Florist Ellen Ford has been nominated for a national award and such was her shock when she found out, she actually rang The British Florist Association to confirm it.
Ellen, who runs The Enchanted Florist in Angmering, was glancing through the shortlist in the association’s newsletter to see if Sussex featured, when she saw her own shop.
She said: “Imagine my shock. I had absolutely no idea. I even rang to confirm they hadn’t put the wrong shop on the list by mistake. Turns out, they would have emailed me when the nominations were announced but the person who nominated me had put their own email and not that of my shop.”
It is a proud moment for Ellen, who has been open in High Street for only ten months, although she was operating for home for three years before she had the shop.
She said: “I’m quite excited about it. Especially as a mum and new business owner, it’s a massive thing to happen to me.
“I would never have thought I would stand a chance in such a prestigious award, there are so many amazing florists in the UK who have been around a lot longer than me, I never thought a one man band like me would stand a chance.
“I couldn’t have done it without all the amazing support from my mum, husband, family members and friends who have jumped in when I have needed them, be it childcare, deliveries, wedding set ups or just keeping me on track. It’s very much a family business.”
It has been a busy time for Ellen, looking after her children aged four and eight while her husband Marvin was on a six-month tour with Sting’s new musical The Last Ship.
Ellen said: “I’ve juggled so much since opening the shop. My husband’s new career as a singer and actor, after his appearance on Micheal McIntyre’s Big Show in December, which was all happening while I was getting the shop off the ground. He was away from February to July, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the whole family over the last year.”
The Enchanted Florist is the only shop in Sussex to be shortlisted for Retail Shop of the Year 2018, a great achievement for Ellen, as she left school without qualifications.
She explained: “I dropped out of school in the fifth year before my exams, so flitted from job to job for years before returning to education at Brinsbury College in 2004.
“I had always enjoyed playing with flowers when my mum used to do them, so as I wasn’t very academic, thought floristry might be for me.
“I left with my City and Guilds Level 3 certificate and advance national certificate in floristry in 2006. The day after I left, I was on a plane to Bermuda, where I worked with a high-end wedding and event studio and retail shops.”
Ellen was in Bermuda for six years, working with some amazing clients, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
After six years, she returned to the UK with her husband and daughter, to be with her family, and set up home in Arundel.
Ellen worked for Interflora for two years but was made redundant on maternity leave.
She said: “I started to look for any job but kept being told I was unemployable or too specialised. I couldn’t even get a bar job or delivery job.
“My gran had recently passed away and I had been left a small amount of inheritance. There was a wedding fair coming up at Highdown Towers and my family said ‘why don’t I give it a go?’. I wasn’t sure, I hadn’t done one before, but after a lot of persuasion, The Enchanted Florist was born.
“Truth be told and with hindsight, I got a little bit carried away. It was like being a kid in a sweet shop. I haven’t looked back since. I have learned a lot over the last four years, I have mastered accounting, marketing and a whole host of other things I didn’t know I needed to know.”
Ellen found out through a friend in July last year that the former newsagent in Angmering was available and she took the leap of faith and go from a studio at home to being a full-blown retail florist.
“It was done on a shoestring and a wing and a prayer,” she added.
“I opened on September 27, 2017, and Angmering has been so supportive, I love being a part of the village. I still maintain my connection with Arundel as well through social media and free delivery to Angmering and Arundel.
“I continue to learn and every year I make sure I do some sort of training. It’s important to continue learning and keep up to date with new techniques and trends.”
There are 30 florists up for Best Retail Florist 2018 and the winner will be determined by public vote. Visit www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BFAindustryAwards18Voting for more information.
Voting closes September 10 and the award ceremony will be held in Birmingham on October 26.