A Coventry woman who started a hospitality interior design business on her own following redundancy during the Covid pandemic is set to mark the firm’s two-year anniversary with a growing turnover and plans to take on new staff.
Leanne Armstrong founded Black Ivy Design from her Coventry home in February 2021, after spending seven years as an interior designer working on projects for major hospitality brands.
Since then, the business – which Leanne runs on her own with support from on-demand freelancers -has enjoyed year-on-year growth and is set to celebrate its second birthday with a five-figure annual turnover.
Black Ivy Design has worked on around eight major projects already in its short life – including conceptualising and designing the inside of Dhillon’s Spire Bar and the Sky Blue Tavern in Coventry city centre, as well as diversifying into helping dental practices in Birmingham and Hinckley to create a welcoming, ‘hotel-feel’ for customers.
Despite getting off to a positive start by generating clients via word of mouth, Leanne had one eye on the company’s long-term future, and so, in 2022, she sought help from Steve Tipson and Gaynor Matthews from the Business Ready programme on ways that she could grow the business to strengthen its long-term future.
Business Ready delivers support to expanding companies managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Leanne said: “Before now I had never run a business before, so Steve and Gaynor have really helped to equip me not only with the basic approaches to managing a company, but also what I should be doing to grow my client base.
“Anybody can have a website, but Steve has given me with ideas of how I can drive customers to my online platform – including the use of content and certain phrases to boost my website’s search engine ranking, as well as utilising videos and using Google advertising so I am reaching the right customer base.
“Although Black Ivy Design is still in its infancy, I feel that thanks to Steve and Gaynor, it now has some key foundations in place to consistently generate new business in the years to come.
“With that peace of mind, I can now begin to plan longer term in terms of recruiting additional people and moving from my home office into a purpose-built office space – something which I may have hesitated to do without the support of Business Ready.”
Steve, who has worked closely with Leanne on growth avenues, believes she is an inspiration for other entrepreneurs who are currently going it alone.
He added: “Juggling the day job alongside winning new business is challenging, and even more so if you’re the sole business owner, so Leanne deserves a huge amount of credit for getting the business to where it is now in such a short space of time.
“We have advised Leanne to focus on her unique selling point, which is interior design within hospitality, alongside harnessing new routes to market online – including refreshing her website to ensure it ranks highly in online search engines, as well as pay-per-click advertising, and outreach approaches on LinkedIn.
“With a combination of word of mouth and strong online visibility, Leanne now has a really strong launchpad for growth over the coming years.
“Leanne is proof that if you have high levels of energy and motivation, and make the effort to seek the right professional support, then your start-up can thrive.”
Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, Cllr Martin Watson, said: “I am delighted that the Business Ready support has proved so valuable to Leanne and is helping Black Ivy Design to grow. Anyone who runs a small business has so much to think about, so to take on board the bespoke, detached expertise of Business Ready advisors like Gaynor and Steve often proves invaluable.”