Interview with Hayley Southwood

As part of our HAM x Mini Road Trip we headed over to interview the amazing Hayley Southwood of Southwood Living and Southwood Social Hub. A lover of people and helping others, I am in constant awe of Hayley's amazing commitment to the community she has built. Her high profile women in business club attracts members from all over the country, who meet, share and support each other through the ups and downs of 'doing your own thing'. She's also reinventing the way we shop for our home, by turning her own abode into an ever evolving store, with every piece she selects to live with available to purchase through her instagram shop.

We sat down with Hayley to find out more...

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started?
I'm Hayley Southwood I am 42 years old and a serial entrepreneur. I opened my first business in 2002. We moved back to my roots in Milton Keynes when my mum was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer and my world turned upside down. A year after she sadly passed away in a moment of madness I bought an old ice cream van off eBay. The van became my therapy. I won Country Homes New Business of the year in 2010 after scribbling on an application form and the prize entailed £6000 worth of PR and marketing and 6 sessions with a business coach called Jessica Rogers.

That little van changed my life forever. We were featured in over 100 publications and had the best time attending parties and weddings all over the UK. The van was used for films, massive brand campaigns in the summer and in the winter I started helping other brands with their social media strategies.

Southwood Stores was born on my kitchen table in 2013 and then progressed to a lodge in the garden. Whilst this was very fulfilling I often felt huge waves of loneliness and I felt overwhelmed and often out of my depth. I didn't have anyone to vocalise all my concerns and challenges to. I had created an amazing job but I didn't have anyone I could connect with who could identify my journey.

I decided to seek out other women like me and put a shout out on Instagram. It began with 4 lovely women coming over to my house for a 'get together'. The second meet up was in a local pub we had over 40 women travel from miles to attend. It was at that point I knew there were women all over the country searching for the same thing as me. It really felt like we were a new wave of entrepreneurs.

Southwood Social Hub was born out of the same desire as my previous businesses - to solve problems and find a solution to what was needed. The hub is the most amazing community of women at all stages of their business. They are open and honest people inspiring each other. It is like having a team of colleagues - everyone working together to build meaningful collaboration and connection.

Southwood Living is redefining retail – how did the concept come about?
I wanted to offer my instagram community something really exciting. A real authentic experience where my customers could be inspired visit us in person touch and feel see products in real life situ. We decided to relocate the whole business back to our new home after having offices and a showroom in a nearby village for the past the past 3 years. I wanted the house to become a real life experience. We now host events workshops and meet ups at the house too.

Let’s talk social media – what channels have been most successful for engaging your community?
Instagram has been an amazing sales platform for me and my business. I started a monetised interiors blog with a photographer I met via Twitter called Shaneen Rosewarne Cox. Blogging was a new world a creative outlet and I loved having someone to work alongside. People kept asking where I bought my interior products from so I launched my Insta shop in 2013.

How would you describe Southwood style?
Southwood is all about collaboration and inspiration wherher it be the shop or the hub.

Where do you find inspiration?
I am totally inspired by our mavens their stories and their passion is infectious. For interiors I find inspiration everywhere including hotel stays travel and of course social media inspires me hugely. I love nothing more than finding a brand new artist to feature in our home/shop.