Then and now: TEDCO catches up with South Tyneside Business Owner Kaye Winship 16 years after founding S Walton Eyecare.
Today we gained the insight of a business owner who has navigated her fair share of social and economic challenges over the last 16 years. A start-up success story is always impressive – but longevity and a valuable role within the community is even more inspiring.
Back in 2006, Optometrist Kaye Winship had just had her second child and was easing back into locum work as she came off maternity leave. Working at a number of different practices in South Tyneside, Kaye began to hear about a number of patients who were without eyecare due to the fact that a local optician had recently died, having served the community for many years.
After looking into the details of the opticians, Kaye found that this small South Tyneside business had actually been at the heart of the local community in South Shields since 1926. In fact, it was the oldest optical practice in South Tyneside.
Determined not to let such an important community service close, Kaye made it her mission to take ownership of the practice – which saw her reopen the doors in 2007. Kaye explains,
“Although we retained the name of the original practice, we had to start S Walton Eyecare up as a new company and virtually start from scratch – save for a few bits of equipment that we were able to retain when taking on the premises.
“I didn’t know how to run a business at the time. It was my dad, Syd Winship, who suggested I look around for help from enterprise agencies and support organisations. He’d been a small business owner himself and I credit him with being the driving force behind my own entrepreneurship journey.
“That led me to get in touch with TEDCO Business Support who supported us through the start-up process and also suggested we apply for start-up funding.
“By re-mortgaging our house and accessing a small grant we were able to scrape together enough money to get the practice up and running. Looking back it was quite scary – we didn’t even have carpets on the floors or chairs to sit on until we secured the grant money!”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Sixteen years later and S Walton Eyecare has cared for thousands of patients, experienced the turbulence of recessions and financial crises, endured a global pandemic and even earned Kaye an award for entrepreneurship. All this while raising a young family.
“I’ve been fortunate in many ways that there has been support there when we need it, in terms of not just grants but also advice and support from the likes of TEDCO and also Newcastle University when I’ve needed it.
“Our success is also a testament to the team we have built here at the practice, including my husband, Steve Doolan. Every member of the team brings a wealth of experience and takes pride in their work. With their support and diligence, the business has continued to grow its reputation for care and high quality service.”
“We found ourselves in a really strong position before Covid hit. But of course there’s no doubt that the pandemic was horrendous for us – as it was for many businesses.
“However, I’ve learned over time that setbacks like the pandemic have to be used as an opportunity to improve and evolve. As a result of some fantastic coaching over the last three of years we’ve now implemented a new five-year growth plan that’s already reaping rewards.”
Kaye says that her love for her job and the rewards of serving the community make her as motivated as ever to keep moving forwards and building on past successes.
“As a team, we are focused on what we needed to do to grow the business sustainably. That’s included creating an additional consulting room, investing in new equipment and diversifying into new service areas. We now have a podiatrist and audiologist working out of our clinic, which not only benefits us as a business but brings much-needed additional services into the local area. Without us, people would potentially have to travel a long way to get the care they need.”
In the last financial year, Kaye’s turnover has increased by a third – a testament to the changes that have been implemented and clear proof that even established organisations can always adapt and improve.
“If I were to offer one piece of advice to other small business owners it would be to always keep an eye and an ear out for help and support that’s out there. It really can make a difference – it’s been crucial to our longevity. Having the ability to keep in contact with people like Allison at TEDCO and keep tapping into the business support community is something I don’t take for granted.”
If you’d like to find out more about S Walton Eyecare, visit https://swaltoneyecare.co.uk/
Looking to start your own business? The team at TEDCO Business Support is here to help. Give us a call on 0191 516 61 02 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.