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Q&A: Former floristry students Jo Hunter and Michelle McGovern – The Little Flower Van

Woman standing in front of florist van
Jo Hunter runs The Little Flower Van with sister Michelle

Sisters Jo Hunter and Michelle McGovern of The Little Flower Van are both former floristry students at Havering Adult College. Here Jo speaks about her experiences on the course and setting up her own business

How did you come up with the idea for The Little Flower Van?

 

I’ve been out of work for a long time and was signing on at the Jobcentre. I’m a single parent and wanted to go out and get something for my sister and I that worked around our families. I previously worked as a recruitment consultant before I had my children, and I didn’t want to go back and do a 9 to 5 job. They’re getting a bit older now, and I felt it was the right time to start up my own business so I can provide for them.

 

 

Why did you choose Havering Adult College?

 

I am claustrophobic and can’t travel into London, so Havering Adult College was ideal as it’s just round the corner from where I live in Harold Wood. I loved going to college – I prefer to be around people of my own age, and I’ve learned more here than I ever did at school! My teacher Debbie was also really supportive.

 

What have been the biggest challenges in setting up your own business?

 

We managed to secure a startup loan which bought us the van, leaflets and stock, so now the big challenge is paying that back. Because we don’t have a shop we’re currently speaking to the council about finding a pitch. We’ve been to a few boot sales, but it’s tough getting your name out there, so we’ve started to promote ourselves on social media and looking where else we can sell our displays.

 

Follow them on Instagram @the_little_flower_van

Search ‘The Little Flower Van’ on Facebook.

Floristry tutor Debbie Ayres has been teaching people their petunias from their peonies for 20 years.

 

“The Level 1 Certificate in Floristry is suitable for complete beginners or those who have previously done one-day workshops. During the 15-week course students will learn the botanical and common names of a variety of flowers and foliages. We source everything for the course down the road at Liberty Flowers in Romford, but students will also learn how to cost and buy flowers.

 

“Many students have gone on to become freelance florists because it works around their family commitments. To be a successful florist you have to market yourself hard and establish a presence online as well as in person. Instagram in particular has become a destination for customers to research particular styles and get inspiration, so building a following there is important for any new florist. You can also share what goes on behind-the-scenes, which people are always interested in.”

 

The next Level 1 Certificate in Floristry starts on December 11.

The Little Flower Van
The pair secured a start-up loan, which bought them a van, some stock and marketing materials
Flowers on a table
A floral table arrangement from The Little Flower Van.
Wreath on a door
A festive wreath. Jo and Michelle both studied floristry at Havering Adult College.

Looking to start your own business in Havering?

 

Gov.uk has lots of information for new businesses, including how to register your business and apply for a start-up loan.

 

You can also visit the Havering Chamber of Commerce and Industry which provide support and advice to business owners in the borough and run a programme of networking events.

Havering Council also has a handy list of premises available to rent across the borough, including co-working spaces that are perfect for sole traders.

 

Their Development Team can provide help on general and specific issues for people looking to or already running their own business. Email them at businessdevelopment@havering.gov.uk

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