“Graham from ART was really helpful and friendly. He still pops by when he is in the area to see how we are getting on.”
Retail is in Joanne McDonnell’s blood. “I was surrounded by retail as I grew up,” she says. “My Nan was a hairdresser, Dad ran a butcher’s shop and Mom had a greengrocery business. I always fancied running a tea room, although I tried clerical work when I left school before opting to run a bakery.”
When her mother had to go into hospital for an operation, Joanne looked after the greengrocer’s. “Mom had also started to stock flowers and create floral tributes by then,” she recalls, “and I found that I really took to the floristry, so after she recovered we sold both the greengrocer’s and the baker’s and set up a small flower and plants shop together.”
When a large double-fronted shop three doors away became available, they jumped at the chance to expand – and to include a coffee shop on the premises. Looking around for funding to support the move, Joanne’s mother Joan found ART Business Loans.
“Graham from ART got in touch,” says Joanne. “He was so efficient. We found ART brilliant to deal with. They gave us a loan to buy a van, stock and improve the premises. We grew our staff team to 13, including two drivers.”
But it didn’t stop there. “The local post office closed and passing trade dropped,” explains Joanne, “so we looked around for premises in a better situation – and found the shop we occupy today.”
“We now have a Tea Room and do outside catering as well as floristry,” says Joanne. “I think we would have gone under if we had stayed where we were, this is much better. Business has increased by 40%.”
Joan has now retired, but Joanne’s energetic presence in the shop demonstrates her ongoing passion for her work. She stocks a wide range of unusual flowers and plants, with combinations on display to inspire customers to find the perfect tribute for their special occasion. And she has plenty of ideas for the future. “I’d love to get into corporate work,” she says, “and do more teaching and demos – maybe even buy the shop if it ever came up for sale!”