A FLORIST who has fought recession, supermarkets and the challenges of the internet this week celebrated a milestone 21 years in business.
Julie Walker, 40, opened Buds ’N’ Blooms, in Ferring, as a teenager, after realising a childhood dream.
Now, more than two decades on, with her current shop in Sea Road, East Preston, Julie is thriving.
She said: “When I was 13, I went on holiday and my family got talking to a lady who was a florist.
“The more she talked about it, the more I became interested and from then I always wanted to do it.”
Cobbling together £9,000 from parental loans and part-time work earnings, Julie opened the Ferring shop, where she stayed for four years, before moving to the current shop.
She said: “The first few weeks were really good but after that it was quiet for a while.
“But when you do something like a funeral and do a good job, people come in and begin to get to know more.
“Where we were, most of our business was doing funerals, but we do all sorts now, and even send flowers all over the world.”
Since Julie set-up the business, she has faced a number of challenges, including advances in technology and the recent recession.
Shoppers turning to the supermarkets has also posed a challenge, but one Julie said was less significant, as customers value ‘quality and friendly service’.
She said: “Everything has gone up in price but we still value good quality, using the same suppliers that we have always used.
“We are different to the supermarkets, as we are able to get fresher flowers, that should last for longer.
“We also provide a personal and friendly service.”
But while the supermarkets have not affected Julie as much as other industries have been, the internet has added an extra facet to trading.
Julie said: “I am not at all technically minded, but a couple of years ago I decided to set-up a website.
“Because I wasn’t good with computers, I wasn’t convinced it would work, but it is really busy.”
She added: “I turn the computer on in the morning, and I never know what is going to pop up.
“That variety, from weddings to funerals, is really enjoyable, and you never know what you’re going to get next.”
The business continued to survive through the recent recession, helped by the Government’s decision to provide business rates relief for small units.
It was this policy which allowed Julie to retain every member of staff – some of whom have worked with her 14 years.
She said: “When the recession hit, it was probably our hardest year. But I didn’t want to get rid of staff.”
Julie’s tip for a successful business is to always be open and offer a quality and personal service.
She said: “I love being a florist, and I never dread going to work.”