Why businesses like our borough

East of Eden yoga

Businesses choose Waltham Forest as their base because of its location with easy access to public transport, airports and motorways as well as the support available from Waltham Forest Council.

East of Eden Yoga, Pilates and Barre studio opened three years ago in Walthamstow, and is great example of a thriving creative business in the borough.

Abby Mclachlan, owner of East of Eden moved to Walthamstow seven years ago and immediately felt an affinity with the borough. After having her son, she realised that, being a single parent, her career in the music industry was no longer viable. Her love for yoga and an apparent gap in the market lead her to take the plunge and set up East of Eden Yoga, Pilates and Barre studio at the council-owned Tramworks workspace in the centre of Walthamstow. She says:

“I felt like there was a big gap in the market for a proper yoga studio in the area. There are lots of great teachers and classes here, but no proper studio and it seemed like the right time in terms of the economy, so I wrote a business plan and met with the council. The biggest thing was funding the space. However through a link on social media, I came across the Tramworks site, which offered the right space and was in a really good central location.”

East of Eden, has gone from strength to strength and two years ago, through crowd funding, expanded to create space a for a reformer pilates and barre studio.

Most recently East of Eden was selected to collaborate with the National History Museum to provide yoga, breathing and sound sessions as part of an event to mark Earth Day on 22 April. The event is a sell-out and the museum have already scheduled another event for 3 June, with more to come.

East of Eden’s success is largely down to its ethos to make yoga accessible to all and they regularly provide donation and lower cost yoga sessions so more widely residents can participate and experience the benefits of yoga. Abby says:

“There is such a strong community here and I wanted to ensure that we were part of that and make East of Eden open to everyone and at the heart of the community.”

So what’s Abby’s advice for other creative start-ups in the borough?

“The main thing is do your research and get in touch with the council. There is so much support available and lots of scope for collaboration with other businesses, which brings loads of opportunities. There is every kind of person here and I’ve found amazing opportunities to create things on your doorstep.”

Bremadent Kash Qureshi Click to get info

From apprentice to managing director.

When you’re 16-years-old and scanning the local papers to find you’re first job you don’t think that one day you may be running the company but that is exactly what happened for Kash Qureshi.

Born in Walthamstow, Kash attended Aveling Park School and started as an apprentice at Bremadent Dental Laboratory, just off St James Street, in 2005.

The firm was founded by John Gerrard in 1969, at its current site next to St James’ Mews, and at that time specialised in crown and bridge work for local dentists but as it approaches its 50th anniversary it has expanded its services and now supplies dental appliances across the UK as well as to Eire, Germany and Spain.

Kash explained: “The firm has expanded so we now have 12 departments specialising in manufacturing different aspects of dental appliances and an in-house denture clinic for the public.

“We still provide crowns and bridges but also do implants, digital dentistry, prosthetics (dentures), orthodontics and pressure formed gum shields for use by sportsmen and women via a Dentist/ Dental Practice. Our expansion makes us one of the largest commercial dental laboratory in London with 15 specialist staff producing around 20,000 items last year.

“We have very high quality control standards with each item being checked three times before it leaves the premises, the last check is always a personal one by me. Because of the high quality products we supply our prices may be slightly higher than some of our competitors but we find people are will to pay that little bit extra”.

“Our location is ideal for our business as we can easily access routes across London and to the motorway network for deliveries and the good public transport service means we can recruit the right staff too.

“Our latest investment has been in digital dentistry, scanners and milling units which we use when manufacturing dental appliances. The technology will never replace human expertise but does help people become more efficient in analysing what is needed and then processing that information to the customer’s requirements.”

And Kash hasn’t forgotten his own route to success: “We look to have between five and eight apprentices working with us but we don’t see school leavers wanting such apprenticeships anymore; we tend to get more applicants from college and university graduates.

“When I became a qualified Clinical Dental Technician in 2014 I was the youngest in the country and I am keen to support young people in to what is a very interesting and worthwhile career.”

More information: www.bremadent.co.uk

Walthamstow resident, Dan, has spent the better part of three years serving up vegan delights to people of Chingford.

Dan’s story is quite incredible, only five years ago he was housebound due to medical issues, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and unable to leave the house.

Looking for ways to try and claw back some quality of life he turned to educating himself about nutrition and tried his hand at vegan cooking, sharing his spoils with friends. He saw immediate improvement in his health and his friends insisted he should share his cooking talents with people.

He started his business, The Feel Good Café, with a small table and a kettle and through word of mouth, his popularity grew, meaning he could invest more into the business.

Dan says: “I’ve been in the Village Arcade in Chingford for almost three years. I am so proud of how successful The Feel Good Café has been. We are continuing to grow with the support of the community. We have a herbalist who is very knowledgeable and a nutritionist on site, and we are able to share my knowledge and educate people about food.’’

‘’We are educating people about nutrition and inspire our local community to become healthier. But of course, being vegan, our ethos is not to harm animals as well and we have a great opportunity to spread awareness about what is happening to billions of animals worldwide, with its moral and environmental consequences. ”

The Feel Good Café supports Animal Sanctuaries in Essex and Kent and works with local businesses in the borough to share their communal goals. They buy groceries locally to support the shop local movement and grow their own food in a nearby allotment. 

Day says: “On the last Sunday of every month we have a market stall with Organiclea. We also hold talks in the arcade here from anywhere up to 80 people to share our knowledge and delicious vegan food. We want to move into schools next to be able to start people on a healthy lifestyle at a young age.’’

“We are really excited that there seems to be a movement from individualism to a shared economy and it’s great that this is something the Council encourages.”

Dan’s advice for business starting up in the borough?

“If you have a passion for something, do it! Think about others, together we are united, let’s work with and for the community.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the café in their allotment, or simply want to try one of their tasty treats, pop into The Feel Good Café in the Village Arcade, 49 Station Road, Chingford E4 7DA. You won’t be disappointed.

More information is available at www.thefeelgoodcafe.com. You can follow them on Instagram, twitter and Facebook

In 2013 Ian Chambers was working in the City of London and volunteering for Barts hospital radio in his spare time.

But the financial sector was not his first love and he began thinking about how the world’s media had descended on East London during the Olympic Games in 2012 but how less than a year later there was no media spotlight on the part of London where he lived.

From that grew East London Radio (ELR) which started in a community building in Hackney Wick and, since 2014, has had its main studios in Leytonstone High Road where it now broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week targeting seven London boroughs - Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.

Ian, who is Director of ELR said: “We wanted to get East London talking and we certainly have done that.

“We’re a talk radio station rather than one that is music focussed and we aim to be positive about the area, letting people know the many good things that are happening in our part of London.

“We moved to Waltham Forest in 2014 to set up a studio next to the Star of India restaurant, which is run by Shah Ahmed who is a strong supporter of ELR and just extended our lease so we will be here until 2021 at least.

“The Council’s commitment to recycling was followed by us when we were setting up the studio; the computers, broadcast equipment, desks, chairs and most of our studio used good quality recycled items.

“We are a Community Interest Company run by volunteers so we benefit from a discount on our business rates which, as do all our own fund-raising, is a big help in keeping our running costs down.

“The station is run by around 50 volunteers with about a third of those living in Waltham Forest. They range from people in their 20s to their 70s and produce their own shows for broadcast by the station. Shows include regular broadcasts from two Waltham Forest comedians Ninia Benjamin and Susan Murray,  while our storyteller produces a show that links up with storytellers from cultures across the world.

“Our coverage of grass roots football is unparalleled thanks to our links with the Essex Senior League which means we can broadcast a live show every Thursday evening concentrating on our local teams in that and other leagues, including women’s football.”

Ian added: “We only accept volunteers from those seven boroughs with 18 been our minimum age. To make radio more accessible we now have studios in Redbridge, Newham and Tower Hamlets, as well as our main studio in Waltham Forest, where people living in those areas can volunteer locally.

 “The skills and experience gained with us has proved a way of opening doors into the broadcast media for several of our volunteers who now work for a range of station including BBC local radio and BBC Africa.

 “But we don’t just stop with volunteers coming to us we also run outreach programmes where we teach school children how to write and produce their own radio show which is then broadcast on air. For example last year we had a total of 500 Year Six pupils from Tower Hamlets take part in our term-time outreach and also ran a summer holiday project in Redbridge.

“We would love to do something similar here in Waltham Forest, especially as it is London’s first Borough of Culture. We really want to get involved in those special events through 2019 and would be willing to work with the Council to train up to 50 local people in broadcast and presenter skills.

“We also do a lot of outside broadcasts, from the police day in Highams Hill through to broadcasts from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Westfield Shopping Centre and City Hall.”

Ian said: “We do a show spotlighting local businesses every week and also accept advertising and sponsorship from companies in east London. We have a good and growing audience and also use our social media accounts to support our on air shows, and share community news – with more than 11,000 followers on Twitter that gives us a powerful reach.

“2018 is our fifth anniversary and we shall be holding a series of special events during the summer and broadcasting some different shows too so do keep an eye on our website so you can come along and get involved.”

More information is available at www.eastlondonradio.org.uk

Recycling fashion brings business success.

The first week of September 2018 was a big step for Leytonstone resident, Elisabeth Lennard, as she opened her first permanent shop at 210 Francis Road, Leyton, having trialled her ladies vintage clothing at the pop-up shop organised by Waltham Forest Council.

Elisabeth said: “My business focuses on ladies’ vintage clothing, taking items from the 1960s through to the 1990s and completing any minor repairs before putting them on sale.

“I source the clothing through two warehouses in London and also sell accessories and jewellery from the same era.

“I started with a stall at the Wood Street Indoor Market and steadily built a reputation for good quality and attention to detail.

“I was getting a lot of repeat customers so when the opportunity came to use the Council’s pop-up shop in Leytonstone High Road I quickly accepted as it gave me the chance to see if  what I sold would attract people to a shop and it did.

“I found that customers liked what was on offer and using the pop-up shop gave me the chance to try different types of window displays and ways of showing the clothing, accessories and jewellery I have on offer which was a great opportunity before renting a permanent shop.

“That success encouraged me to find a permanent shop and the Council’s business support team told me about a vacant one in Francis Road which is ideal for my needs.

“The Council has done a really good job improving that shopping area and the pedestrianisation is proving popular and also means I can display some of my clothing outside the shop to encourage customers to come inside.

“The other shopkeepers have also been really friendly and supportive, inviting me to their meetings even before I actually opened the shop.”

Elisabeth added: “Waltham Forest Council has given me a lot of support; they’ve provided very quick and friendly service so I could talk through the details of the project to see if it is viable as well as sending details of vacant shops they thought may be suitable.

“With the Borough of Culture turning the spotlight on Waltham Forest throughout 2019 I have a very positive feeling about the opportunities available for my type of business.

“I moved from Paris to London 13 years ago and have lived in Leytonstone for six years so have seen the improvements and changes that have happened and I don’t want to move from Leytonstone as my children are very happy in the local schools which offer a good standard of education.

“My ambition is to have a nice shop that has a good reputation for providing a first class service to local customers – something I'm sure I can achieve here in Francis Road.”

Case Study Footsteps Day Nurseries 110518 (5) for use.JPG

Founder Chris Sheen gets involved in some “messy play”

A strong partnership between the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector and Waltham Forest Council is helping pre-school children take their first steps to success – that's the view of Chris Sheen, who is the founder of Footsteps Day Nurseries which runs three nurseries in the borough.

Chris, who used to be a construction manager with the Building Schools for the Future Programme, opened his first nursery in Leytonstone during 2010 with places for 35 children. To make sure he knew more about his new area of work he successfully qualified as a Nursery Nurse in 2011.

Since then he has opened a 48 place nursery in Chingford during 2015 and in 2017 opened a 58 place nursery in a council-owned building in Walthamstow.

Chris said: “The Walthamstow nursery is a good example of Waltham Forest Council’s approach. They invited bids from people wanting to open a nursery at the 215 Queen’s Road site but they weren’t looking to award the contract to get the highest financial return, they assessed the tenders based on the quality of learning and type of education that would be provided.

“That is a really forward-thinking approach and reflects our company aim that every child should feel happy, well-settled and cared for when they come through our door and parents are confident their child will be safe.

“In all of our nurseries we have a responsibility to deliver education that will support each child to develop and take the next steps as they head for primary school but if that is to work every individual child must be content and have a strong bond with the staff caring for them.”

Throughout their day at nursery children will be involved in messy play, arts and crafts and outside play as well as reading, writing and number skills suitable to their age.

Staff are expected to be role models all the time by being polite, caring and take time with the children and with each other.

All three nurseries accept childcare vouchers from employers and participate in the Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

All three and four-year-olds can get free early education and childcare through Government schemes with similar provision being available for some two-year-olds. All of these schemes are accepted by Footsteps Day Nurseries.

Chris added: “Historically Waltham Forest Council has been very good at working with providers; carrying out genuine consultation on how funding should be allocated.

“The Early Years Team has developed a hub where information can be shared, newsletters read and details of courses, along with booking details, are also available.

“The Council is now funding an Early Years Systems Leadership Project which aims to bring together 45 school nurseries, 120 PVI nurseries and around 200 childminders in the borough to share good practice and support each other to make sure that our local pre-school children are getting the best possible start to their education.

“I am pleased and excited to Chair the Early Years Systems Leadership Strategic Board as I see it making a major contribution to removing disadvantages between children and giving all our children a fair chance when they reach primary school.

“We have seen the success of the primary and secondary challenge programmes here in Waltham Forest and I am confident this partnership can achieve similar benefits for early years’ children.”

Chris also praised the council’s attitude to small businesses: “We have a small office in Chingford which means we can get away from the hectic nursery atmosphere to plan for the future and we benefited from Small Business Rate Relief for that office.

“We are now looking for a slightly larger office and Eternity House in Chingford is ideal. Thanks to the council using some money from the nearby Tesco development the offices are finished to a high standard with modern heating, air conditioning and internet access yet are still at a rent small businesses can afford and their size means they still qualify for Small Business Rate Relief which is a big help in keeping costs down.”

More information can be found on the Footsteps Nursery website.

To find out more about the Government's free early education scheme, and to search for schools, nurseries, preschools and childminders who are able to provide these places please visit our free childcare page

Tasty treats on offer at vintage furniture store

Early in 2015 Leanne Hanson discovered a shop in Leytonstone High Road that would be ideal for her plans. In 2018 the property was ready, so she offered it to Waltham Forest Council and Meanwhile Space to provide a pop-up shop to help other start-up businesses whilst she finished her plans. From February to September last year different entrepreneurs from the borough used the shop for a month to test of their goods and services were ones customers wanted.

That trial proved a success for many of them who have moved on, including Ella’s Pop Up Shop which now has permanent premises in Francis Road.

Leanne has now opened her own business Gray, at 297 High Road Leytonstone. Gray, is a unique blend of homemade cakes, freshly made sandwiches and refreshments sitting alongside the sale of vintage furniture and homeware from bygone eras which is proving a success.

Leytonstone resident Leanne said: “This really is a family business as my brother. Joshua prepares the sandwiches, salads and other freshly made food we offer, including the home-made hummus which we serve with organic Charcoal  sour dough, while my mum, Andrea bakes the cakes, tarts and cookies, which normally include a tasty vegan option.

“The café combines two of my loves cake and furniture. I was already part-owner of Maker Studio, an interior design business, and through my work I had to source a lot of vintage furniture. I ended up collecting so many items throughout the years that opening a shop seemed like a natural progression to feed my love of finding vintage pieces.

“We have a constantly changing stock as we scour markets & shops across the country as well as looking online for items that we love and we think will be popular with our customers.

“We work with Charles of Lloyd, a Leyton-based upholsterer, to upcycle armchairs and similar furniture for us and we will soon have a swatch of fabrics from her so customers can select their own material to upholster the items they buy from us.

“The 14-seat café at the rear of the shop means you can enjoy a cup of coffee and slice of cake while making the decision on whether to buy the furniture you have your eye on.

