A CHAMPION of independent businesses based in Kendal has privilege at being invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace to meet the King.

Amanda Slattery, owner of Maya Maya, an independent womenswear fashion boutique on Dockray Hall Road, was nominated by the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) to attend the reception on Wednesday, November 16.

Amanda thinks she was nominated because of the longevity of her business (established in 2006 in Kendal town centre before moving to an appointment-only, out-of-town format before Covid), her efforts since then of raising £50,000 for local charities, and setting up a support group for independent boutiques during the pandemic.

She said that the invitation came as a 'huge shock', and the experience was 'magical':

"My walk from the gates to the archway under the grand balcony was so overwhelming. 

"Walking up the red-carpeted stairs into the main entrance was like being in a fairytale. 

"As I ascended the staircase to the reception I wondered who had trodden those stairs, Queen Elizabeth Queen Victoria.

"I looked down a corridor that must have been the length of the Palace and as I stood there a gentleman stopped beside me and said, 'Are you just trying to take it all in?' 

"We were taken into the royal apartments, and we met Prince Edward, who was lovely met the King, who was wonderful, and there were people like Mary Portas there, Peter Jones from Dragons Den, Grant Shapps, so it was an incredible event, and an unbelievable honour.

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"His Majesty circulated and chatted to people, and I was one of the last to meet him and I had a chat with him. 

"He congratulated me on the achievement, asked me where I was from, and I said Kendal, and the first thing he said was, 'oh, mintcake'. 

"I spent a long time chatting to lady Susan Hussey, who was Queen Elizabeth's royal maid.

"I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful and amazing this has been, and that if anybody ever gets the chance to do anything like this, grab it with both hands.

"After a few very challenging years, it's been such a tonic - its inspired me to just get back on the horse and be the best we can be.