Susana Lorena launched Maison SL, a luxury lingerie and swimwear store, in Ledbury Road W11 in 2017. As a multi-brand with more than two dozen brands, the shop caters for women of all shapes, ages and sizes. The youngest customers are teenagers shopping with their mums right through to fashionable 90-year-olds.
Susana loves the lingerie business because of the relationships she builds with her customers. Originally destined for an academic career as a medieval historian, she came to London from Portugal in the 1990s to learn English and never left. After working in a variety of businesses she opened her first lingerie shop in Richmond and has also worked for La Perla, Eres and Rigby & Peller.
“Many women dislike shopping for lingerie and swimwear. We all have insecurities about our bodies. I’ve even had models coming to the shop worried about how they look. What I love about this business is making my customers feel good and confident about themselves and we do that by finding the right styles and colours to suit their shapes and skin tone”, says Susana.
Since opening in Notting Hill, the business has grown steadily and Susana now has a very loyal client base but there have been plenty of challenges on the way. Uncertainty over Brexit and two general elections were a damper on business but the biggest challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the first lockdown started I really wondered whether we were going to survive. Luckily we had just launched our online e-commerce website a few months before the pandemic struck. The combination of online sales and the help we received from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and the Government helped us through”, says Susana.
However, the online side of the business was new to Maison SL and that is where the Portobello Business Centre came in. Susana and her business partner had a steep learning curve to get to grips with operating the new e-commerce website, search engine optimisation, and the digital marketing on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.
“Portobello Business Centre was a fantastic help to us. They ran a series of courses to help local businesses cope with the pandemic under the London Community Response Fund, covering everything from the basics of SEO to digital marketing and how to operate a Shopify platform.
“The great thing about the courses was they really were 101 courses for people like us who were not familiar with the digital jargon and they were run by experts who understood how to communicate clearly with non-experts”, says Susana. “My partner attended a series of brilliant courses, all completely free and designed to help the local business community. What we learnt from those Portobello Business Centre courses was invaluable in helping us get through the pandemic.”
Under the London Community Response Fund Programme, Maison SL was even able to have one-to-one follow-up sessions with digital marketing and SEO experts and has since worked with one of the experts the Portobello Business Centre brought in on developing its digital marketing.
Instagram: @maison.sl Facebook: @maisonsl Website: www.maisonsl.com