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The only way is Preston for TOWIE Sisters

The Only Way was Preston last weekend as Sam Faiers and her sister Billie brought their boutique shop Minnies to Fishergate Shopping Centre.

The stars of ITV2's The Only Way is Essex opened Minnies Boutique in Brentwood, Essex two years ago and over the past 12 months have toured the country with their pop-up shop. Hundreds of Preston youngsters turned out to meet the sisters and UCLan student Lucy Aspden caught up with the Sam to find out what life’s really like as an Essex entrepreneur.

The 22-year-old shot to fame when TOWIE launched in 2010 as the girlfriend of this year’s I’m a Celebrity star Joey Essex. Sam always had an eye for business and used the success of the award winning show to launch a retail career.

She said: “When I first started the show I was inundated with tweets and on all social networks asking ‘Oh! Where’s that from or where’s this from?’ We were wearing everybody else’s clothes and thought why don’t we just do our own; that’s where the idea for Minnies came from.

“When I left school I went straight to work. I didn’t really like school, I wanted to earn my own independence. If I hadn’t opened Minnies I probably would have wanted to do something where I worked as my own boss.”

The boutique is very much a family affair and as Sam and Billie posed for pictures with fans their mum rushed around the shop to make sure the rails were full and the tills were ringing.

“We’re all really business minded. For years we’ve always wanted to do something as a family. Here at Minnies it’s me, my sister, my mum, my aunts and my nan, we’re all really close.”

Sam’s career hasn’t always been about signing autographs and attending show biz parties.

“I had a temping job and then went straight to work in a bank. Working in the bank was completely different to anything I do now.”

The sisters opened the shop after the television show’s first series was a huge success and Minnies Boutique went from plan to opening in a matter of weeks.

“None of us had had retail experience before, we thought it would be really hard but actually it wasn’t too bad.

"I remember telling the show we were opening up a shop just before series two was starting and them saying ‘we want it in the first episode.’ So we opened the shop within two weeks. The actual shop fit and everything was done but the shelves were quite empty because all our stock hadn’t arrived.”

The Only Way Is Essex has just finished its 10th series and Sam explained how beating Downtown Abbey to win the YouTube Audience prize at the 2011 BAFTA Television Awards was the highlight of her career. Modest in her achievements this Essex business woman admits she has the show to thank for the success of her own business.

(L-R: Sam Faiers, Lucy Aspden and Billie Faiers)

(Sam spoke to UCLan students Lucy Aspden and Lois Dean)

“The show is a massive platform. Me and Billie showcase all the clothes from Minnies on the show. When we’re filming we’re wearing clothes from the shop; it generates so much business.”

As she mingles amongst the queuing shoppers Sam looks genuinely happy to meet the fans that have travelled miles to meet her and see the shop.

“If you’re going to open up your own business you’ve got to be really passionate about what you’re opening, because it doesn’t work otherwise.

“The reason why Minnies has done so well and is getting bigger and bigger is purely because me and Billie are really passionate about it. We work in the shop every Saturday, we tour the country meeting our fans, and we love doing the buying. You’ve really got to be into it to open a shop successfully.”

Newly single Sam looks comfortable posing for pictures dressed in a comfy knitted cardigan and trainers, whilst her sister models their own merchandised Minnies onesie.

Away from the red carpet Sam admits: “We like our comfy loungewear and pyjamas, not so much going out dresses. We’re quite smart casual and cosy as a brand. We’d like to see our own range of lounge wear eventually like a Victoria Secrets kind of lounge wear. We’re getting there; the opportunities are endless.”