Two young entrepreneurs, Lauren Noakes (above) and Tilly Engbers (below) who made friends at Valley Road School have started their own businesses working together in the wedding and events industry just before Covid-19 hit in March 2020.
Lauren’s businesses are Velvet & Blooms, a floristry business and Anna Bespoke Events, a weddings and event planning and management company. After leaving Gillotts School, Lauren went on to The Henley College to study A Levels in Photography, Art, and Travel and Tourism. She then took an internship at Monkton Barn (a wedding venue) for 3 months and then worked at Moor Hall in Cookham. She gained her floristry experience working at White Garden in Henley leading up to Valentines in 2019 and has continued to develop her skills. Lauren said, “I was inspired to work with flowers when working at weddings and events, this gave me the idea for Velvet & Blooms. As well as a creative business I wanted a business that my younger sister who has special needs could help with too. From a young age I’ve always been creative and have a natural organising skill. I chose to not go to university as I knew the things I wanted to do needed hands-on experience to progress in the industry and to build my own business.
Tilly also went to The Henley College after leaving Gillotts School to study A Levels in Photography, Psychology, Graphics and IT. She then took an Apprenticeship at Dorata’s Hair salon in Hart Street to study Level 1 hairdressing and afterwards went on to do Level 2 & Level 3 hairdressing at Reading college. Tilly’s hair and make-up business TillyHair_ specialises in Luxury bridal hair and she is a hair extension & braid specialist. More recently Tilly has completed training in advanced skincare and now offers full bridal packages. Tilly commented, “my future desire is to have my own Salon & Spa.” Lauren and Tilly often collaborate, most recently they have created two bridal styled shoots at the venue, Secret Gardens which have been featured in Country Wedding Magazine.
Tilly’s second business is Secret Garden Wedding & Events, a stunning secluded woodland venue in Henley-On-Thames. Surrounded by landscaped lawns and secret woodlands, making it the ideal marquee or pop-up barn venue. This luxurious Wedding & Events Venue works with local suppliers and small businesses in order to create your perfect day.
As Covid-19 hit their ventures came to a sudden halt with all weddings cancelled, both girls took other jobs to fill the gap. They both worked at Cook on Duke Street throughout the pandemic. Lauren and Tilly said, “It was fabulous to help people within our local community throughout such a difficult time. We often delivered Cook food to Townlands hospital, local ambulance service and care homes to name a few, thanks to cooks kindness fund.
In 2020, Velvet & Blooms advertised and sold just over 30 wreaths in and around Henley. Last year in 2021 after a year of advertising locally through social media and building a client base they sold over 85 wreaths and plan to build on this year on year. Thanks to local events over the festive period such as, Henley late night shopping and the Stoke Row School fair.
Since Weddings have restarted, Lauren and Tilly have both been busy building their online client base, planning styled shoots, wedding showcases and coordinating wedding and floral events.
Talking about running their own businesses at such a young age (24) Tilly comments, “I really enjoy having the freedom to act upon my creative ideas. Lauren and I have known each for almost 18 years and because of this we work really well together and bounce off each other’s ideas.” Lauren added, “I think we’re both creative and we think outside of the box which is good for all our businesses. It’s a huge bonus that our businesses interlink and we can help each other grow.”