A husband and wife duo have seen their new business bloom during the lockdown gloom, after opening a new family-run store in Sunderland city centre.

Frederick and Jennifer Dawson – who together boast over 40 years’ experience in the floristry industry – decided to launch Flowers by Jennifer and Pop’s Candy in Blandford Street, after Jenn was made redundant from her previous role and left the business during the pandemic.

Selling over 240 varieties of traditional sweets and an array of artfully-arranged bouquets, the couple first mulled over the idea of opening the store last year – when Jenn was initially served her notice – however it wasn’t until her notice period came to an end in March that they decided to grasp the nettle and give it a go.

Fred said: “I owned my own florist up until the last recession in 2007 and taught floristry at Sunderland College’s Hylton Campus, while Jenn worked in the industry for over 20 years until her previous role came to an end in March.

“Initially, we’d decided to delay launching the business due to the pandemic, however faced with the prospect of having no fixed income and the uncertainty of not knowing how long the crisis would last, we decided to just go for it and we haven’t looked back since.”

Prior to launching the business, the couple were made aware of the North East Business & Innovation Centre (BIC) and were able to tap into funding and business support to help get the business off the ground.

This included funding from the new Enterprise Allowance Programme – a national programme ran by JobCentre Plus to help kick start new businesses – and expert advice from business advisor Janice Marsh, who helped the couple perfect their business plan and ensure it was as Covid-compliant as possible.

“The support we’ve received from Janice and the team at the BIC has been excellent,” Fred added. “They helped guide us through the application for the Enterprise Allowance scheme – which goes a long way when starting out – and helped us develop our business plan. They’ve really been great.”

Opening the store amidst a global pandemic may have been a gamble for the pair however, having already welcomed hundreds of customers through their doors and – buoyed by current campaigns encouraging people to shop local – Fred and Jenn have a rosy outlook for the future and are already discussing plans to expand, once trading conditions improve.

Jenn added: “The feedback and support we’ve had from our customers so far has been overwhelming. There’s been a real drive over recent months encouraging people to shop local and you can really sense it when speaking to customers.

“Being based on Blandford Street in the heart of the city centre has also been great. It’s a busy thoroughfare from Park Lane and is bustling day-in, day-out, which has been a huge help in getting new customers through the door.

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“Currently, we’re only utilising half our floor space, however we have discussed opening up the back of the store next year and expanding our offering to sell gifts as well as our bouquets and sweets, which will hopefully allow us to become a one-stop-shop for people looking for gifts for their loved ones and friends.

“While it has been challenging during the pandemic, especially when local lockdown measures were introduced, we are looking forward to the future and hopefully bringing a little bit of cheer to people during what is such a difficult time for people.”

Janice Marsh, business advisor and trainer at the North East BIC, said: “It’s been great working with Jenn and Fred on the opening of Flowers by Jennifer and Pop’s Candy and we’re delighted to have helped them get the business off the ground.

“Many thousands of people across the UK have been made unemployed during the pandemic and as we look to help get Britain’s economy moving again, initiatives such as the new Enterprise Allowance Programme will play a key role in helping stimulate start-ups. Jenn and Fred are a perfect example of this and we’d encourage anyone else wanting to set up on their own to contact us and find out more about the support on offer.”

For more information on the North East BIC, visit: https://www.ne-bic.co.uk/