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Melrose is a grand old 25 years old this year; as part of our celebrations – and as a reflection on our own age! – we’re taking a look at sustainability in small businesses this year. Every month we’ll have an interview with a local, independent business owner, hopefully sharing some useful tips and experiences for the rest of us!
This time we’re looking a little closer to home. If you’ve been to visit our offices, you know the picturesque town of Thornbury. Whilst the town is at least seventy per cent charity shops and pubs, if you look a little closer you’ll find some hidden gems. One of these treasures can be found in a cheery splash of colour across the back of a hardware store. This is one of the coziest spaces in town – with nearly two years under its belt, the Hive Gallery is run lovingly by Honey Pegg. Stuffed with the personalities of many local artists, the small shop is a welcoming Aladdin’s Cave. Honey has always been artistic, with her first foray into the professional world coming when she trained as a master picture framer in her teens. This time, she felt that she wanted to offer everyone an equal platform that perhaps other galleries and art stores might not.

Lorna Page says that the income she receives through the gallery selling her art pays for her studio.

Through the lack of discrimination Honey has in turn supported those who support her. She takes a 20% commission on each sale to go towards her costs – 80% goes straight back to the artist.

‘I can’t really look at someone’s work and decide not to show it just because I don’t like it. It’s an expression – everyone should have a chance to express themselves.’
Although she was initially aiming for a more central Thornbury location – perhaps nearer to Melrose’s offices, in St Mary’s precinct – she now feels she wouldn’t trade her little shop for anything. ‘Small is manageable,’ she says, ‘and everything happens for a reason.’ Although many ask about expansion, either now or in the future, the only thing she feels she could do with more space is have her framing workshop in the same place as the gallery. ‘It’s a bit of a hassle, closing the shop when I need to go and do some framing!’
One thing that is evident is that community is very much at the heart of the Hive. Honey is regularly involved with the local Thornbury Art Club, including making use of any of their wastage and vice versa. For instance, as I sit talking to her, she’s recycling bottles and coloured tissue paper to make rather classy looking jewellery stands – it seems no time is wasted, either!
However, as one might expect, it has not always been a smooth ride. Starting a business from the ground up, on top of the research and battle plans, also involves a significant amount of capital – and Honey can attest to that. ‘I had my little chart, and it looked pretty sad for the first year. But I put a lot of myself and my own money into this, and slowly that little line is going up.’ ‘I’m reading a book on small businesses, and literally the first few pages say not to rely on word of mouth – but that’s not completely right.’
Indeed, as Honey has found it relies entirely on the size and context of your business. In a town like Thornbury, where everyone knows each other, word of mouth and personal recommendation has proven an invaluable resource.   Paint & Pixel’s Phil Heiron is another regular artist at the Hive.
    ‘Everyone always tells me they wish they could set up their own business. It’s just always I wish, I wish, but they don’t realise that they can!’ Research is key, she notes. ‘Know your potential competitors, and see what your unique selling point is. Also, write a list of pros and cons so that you know where you’re coming from.’  
Seize the moment – sometimes you’ll find it was meant to be.