“We use as many local suppliers as we can. The coffee we serve is roasted by the Curved Brick Co in Leyton, while the London Borough of Jam and The Local Honey Man provide our preserves which we use and which are also available for sale.

“We’re keen to hear from other local suppliers who have products that fit with our ethos. 

So where is the business going next?

Leanne said: “My mum is constantly coming up with new ideas for her cakes so our range is constantly evolving. We are also increasing our dry goods section to include more brands that we love.  We are developing our range of homewares to include cushions, handmade pottery and small gift items and we are talking to local artists so that we can use the café area to the rear to  display  & sell artwork”

More information: info@graycollective.co.uk

Pull out box

Grays Café is open 8am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. To is closed on Mondays.

When you see a piece of land over-grown with brambles and weeds most of us just walk on by, but when Izzy Vandergert-Wilson saw such a piece of land in Ambleside Close in Leyton, she saw an opportunity.

Now thanks to a lot of hard work, Izzy is growing her own business to help local residents.

Izzy, age 20 of Leyton, said: “The land was really going to waste and looked horrible, but I thought it could be converted in to a Healing Community Garden and after a few months of hard work we will soon be able to welcome local residents to relax among the herbs and healing plants we are growing.”

The land is owned by Clarion Housing, who welcomed Izzy’s ideas and gave her access to the plot where there will be five growing beds, a double composting bin and a shed, as well as some seats where visitors can relax.

Izzy continued: “There is already elder and hawthorn on the site which is a good start and we will be planting rosemary, lavender, thyme and hyssop among other herbs which are proven to have health benefits by relieving stress, easing breathing and helping you sleep better.

“I work with Herbal Hands, a group which makes herbal medicines more accessible and which uses its profits to make its products available to homeless people.

“We firmly believe that self-care can promote body positivity and help people with a range of physical and mental illnesses.

“As well as growing herbs for us to use in making such products we will be holding workshops to show local residents how to grow and harvest different plants and then use them to help their own health.

“We are now into our first growing season, with July being our key harvest time when we will be welcoming visitors wanting to see what we have done with the garden and how they can create something similar for their own home.”

Izzy took part in a 10-day course run by The Princes Trust, with support from Waltham Forest Council, at Blackhorse Workshops.

She said: “The course was very helpful in providing you with the skills you need to market your business digitally.

“The Photoshop skills were particularly useful and spurred me on to explore new areas.”

Council support for a family-run dry cleaners in St James Street has been the key to its continuing success according to owner Jameela Mehmood.

Jameela, who has lived in Walthamstow all her life, said: “My Dad came to the UK from Pakistan and started Apollo Dry Cleaners 26 years ago and I took over the business in 1996.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on giving good customer service but we also know that there’s always more to learn so when Waltham Forest Council offered some free business support to shops in St James Street we decided to get involved.

“The experts we were linked with spent an hour or more a week with us for quite a few weeks and the help they gave was excellent.

“They helped us further improve our customer service and also helped us better communicate the range of services we offer our customers.

“Like many businesses in St James Street we were being given a new frontage as part of the Council’s improvements to the area and when they found out we were having a new dry cleaning machine installed they even timed the work so that we could take out the old machine and bring in the new one through the window area and on the same day they installed the new window.

“That machine was a big investment for us, around £15,000, so saving the cost of taking out and replacing the window was a big help.

“That’s an example of how good the Council has been at working with us as a small business.”

The independent experts also recommended new lighting inside the shop, which Jameela had installed to make it bright and welcoming for anyone wanting clothing repairs or dry cleaning services – including same day cleaning for urgent jobs.

Last year the Council spent around £3 million, including £1.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, improving St James Street to make it an attractive place for shoppers to visit, including new pavements, seating, signs and shop fronts.

Jameela added: “With the changes we’ve made I feel we’ve achieved some big improvements and am so pleased to see our new shop.

“Our customers are local people and many of them have become friends who give us a wave through the window as they go past.”

So next time you’re in St James Street do give Jameela and her team a wave or pop in with some repairs or dry cleaning.

Apollo Dry Cleaners

  • employs five staff
  • has two shops:
    • 4 St James Street shop is open 8am to 7pm
    • Wood Street shop is open 8.30am to 6.30pm


Jai Patel with one of the custom made pots that will allow 500 portions of rice to be cooked at once

Jai Patel with some of the snacks available in their shops

Jai Patel with the Masala Chai tea bags

Traditional Indian Food with a twist - from Leyton to across the UK.

When President Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972 Bhanu and Bharti Patel settled in Leyton bringing with them a knowledge of the Gujarati community and the food it specialised in.

Soon friends and neighbours were asking them to provide catering for weddings, parties and other family celebrations, which they were pleased to do from their kitchen at home.

From that small beginning, J B Foods has grown allowing it to serve many thousands of plates of food each month at events, as well as running two shops and a busy online service.

At the age of 82 Bhanu is still working a 50 hour week with his wife Bharti, now aged 76, working alongside him at their commercial premises in Church Road, Leyton.

Their son, Jai, joined the firm part-time in 1998 and has been full-time with the company since 2011 having previously worked as Technical Manager at Allied Bakeries. 

Jai said: “At 38 I think I'm the youngest person working full-time in the company which has grown considerably since those early days.  My father took a long lease on Unit 1 at 260 Church Road in 1982 and created an industrial kitchen to manufacture Gujarati food, we then rented space at the Bakers’ Arms railway arches, when we needed more storage room.  In 2011 we expanded and purchased the adjoining unit in Church Road, spending around half-a-million pounds to bring it to the standard we wanted.

