CAREER?
I have a BA Honours in furniture design with interiors. I have worked in this business for over 25 years. I think it is harder to get into now as there are many more people out there who are newly trained. I have taken on a graduate and she is very keen to learn and get involved in all aspects. I do think interior design is a very interesting and fun business to be in but you need to understand your client and their lifestyle and aspirations.

ARE THERE ANY PROPERTIES YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK ON IN THE LOCAL AREA?
I have worked on Decimus Burton properties in Tunbridge Wells and I really love that period. I was also involved in the refurbishment of the Assembly Hall last year, so it would be nice to work on an unusual commercial building again.

Deborah Richards is the owner of Maddisons Residential which helps people to buy and sell properties here and in Sussex. We find out why she decided to set up her successful estate agency on The Pantiles.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Just over three years. Prior to setting up Maddisons I worked for Coutts, the private bank. My love of property meant that during my banking career I also renovated many places for investment purposes “off the side of the desk”.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT?
Working at Coutts showed me the meaning of truly exceptional service and my own renovations gave me some excellent insights into the estate agency industry, where I saw a real gap in the market.

WHAT DID YOU DETERMINE WAS LACKING IN THIS INDUSTRY?
I felt there was a need for a far more proactive approach to selling property, combined with an understanding that for every buyer and seller the transaction has enormous financial implications with considerable emotion attached. Clients need to be treated with the utmost care and respect throughout the entire process.

WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES OF RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
The biggest advantage to me is that if something is not working as I would like, I can change it immediately. I have a vision of what I feel the ultimate estate agency should deliver, and my team and I constantly review, monitor and adapt to ensure that we continue to meet – and exceed – that standard.

DO YOU HAVE A TYPICAL CUSTOMER OR DOES IT VARY?
It depends on a number of factors including the type of property-style, price and geography. Generally speaking they are sellers who want to be engaged with an agent who gives exemplary service and commits to doing all they can to sell the property for the best price to the strongest buyer as quickly as possible. We are often instructed by sellers who have been on the market unsuccessfully with other agents and so want to move to someone who gives honest advice and a commitment to get them moving.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU HAVE WORKING IN YOUR TEAM?
Currently we have five staff but we are expanding all the time – so watch this space!

ARE THEY LOCAL TO THE AREA?
Yes, it is imperative that we all have a detailed understanding of the local area since this is often a very important factor to buyers who are looking to move to Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding villages.

ANY NEGATIVES THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TOUCH ON?
It’s really, really hard work: I often refer to Maddisons as my third child! If you are going to start your business, make sure it’s something that you love. It’s hard, exhausting, lonely and nerve-wracking but if you love what you do, your passion and energy will be infectious to others and carry you through to the time when you will look back and realise it was the best decision you ever made.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU HOLD AND HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO THIS LINE OF WORK?
It’s not difficult to enter this line of work if it’s something that interests you. You have to want to work hard, build strong relationships with people and be able to keep yourself motivated and positive during the many ups and downs of selling houses. There are excellent career progression opportunities and plenty of professional qualifications that can be obtained to boost your promotion chances.

HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING IN THE PANTILES, AND WHY?
I love working here! It is always so calm and restful and whenever I step outside, I feel like I am on holiday. There is such a lovely community spirit between the traders, who are all passionate about the area and making it a destination of choice for local residents and tourists alike. And if I’m having a really bad day, there are plenty of great cake options!