The owner of Essex fashion indie Debra Chigwell has received an MP HERoes award in recognition of her outstanding business success and achievement. Debra Seller attended a Champagne afternoon tea at the House of Commons earlier this month with other leading female business owners and MPs to celebrate the award.
MP HERoes is a Savvitas programme held in partnership with NatWest that encourages, celebrates and supports female enterprise across all industries in the UK. MPs around the country are invited to nominate a dynamic female-owned business in their constituency and Debra was selected by Epping Forest MP The Rt Hon Dame Eleanor Laing.
“I was delighted a receive a surprise phone call from a parliamentary aid the week before attending the event at Westminster,” says Debra. “It was a truly wonderful experience, especially meeting such an interesting group of female entrepreneurs who shared their inspiring stories. It’s nice to be recognised after more than 40 years’ trading and it was completely unexpected, but in truth I’ve always concentrated on running my business and have never actively looked to gain awards.”
Debra began working in the wholesale side of the fashion industry when she was 19 years old. In 1981 she opened her first eponymous boutique in London’s Gants Hill, which was quickly followed by a second shop in Chigwell and a third in Brentwood. Her original boutique in Chigwell is still trading today and has gained a strong reputation among the area’s locals for its bold product selection and visual merchandising.
Debra travels extensively on buying trips and handpicks the store’s products from over 100 international designers. Most of her stock is imported from suppliers in Italy, France, Greece and Spain.
The boutique owner says while the past 12 months have been positive in terms of trading, she is feeling cautious about 2023: “I’m very aware of spiralling manufacturing and import costs,” she says. “The Brexit deal seems to be biting even more on small businesses. Then there’s our general running costs and the energy crisis, so I am constantly reassessing. But I also have the best professional hard-working team I could wish for – and this is imperative. There’s a very social vibe in the shop for our customers and it’s a comfortable environment they want to keep coming to.”
Savvitas is an influential and innovative not-for-profit network established in 2007 by entrepreneur and parliamentary adviser Helene Martin Gee. It works to positively impact life-long development of women from all backgrounds. Closely aligned with Westminster, Savvitas delivers an extensive programme of events, training programmes and activities for women of all ages, sectors and cultures. It has won numerous accolades including eight Global Entrepreneurship Awards.