“We employ 10 people, who create the meals which we serve at events as well as produce the food we sell in our two shops and online.  We also have a team of waiting staff we call on for events as event numbers can be as high as 1,500 guests, with our greatest number served being 4,500 people at a wedding reception at Alexandria Palace.

“We are one of only two specialist Gujarati caterers in London, we do no advertising but rely on word of mouth and personal recommendations.  This has brought us work across the country and particularly in Brighton, Cardiff, Leicester and Nottingham all of which have large Guajarati communities.  We are also happy to provide services for non-Asian clients, for example, Newham Council.  We provide a bespoke service for each customer no event is too small or too large for us to cope with.

“Our online service provides direct delivery to your door anywhere in the country and our shops – at 260 Church Road, Leyton and 372 Romford Road, Forest Gate - have been serving customers for around 20 years.

“One of our most popular lines is JB Masala Chai tea bags.  We produce our own tea bags, with a blend of premium tea and aromatic spices giving a product that provides a brew with a unique taste and aroma.

“Everything is hand-made on the premises and my father taste checks everything. Food safety and hygiene is very important to us. We are the highest possible food safety rating category for a manufacturing business from Waltham Forest Council’s inspectors but that is not enough for us.

“Three times a year, independent experts audit our food safety processes and for the last eight years we have been approved as external caterers for the Hilton Hotel Group with a 95% plus food safety grade.”

“All of our staff take a food hygiene and safety regulations training course every six months to make sure they are up-to-date on current rules and our products are microbiologically sampled and multiple times a year.

“We are increasingly finding our customers are coming from outside the Guajarati community as our quality becomes more widely known so being based in Waltham Forest is a big advantage as this part of London has always been multi-cultural.

“The area welcomed my parents in 1972 and as a family we are committed to the area which has good transport links nationally as well as easy access across London. As residents we understand the issues the borough faces and are pleased to work with the Council and other local businesses to get the best possible result for local people.

“Because of its base, in Leyton, the firm is moving forward with new products and new ways to supply our foods to different places, without sacrificing what has been achieved or our good name as a family-run business.

“On a big event day we can be at work at 3am preparing the food and finish at midnight so it’s a long hard day but it’s great to see people enjoy the food we produce and know that we have done a good job, excelling their expectations – that makes all the work worthwhile.”

More information: www.jbfoodslimited.com or www.jbsnacks.com

Lea Bridge Studios Click to get info

Station opening creates new opportunities

When Lea Bridge Station opened in May 2016, providing a direct link to Stratford and Tottenham Hale, it soon proved popular with residents wanting to use the Greater Anglia rail services and the latest figures show that nearly 2,000 passengers use the station every day.

Since it opened the station, which cost £12.4 million and was jointly funded by the council, Section 106 contributions and the Department for Transport’s New Stations Fund, has proved a catalyst for regeneration of the Lea Bridge area.

The Enjoy Waltham Forest project on Lea Bridge Road has seen significant investment in improved cycle and pedestrian routes with work due to be completed this year.

Across the road from the station 300 new homes are being built with the first sales off plan at Motion E10 now being available.

The development is being delivered by Hill Construction and Peabody and includes 300 new homes, including 38 for affordable rent and 46 for shared ownership, as well as a gym, cycle parking and 21,000 square feet of retail space.

Tucked away down the side of the new development is a building that has been brought back to life as 18 studios for creatives.

Arbeit Studios has been providing secure work space for businesses as diverse as sculptors, photographers and personally created wedding dress designers.

Hajni Semsei, Arbeit Studio Director, said: “We saw the potential that would follow from the opening of Lea Bridge Station and opened our Lea Bridge Studios in April 2016, about a month before the station opened.

“There has been high demand for the units all of which have natural light, something that is important for creative businesses, as well as 24/7 access and good security.

“All except one studio is currently occupied with around half our business coming from Waltham Forest and the rest from just over the boundary in Hackney, which is easily accessible thanks to the new cycle route along Lea Bridge Road.

“There is a good range of different size studios available with an average 140 square feet studio starting from £300 per month which covers services such as Wi-Fi, kitchen and bathroom facilities and a communal area where people can relax and swap ideas with colleagues. Each studio has its own electricity meter so that cost is controlled by the business.

“We are currently working with Waltham Forest Council to make sure our tenants are benefiting from the business rates reduction scheme for creatives in the borough, which is a real benefit of bring the first London Borough of Culture.

“There has been such strong support from Waltham Forest Council and businesses that we are now looking at opening further studios in Leytonstone to meet the demand for creative work space in that part of the borough.”

More information, visit the arbeit website

Photographer Gigi Giannella

Gigi said: “I live in Clapton so the Lea Bridge Studios are really convenient, just a short cycle ride from home.

“I was running my business from home but found that meant I was never away from work and able to relax so the studios give me the mental space I need to separate home and work while also providing a more professional place to meet clients.

“The studio was just the right size and price for me and I’ve been able to create the right working environment for my work which focuses on event and corporate as well as portrait photographs.

“The transport links here are excellent, the station is two minutes’ walk away and there’s a good bus service too.

“The local shops are mainly family run businesses which offer a good service as it means you can get a good cup of coffee that isn’t from one of the major chains but from a small business just like me which is great.”

