The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) is on a mission to inspire and drive entrepreneurial activity and accelerate innovation in Sunderland.
During lockdown many people have found their un-tapped talents and the BIC is helping them turn their hobbies into successful businesses.
Former Charity Executive, Louise Black approached the BIC when she hoped to find a way of fitting her working and family life together and turn a skill she loved into a real career.
For over 25 years the BIC has supported the start-up of 4,000 businesses, so fashion design graduate, Louise, contacted the business start-up team to see how they could help her launch her bespoke handmade gifts and keepsakes business – Cherry Blossom Boutique.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business doing what I love, designing and making things and generally being creative and utilising my skills,” said Louise. “I knew whatever I did I had to be able to fit it in around looking after my daughter.”
Louise met with BIC start-up adviser Ron Anderson who helped her create a business plan and gave her advice on marketing her business and book-keeping.
Louise said: “Ron helped focus my ideas and lead me through step by step to create a plan that was both robust and dynamic. He gave me confidence in my ability but also my ideas before we finally submitted my plan for New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) approval – a nerve racking time when you care so deeply. Getting the call to say we had approval was the best feeling!”
Louise only managed to set out her stall at two local markets with her handmade goods before the country went into lockdown.
“Of course, this was something that wasn’t covered in my business plan. However, adapting truly came into force. I turned my focus to setting up my online shop on Etsy and concentrated on my social media.
“I began to make facemasks as they were in high demand and decided to roll them out on social media, offering quality fabrics and giving people the ability to choose their own colours and prints.
“Markets moved online which again was a learning curve but I joined some business support networks and we’re all sharing tips and keeping our small businesses ticking over.”
Starting a business is a challenging time and 2020 has delivered many unforeseen hurdles for entrepreneurs to negotiate.
“It has been tough at times,” said Louise. “But I’ve soldiered on, adapted, listened and learnt and I wouldn’t change it for the world! I will continue to roll with the punches and build on my ideas with the support of Ron and the team at the BIC.
“I am extremely lucky to be able to do what I love whilst spending time with my daughter, watching her develop and grow.”
Paul McEldon, chief executive of the BIC said: “The BIC has delivered business support programmes to local start-ups and entrepreneurs for the past 25 years and this has been a particularly challenging year for many. Louise is a brilliant example of an entrepreneur in 2020. She has adapted and changed her business plan to keep pushing her business forward and we’re proud to be able to support small businesses such as hers.”
For more information on business support contact the team on 0191 516 6111 or click here.