Most trainee teachers look forward to the day they can bring education into the classroom, but Rachel Lowe is bringing learning to people’s doorstep – along with a touch of fun.
Rachel, 27, is originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, but has lived in Sunderland for the last six years, and is now in the final year of her Education Studies degree at the University of Sunderland.
She is a great advocate of the North East, and Sunderland in particular, and that love of her adopted city is what inspired her to open her own shop, Rock Paper Bears, in Hendon in Sunderland.
“I started my own business as I saw a lot of negativity towards Sunderland,” says Rachel. “I wanted to do something that helped support small and independent businesses.”
Rachel started out promoting local businesses on Facebook, while running fairs and markets, which proved very popular. But, influenced by her love of teaching, she soon realised that she could promote these businesses and also encourage children and adults to get involved in crafts that would perhaps inspire them into further study – while having fun.
Rachel approached the university’s Enterprise Place to test her idea. They gave the young entrepreneur advice on how to shape her original online business, helped her access marketing courses, and helped with the initial set up of Rock Paper Bears online. Her next step was to work with the North East Business and Innovation Centre, who helped Rachel progress the business from an online presence to a shop premises.
“To be honest it just started off as a little hobby, but as I became more involved in working with small businesses, and studying for my degree, I realised I could combine the two.”
Now Rachel’s craft business is up and running and already welcoming her first clients and casual shoppers through the door at Mainsforth Terrace in Hendon. Her aim is to make the shop a real resource for her adopted community, with daytime craft sessions for children, and for adults evening sessions for crafts, pamper nights, board game nights and student workshops.
With luck Rock Paper Bears will be a big success – but the shop is not named after a childhood toy, as you might imagine.
“Bear is the name of my dog, Rosie Bear,” says Rachel. “So it’s a reminder to do and be with the things that you love – and a name that I hope people won’t forget!”
The Internships and Enterprise project at the University of Sunderland is receiving up to £2,207,656 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.