More information visit the Gigigiannella website

Yharnna Joseph of Yharnna Designs

Yharnna explained why she chose Lea Bridge Studios: “I live in Woodford and needed a studio which was close to home, was affordable and gave me the space I needed.

“I'm a fine artist who does a mixture of bespoke canvasses and prints so need a good space in which to work.

“Everyone who visits the studio is surprised at how spacious it is for the rent I'm paying and it’s really convenient too.

“It has some on-site parking and as I need to transport my canvasses by car that was important but it’s also just two minutes away from Lea Bridge Station and, an added bonus, just two minutes away from my Nan so I get to spend some quality time with her too.

Another key factor why I love my studio so much is the natural light! This is a very important factor for me as an artist. I rely heavily on social media to promote my artworks and with the beautiful natural light I am able to photograph my art to a really good standard.

“I find that outside is very secure and you feel safe working here. The security systems are good and there are 18 studios in the block so you never feel as if you’re alone when you’re at work.

More info: yharnnadesigns.com 

Retrospective Scooters is a leading specialist vintage scooter shop selling, repairing and restoring Vespa and Lambretta scooters.

Niall McCart and his specialist team have been operating for 18 years. Two years ago they moved their business from Alexandra Palace to the council-owned Lockwood Industrial Estate. It’s proved to be a really successful move and Niall is really pleased with the new home for his business. He says:

“We thought we’d have a real problem finding premises as many local authorities and landlords are typically not very accommodating of garages. However we couldn’t believe our luck when we found the premises on Blackhorse Lane, it was in a great location, the rates and rent were reasonable and the council were supportive and made it easy for us to set up.”

One of the key draws of Blackhorse Lane is its location. Retrospective Scooters is a predominately online business and an accessible London location was really important for the business. Niall admitted that he was initially sceptical about the move, he says:

“I knew Waltham Forest from old and had a few concerns about security, however the area has changed so much and you can see it improving everyday. To do what we do, people want you in London, we’ll be the first port of call for our customers because of our London address and we’re so close to the tube station and the North Circular.”

Retrospective Scooters is going from strength to strength. As well as employing two additional employees who are both from the local area, they are also about to announce some exciting green technology that they are developing. As the first business in the country to launch the kind of technology, it will really put them on the map.

From hobby to business is sew easy

When you’re a busy mother of four children under-11, money can often be tight - especially when looking for the right presents to celebrate births, weddings and birthdays in a large extended family - but Walthamstow resident Naila Ahmad found the solution while shopping in Walthamstow.

Naila explained: “I was using a Moses Basket for my fourth child that had been used by the other three, and the covers needed replacing. I saw the price of them in a local shop and then saw some fabric on Walthamstow Market and thought I can make one myself using that.”

From that beginning, and inspired by Kirstie Allsopp on Channel Four TV, Naila then started making cushions and apron sets as gifts for family occasions, and as she received praise for the quality of the items she produced, her confidence increased and she started seeing her products at local craft fairs.

Social media was a big help, with Naila promoting her products through Twitter and Instagram. Soon repeat customers were placing orders with her, which is when she knew she had the foundations of a business.

Naila said: “I was surprised at how popular my items were. My website shop was busy and I decided I needed somewhere to display samples of my work.

“The Kukoolala Cafe at Jubilee Park in Marsh Road took some items, and they sold really quickly, which is when I decided to look for a shop.

“The pop-up shops at Central Parade were attractive but needed a six-month commitment, but when the chance came to have the pop-up shop at 295 Leytonstone High Road for just one month, I jumped at the opportunity.

“I opened in mid-February 2018 and attracted lots of customers, old and new, with many coming back to place orders with me.

“I also ran some workshops to show people how easy it is to make their own gifts and these proved so popular I am going to run them regularly at the Kukoolala Cafe.”

Naila added: “What people seem to like is that the designs are my own, the fabrics come from Walthamstow Market, so we support other local businesses and the prices are competitive.

“The pop-up shop has been such a success I am now looking to take one of the shops at Central Parade, as my sewing has transformed from being a hobby to being a hobby business and now I am a self-employed business owner.

“My next ambition is to have a stall at Kirstie Allsopps’ The Handmade Show at Hampton Court Palace in September, as she was the inspiration for me to start my business.”

More information at www.londoncushions.co.uk

If you want evidence that Waltham Forest is home for young entrepreneurs look no further than Chingford where 17 year old Rayyan Razzaq is already running four on-line businesses and is looking to expand.

Rayyan started his first business at the age of 15 to provide marketing and social media handling services and hasn’t looked back since.

Rayyan said: “I realised that many businesses didn’t know how to use social media to maximise their sales and growth so used my knowledge and skills to help identify and correct flaws in the way companies were using social, media.

“My first business was called Professor Mula and I have built that up to around 50 clients across the country.

“I am now developing a new business to provide a private bespoke service for selling supercars quickly which reflects my own passion about such cars.”

Rayyan as a custom built computer he uses to provide the IT power for his new projects and is spending between 40 and 50 hours a week developing his businesses.

His aim now is to open an agency in the borough and recruit local people to work with him.

But he is still keen to expand his knowledge and learn new skills to help his businesses expand, so when his mother, heard about the Get into Digital Media course after contacting The Princes’ Trust she told him about it and he didn’t hesitate to sign up.

His mother said: “Rayyan is very creative and when I heard about this workshop it seemed an ideal opportunity for him to advance his skills and he has thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Rayyan was joined by two colleagues with the team starting work on 22 January 2018 and having to make a final presentation just 10 days later.

