Lee Armstrong has spent the last 18 months setting up Aquarius Spa, which now has two outlets in Richmond and Hampstead offering beauty and medi spa treatments.
Having been through the pain barrier of setting up from idea to growth, Lee is now keen to share his experiences with others by making himself available as a mentor.
Lee found out about Get Mentoring from the Richmond Chamber of Commerce as The Chamber is in the process of starting a mentoring scheme amongst its members. He says,
"I wanted to volunteer as a mentor because the last 18 months of owning my own business has been frustrating and tough at times. I would have really appreciated getting guidance from someone that had been there and done it. There must be a lot of people in my position that have been struggling and just need someone to bounce ideas off. I realised that I have recent experience which could really help. The Get Mentoring training was really good. I learnt how I could help people without telling them what to do."
One thing he feels he can help with is understanding where to get help and from whom. He says:
"When I was starting out I felt that networking events were just full of consultants. There were so many offering advice that it was hard to know where to turn. I can guide mentees on where to go for help and what to do. In the early days of my business I got as much free advice as I could, and I'd encourage others to do likewise. Also, it's important for them to know that they will make mistakes and they are important in the learning process. But the quicker you make them and then move on, the better."
When asked what led him to set up a business, he says,
"I'd worked for 25 years for a rail freight business, and decided to take voluntary retirement to try something different. I was 43 when I left so hardly ready for retirement. I had 6 months garden leave and toyed with loads of ideas. I had some experience in the beauty sector and had some ideas on how it could make a business. I decided to pursue that further."
His background was in operations, customer service and asset management, all learnt in the rail freight business. This was definitely useful, he says:
"One thing I did know was how to make things happen. If there's something that's not running properly I'm able to set it right."
18 months on and the business has two locations with staff that run the business operationally. Lee works full time on growing and marketing the business and his wife helps out at the weekend:
"I'm really proud of what we've achieved so far with Aquarius Spa. Its growth has really bucked the trend. Now I'm keen to explore the next steps and see how I can develop the business further and am planning to find a mentor too."
When asked who he'd love to mentor, he says:
"Someone's who just started a business up. I managed to get through the first two years and we nearly ran out of cash so I know what that feels like. We only got properly going from May of this year. It took us that long for us to know what we were doing, so maybe I could help people through that early stage, encourage them to keep going and show them that it's worth all the hard work. If I'd had someone from day one we'd have got to the conclusions we needed to a lot quicker."