Shop local: Dagenham businesswoman vows to fight till her last breath to keep the doors open

Donna pike and her team

Donna Pike runs The Party & Flower Box and The Beauty Box. - Credit: Donna Pike

A small business owner has vowed to keep fighting until her last breath to keep the doors open. 

Donna Pike – who owns The PartyBox & FlowerBox and The BeautyBox stores in Becontree Avenue, Dagenham – saw her business go from strength to strength before the pandemic.  

But Covid-19 uncertainty has soured the outlook for Donna and businesses across the country. 

“Going from a position of strength to closing the doors was very tough and emotional,” Donna said. 

Since opening in 2011, Donna has grown The PartyBox business to include a branch in Elm Park.

A training centre launched last September, offering balloon and bouquet-making skills. The company also provides a wholesale service. 

But things ground to a halt with the first lockdown. 

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Back then, juggling home-schooling and adapting the business to offer delivery and click and collect proved a challenge. 

So the government’s reopening of the economy in the summer was welcome not just to Donna but her 12-strong staff who were on furlough. Some are again now. 

The business did receive grants in the first lockdown, but Donna still had to plough in about £20,000 from her own pocket as well as borrowing from family. 

A £600 government grant covering the second lockdown may be in the pipeline, but it won’t be enough to cover bills and rent, Donna said. 

Restrictions on the number of people meeting inside from different households means demand for party supplies has dwindled. Couples putting off their big day has led to a sales drop too. 

With Christmas parties unlikely, the need for balloons, banners and beauty treatments has dropped, hitting profits even harder. However, the firm’s popular door bows and elves are flying off the shelves. 

Donna suspects more household mixing over the festive period will lead to a third lockdown hitting businesses in the New Year. 

On what is needed, Donna said: “If we get on our feet next year, will the business rates go sky high? We’ve got to be allowed time to build the business back up.” 

She called for the rates freeze to continue another year. 

On the future, Donna said: “I have good and bad days, but I’m not going to go down without a fight. It will be to the very last breath.” 

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