Thanks to the workshops organised by The Princes’ Trust and A New Direction the team were shown how to conduct research, use Adobe Photoshop to manipulate images and create videos to promote the brand.

Rayyan said: “Our brief from the Wild Card Brewery in Walthamstow was to create a digital media campaign for their new product, Passion Fruit Gose, which they are launching to mark the 100th anniversary of women first being able to vote and to celebrate International Women's Collaboration Brew Day, which was on 8 March.

“Our research included some face-to-face interviews with local people as well as checking out the marketing of other craft ales on sale in the borough.

“Using that information we then created a portfolio of digital promotional material as well as a design for a can for the new brew.

“The course gave us a lot of new skills which we were able to use. It was very intensive but the end result was rewarding as Wild Card Brewery seemed impressed by our work when we made out pitch to them at the end of the course.”

Marketing Manager at Wild Card Brewery, Emily Davis, said: “We thought it would be fitting to give the young adults a real-life task that the business will need in the upcoming months.

“Every year, Wild Card Brewery take part in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day in March.

“We chose to give the teams the task of designing a can label for the beer will be brewing on the day.

“Not only did the team get to showcase their creativity skills and marketing plans, they also provided Wild Card with inspiration and ideas for the design this year.”

Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and High Streets, Councillor Simon Miller, said: “The Council commissioned The Princes Trust to deliver the Get Into programme at The Blackhorse Workshop with a focus on Creative Industries.

“The Creative Industries are one of the most significant areas of growth and future job opportunities for young people in our region – but one that they have limited access to via traditional routes.

“This first course proved very successful with new skills learned and applied to the projects for two of our local craft breweries.”

“The programme is one of a series of initiatives that we are developing to support our young residents to find out about and access opportunities in this fast evolving sector.”

Rachel Baskeyfield, of A New Direction,  said: “Get in to Digital Media was a two-week industry-led training course by the Prince’s Trust and delivered by A New Direction’s Create Jobs team.

“As an employability programme, the focus of the course was supporting and equipping local young people (16 to 25) with the skills and experiences needed to break in to paid work within the digital and creative industries.

“By engaging with the burgeoning local creative scene, we developed the training around two live design briefs from Pillars and Wild Card Breweries.

“The group’s aim was to design a beer can celebrating the centenary year of women’s right to vote, and the creation of a beer tap label. Key to achieving were workshops from designer Patrick Lacey kicking off the process with ideas generation; research trips the breweries themselves (and Clapton Craft on the way); Photoshop skills from Olivia Mathurin-Essandoh; digital marketing tips from Asher Harris and motivational speaker Azzees Minott from 2-3 degrees, all set in the incredible Blackhorse Workshop where every participant made an Oak Chopping board.

“The end results speak for themselves. Getting a job in the creative and digital sector is not easy. It’s not simply a question of going to Uni or getting an apprenticeship – it’s much more about a collection of experiences, networks, skills and mindsets that together enable the doors to be wrenched out. 

“That said, the creative economy is London’s fastest growing sector and we need to grow our own talent. This is definitely one way to do it.”

SSR Personnel Click to get info

Making the world safer from E4

A Chingford-based company is supplying specialists around the world to help improve security within  corporations also fire-safety engineering, cyber security and health and safety for diverse companies and engineering installations firms.

From its new head office in Eternity House, in Hickman Avenue, SSR Personnel reaches across the globe providing expert personnel across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

As well as being a leading provider of permanent staffing to organisations , SSR also supply more than 220 contractors managed by from the head office with some of the team being former apprentices. Other operations are based in Dubai and Washington DC. The E4 office has a staff  of 25.

Founder and Director, Peter French MBE, said: “SSR is a strong supporter of training schemes that help young people learn new skills while also working in an industry, one of our top consultants started with us on the old Youth Training Scheme.

“Several of our head office team also started as apprentices with us and they are now running our payroll and credit control operations as well as designing and maintaining our website which is often the first contact people have with our company so it has to look good and provide easy access for clients and contractors wishing to get in touch. Employing apprentices’ can mean that they can learn the ethos of the company through their training programme so they get a good first step on their career ladder while earning a salary.”

Fellow Director, Jeff Johnson, said: “The firm has a global remit and has won international awards for the work we do in the security industry; for 30 years we’ve been one of the leading specialist recruitment companies in these industries and we are continuing to grow.

“A new specialty for us is energy harvesting where we supply expert consultants to the solar power and movement to power industries.

“We are still recruiting new staff and looking to expand our operations into Russia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.”

Peter added: “I’ve worked in the borough for 40 years and have found Waltham Forest Council tremendously helpful, working closely with us to find new premises when the business has grown and helping us negotiate terms on our current offices. They have been keen to keep us in the borough and been very approachable, even the Chief Executive can be reached to discuss business needs with him”.

“There’s no doubt that the whole area is improving with new housing, good rail links and local people wanting to gain skills that will help them develop a good career.”

More information: www.ssr-personnel.com

Holly Barnes, aged 20 from Chingford, started with SSR Personnel when she was 16.

Holly said: “I knew I wanted to start working, rather than continue into the sixth form, as I wanted to get experience and earn money.

“The day after my last GCSE exam I went on line and contacted what looked like a good apprenticeship provider, The Training Trust.

“The first job they found me was with a firm of surveyors but after six months I knew that wasn’t the right role for me so I asked if they could find me another employer.

“I was interviewed by SSR Personnel and thought they would give me good experience which they certainly have.

“I started providing sales support and doing general administration but now have responsibility for credit control and doing DBS checks which is very interesting work.

SSR Personnel: Matt Goss Click to get info

Matthew Goss, aged 21 from Walthamstow, started with SSR Personnel when he was 16.

Matt said: “My elder brother did an apprenticeship.  I saw his success and how much he enjoyed the course and the work so decided to take the same route.

“I left school at 16 and signed up with The Training Trust who organised interviews with potential employers. My first interview was with SSR Personnel and I was delighted to be offered, and accept the job.

“I’ve had various roles with SSR starting with administration and sales support. I then worked as a recruitment consultant for a while and although I made a placement it wasn’t really the right role for me.

“I’ve done some work in finance and am now working on the company’s IT and telecoms, looking after the website, desktop support and creating graphics etc.

“My message to any 16-year-old is to check out the apprenticeship scheme, get involved within the chosen business, contribute and become integral to its success.”

Poppy Le Rendu, aged 19 from Chingford, started with SSR Personnel when she was 16.

Poppy said: “I was at Chingford Foundation School with Holly Barnes who introduced me to The Training Trust and is another apprentice at SSR Personnel.

“The first interview arranged by The Training Trust was in Fleet Street, at a firm of solicitors but after six months the firm moved to Kent which was too far for me to travel.

“I then had an interview with SSR Personnel and like all of their apprentices started in administration and sales support.

“I now run the payroll for the firm which is a lot of responsibility but I enjoy that so it works for me.

“If you’re leaving school then my message is go for an apprenticeship as it can set you on the right path for a great future career.”


Apprenticeships provide the best of both of the worlds of work and study, offering high-quality, work based training programmes. They are a fantastic way for people to launch a career after finishing full time education, and also a great route for those already in employment to develop or change their future prospects and career.

Waltham Forest Council offers a range of exciting apprenticeship programmes for motivated people who want to further their career opportunities or change careers. Those applying need to be 16+ with no upper age limit highly motivated, work-ready and have good English and mathematics.

The Council offers a range of apprenticeships with highly respected, successful private and public sector employers.

One such company is TSS (Total Security Services) based in Highams Park. It is the UK's largest privately-owned security company, operating nationally and employing around 4,500 licensed Security Officers for companies such as Tesco.

Since January 2017 TSS has been working with Waltham Forest Council’s Steps into Work (SIW) scheme and has become the borough’s most successful employer (job starts and sustained employment) with thirteen SIW participants starting work, and 90% those are still working at the company for a period of six months or longer.

The SIW scheme, which helps people who are long-term unemployed find work, is also funding their SIA badge training and badge applications.

Managing Director Ricky Gardezi’s father started the business in 1989, with the company continuing to be family-run in Waltham Forest. The Company’s Head Office, with around 200 staff, is based in Highams Park, with regional offices in Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Abbey Togwell-Martin and Rianne Cole are two apprentices who are onsite at the TSS Head Office.

Ricky explains: “We’ve had really good feedback from Abbey and Rianne, as well as from the people working directly with them. They both came in with no previous experience of working in an office, and we hope to develop them long-term into having a career with us. Our focus is to moulding them into the TSS way of thinking.

“The training that employees at TSS receive at the apprenticeship stage is crucial to their development – get this right at the start, and they can go on to have a long and successful career within the organisation.

“We have continuous on-the-job training, as well as webinars to get them up to speed quickly. It’s about involving our apprentices in all of our work. Abbey and Rianne interview people in an HR-capacity now, and assess people on how well they are doing. It’s very satisfying to see them come so far in such a short space of time.”

All staff, including apprentices, have to complete TSS’ retail training, which means regardless of their role at the company, they get to see first-hand what it’s like to work as a Security Officer. It’s this sort of initiative that sets TSS apart from other security companies.

Ricky continues: “We have quite a young, dynamic management team here, and that’s because we invest in organic growth. If we see potential in someone, we make sure they are pushed to reach their potential.”

The results for the company are also satisfying – the main results have been Ricky seeing employees grow with the Company, and a low turnover of staff, due to them becoming ingrained into the company.

Ricky said: “Another aspect of working with apprentices is that our other staff also feel like they have another dimension to their work – helping to mentor and train our apprentices is satisfying for them, particularly our employees in HR, because that’s the end goal of their role anyway. Seeing a person grow in their job, and playing a part in that process, is very satisfying indeed. It’s an additional benefit of having apprentices in and around the office.”

TSS is one of a number of Companies which has an annual pay bill of more than £3 million so pays the Apprenticeship Levy, introduced in April 2017. The levy is part of the government’s plan to increase the quantity and quality of Apprenticeships, essentially a new tax which aims to fund three million new Apprenticeships in England by 2020. The levy funds apprentice training for either existing staff or new recruits, as long as the training meets an approved standard and the individual meets the apprentice eligibility criteria. This funding provides a number of new opportunities for those looking at an apprenticeship.

Ricky said: “We’ve always focussed on upskilling, qualifications and training, even before the employment levy came in. But now it’s a good push for our business to get more apprenticeships across the whole business.”

TSS are looking at taking on 11 more apprentices through Waltham Forest Council’s Adult Learning Service, such is the positive impact of previous apprentices.

“It’s been so rewarding to see both of our apprentices grow – when they started, they were a little nervous during the interview process – but with dedication and training, and their hard work and diligence, they’re now a valuable part of the Company.”

More information: www.totalsecurity.co.uk