How mum Justine Rew found herself opening new children’s clothes store Chick-a-Dee in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe
- Credit: Lucy taylor
Sometimes life tells you what to do, and sometimes you tell it.
Six months ago, for Justine Rew, from Felixstowe, it was very much the former.
Justine was commuting to London every day, getting up at 6am, getting her three-year-old daughter, Mya, dressed and ready for nursery, racing off to the railway station, braving all kinds of obstacles in a desperate bid to get to Euston by 9.30am and rarely getting back home again before 9pm.
“It was five hours of travel a day,” she recalls, “costing me £7,500 a year, and for what? When I look back now, I think ‘I did love my job, but what was I doing?’”
Justine, 42, who grew up in Ipswich and attended Sidegate Lane primary school and East Bergholt High, spent 23 years working in the hospitality industry, both in Suffolk and in London.
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At various times, she worked at the Wig and Pen, the Newt and Cucumber, the Glass House and the Great White Horse in Ipswich. She also worked in Liverpool Street for seven years before taking on a training role in Euston for Tragus, the firm that owns Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia, in 2010.
“I liked hospitality. I liked that world, working with people, being hands on. It was very rewarding. But the hours...” Her voice tails off.
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She adds: “I also loved London, but after I had my daughter in 2011 I realised quite early on that I didn’t want to stay there. Having children changes your priorities and I knew that bringing her up there, it just wasn’t for me. London had lost its flavour and all my family were back here, so...”
Justine and her partner, Jason, who works in sales, decided to move to Suffolk with Mya, whom they have nicknamed Chick-a-Dee.
Justine kept her job on, commuting by train every day. They stayed with her sister in Ipswich at first, then found a little place opposite the beach in Felixstowe.
“It was much more like the life I wanted for us and for Mya,” says Justine, “apart from the commute.”
But it was at this point that life took its own turn. Within a month of moving into her new flat, Tragus decided to make some redundancies and one of the posts affected was Justine’s.
She left her job in London on July 31 this year.
“Suddenly I found myself sitting in the Jobcentre in Felixstowe with a new home to pay for and no job,” she says. “I had no idea what to do, but the people at the Jobcentre were fantastic. They put me on the right path and gave me the help I needed. I remember the lady looked at me and said ‘Have you ever thought of working for yourself?’”
Those few words were to change everything.
“It was really only the very vaguest of ideas,” says Justine.
“I’d been thinking for a while that there was nowhere locally to buy really nice children’s clothes for Mya. And I’d only just that week walked past a little shop that was vacant in Hamilton Road...”
It was at this point that Justine took note of the direction life was pointing her in, and started to take control of it herself.
The Jobcentre told her about the NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) programme set up by the Government to support people setting up their own businesses.
Justine applied for, and got, their £2,500 allowance, after producing a lengthy business plan and, with that allowance and a small business loan, she was on her way.
The little shop in Hamilton Road was still available and, after a lot of research into the kind of stock she wanted to sell, Justine opened her shop on November 15, just four months after she was made redundant.
“Mya is the inspiration for it all,” says Justine, whose lifestyle now allows her a lot more time with her little girl than she had when she was racing up to London.
“I choose stock that I think I would like to dress her in. Things that not every other child at nursery is wearing. And there is a play area full of some of her toys here in the shop so that parents can shop here more easily. The children make a beeline for it as soon as they get here.”
And the name of the shop?
What else but Mya’s nickname: Chick-a-Dee.