Creating a feminine space for female entrepreneurs

With the help of Shabby Chic designer, Rachel Ashwell, lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Lynne Franks has created a working environment that reflects ‘the feminine way of doing business’, says Emily Jenkinson.

White painted tables, pretty cane chairs, crystal chandeliers, flora-inspired murals, vintage tea sets, decorative screens, fringed lampshades, pot plants, beautiful paintings and wall art. It doesn’t sound like your typical business environment, does it? But former PR queen and lifestyle guru, Lynne Franks has never been one to follow the crowd.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco

Back in the early 70s, aged just 21, she founded what was to become one of the UK’s best-known public relations consultancies, representing a mixture of high street brands such as Harvey Nicols and Tommy Hilfiger, fashion designers such as Katharine Hamnett and Jean-Paul Gaultier and entertainment stars such as Annie Lennox and Ruby Wax.

Famed for her flamboyant personality and colourful dress sense (and widely assumed to be the inspiration for Jennifer Saunder’s character, Edina, in Absolutely Fabulous), Franks favoured a macrobiotic diet, became a Buddhist and embraced yoga, meditation and other New Age trends long before it became fashionable to do so.

In 1993, after resigning as chairwoman of Lynne Franks PR, Franks was again ahead of her time when she started campaigning for sustainable living alongside women’s empowerment and developed the Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics (SEED) as a model for using principles of femininity, sustainability and social responsibility in business.

Her 2000 book, The SEED Handbook: The Feminine Way to Create Business was an international best-seller that expanded on this ethos and helped form the building blocks for her latest venture, B.Hive, which, in typical Franks fashion, seems set to revolutionise the way women do business. So what is B.Hive and how did it come about?

“Well,” says Franks, “I’ve been working for women entrepreneurs for a number of years and I didn’t feel that there was a space out there that really reflected the needs of women in terms of a feminine place where they could network and work from. Then I met Mark Dixon, who is the CEO for Regus [the world’s largest work space provider] and I thought ‘this is perfect.’”

Dixon obviously thought so too, and agreed to collaborate on B.Hive as a more female-focused business lounge, where an ever-growing community of like-minded women entrepreneurs and freelancers could, as Franks says, “work together according to the feminine principles of community, connection and collaboration.”

B.Hive’s flagship lounge, which opened in September in London’s Covent Garden, aims to promote these principles by embracing beautiful design. Interior designer Rachel Ashwell, worked alongside sustainable design specialist Elina Grigorious to bring her trademark vintage, romantic style and furniture to the B.Hive interior. Mural artist Charlotte Adler of Cabbages & Roses was employed to theme the lounge with affirmations from Franks’ SEED Handbook, Meanwhile, celebrated American artist Natasha Zupan is currently exhibiting her ‘Pollination’ show of paintings inspired by women and relationships.

Next year, B.Hive lounges will open in Birmingham, Reading Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow. While Rachel Ashwell will continue to design the interiors, Franks plans to work with local women artists, designers and even caterers in each location, as a way of celebrating local women’s achievements and encouraging a sense community.

A deep sense of community is already in evidence at B.Hive Covent Garden, despite it only being open eight weeks. “I love it because every time we go there we connect with journalists, other business owners and women who are looking for the inspiration to start their own enterprise,” wrote Genevieve Murphy of cotton tampon company, Trinkets, on her blog recently. “Opportunity knocks at B.Hive and you never know who you are going to meet when you come down the antique spiral staircase.”

So where do male entrepreneurs and businessmen fit into B.Hive? Are they allowed down the spiral staircase? And, if so, do they benefit from this more creative working environment in the same way that women do?

“The men love it, and we do have men who come,” says Franks. But, she says, “it’s quite interesting: when there are a few men there, they speak louder – the women are all quite quiet – and it changes the energy tremendously. We’re not saying men can’t come, but, you know, Regus has 1,000 other work spaces all over the world so….”

The message seems clear chaps: women are realising that they don’t have to work to a male schedule or do business in a male way to have a successful and fulfilling career – they can set their own rules – and if that means doing business in a more homely and attractive work space, then who are you to stop them?

Emily Jenkinson is interiors writer for furniture and interior design website

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits