International Women's Day: Alverstoke's female business owners share what makes their village special - in 13 pictures

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A Hampshire village has developed a thriving independent business community led by female entrepeneurs - and the only corporate chain is the corner shop.

Jennifer Darling runs Alverstoke traders association in Alverstoke, Gosport and is also the owner of clothing boutique Voluptuous Vintage. The shop was forced to shut earlier this year after a car smashed into teh building, causing extensive damage. The business is still trading online while the future of the shop is “in limbo.” Jennifer met with The News to share what makes Alverstoke’s business community unique ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day. According to Jennifer, the only business in the village which is not run by an independent trader is the One Stop franchised corner shop.

Jennifer Darling said: “I think we have about 20 businesses in the village at the minute, and all but two of them are run by women. I love that we all work together, we lift each other up and we support the community. I love seeing women be successful in business. Still, even these days, it can be just that little bit harder." Voluptuous Vintage continues to trade online during its period of closure. You can find more details and stay up to date on the Voluptuous Vintage Facebook page or by visiting

Lisa Tilley of The Village Barbershop, has worker in Alverstoke for 19 years. She told The News: “I just fell in love with the location really. I used to live in Portchester and I came through the village one day, there was an empty shop and I thought it was fantastic. I thought ‘why not give it a go and see if it will work out?’ - and I’m here 19 years later.”

Chiropractor Pilipa Bulmer of Alverstoke Chiropractic said: “I chose to work in the village because we moved here 10 years ago and I completely fell in love with it, and it’s so much easier for me to work locally, having three kids, than it would be to work elsewhere. It feels like home - it feels wonderful. It’s great to have a support network. It’s not an easy thing to be a woman in business, it’s hard work at the best of times. We are always sharing each other’s posts, supporting one another, and using each others’ services because they are amazing. It’s invaluable.

Julia Bateman, who has taught pilates at The Loft Studio for the past decade, runs the business with her daughter Hannah, who is a yoga teacher. Hannah studied yoga in India to leave a busy life working as an actor in London, before returning to Alverstoke to teach. Hannah said: “It’s so nice to have this hub here with Lizzie downstairs and all the other lovely ladies and businesses that are around. I think it’s nice to feel that in this village there are so many different things happening. There’s so much that you can go to and get from these places with people who are dedicated to what they do and specialising in what they do all in one place.”

Ross O'Toole bought cafe Joy’s of Alverstoke in 2019, a year after her mother-in-law Joy tragically passed away the year before - and named the business in her honour.

Ross said: “We looked and looked and looked at various places, but nothing seemed to fit. We walked in here and it was instant. We loved it. Everybody is friendly, we all get on, we all try to help each other out.”

Leanne Dodd owns Number 49 Alverstoke, a card and gift shop in the village, as well as Boutique By The Sea in Lee-On-The-Solent.

Leanne said: “Alverstoke is such a lovely community to be a part of and we find that the businesses here all support each other. We all help each other out if we need it, we build really lovely relationships with the customers here. We are very much the hub of the village.

Beauty By Design clinic owner Elizabeth Connolly added: “It’s quite empowering and lovely to be around other female business owners - always great for advice. It’s just lovely that we are all there for each other.

Watch the video embedded in this story to find out more about Alverstoke’s business owners.

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