A popular florist who has served the people of Sunderland for over 30 years is set for a Spring bloom of her own this year, after finally opening her own store.

Julie McDowell, 52, has worked as a florist for numerous city stores since she started out working at a flower stall in The Bridges back in 1989.

This year however will mark the first time that Julie has been her own boss, after she finally grasped the nettle and realised her dream of opening her own boutique.

Flowers by Julie McDowell, located on Redhouse’s Redmond Road, opened in November offering a range of hand-picked fresh flower bouquets and displays.

Since then, she has been blown away by the response the business has received from customers both new and old, near and far.

“Over recent years I’ve had so many friends, family and even fellow florists urging me to set up on my own,” she said.

“Although I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years, I’d recently left to work in a completely different sector but, even then, I was still keeping my hand in it. I just couldn’t stop.

“I’ve also always had an idea of how my own shop would look, what arrangements I’d provide and even how the logo would look, so I thought I’d just go for it.

“I’d been considering it for quite some time however it was beginning to dawn on me that, if I didn’t do it now, I’d probably have never done it, so it’s fantastic to be able to stand here and take all of it in.”

As well as catering for traditional occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals, Julie is also seeing the corporate side of the business bloom, having secured contracts with a local care home, dental practice, beauty salon and funeral director.

She added: “The reception so far, from both the general public and our corporate clients, has been fantastic.

“A lot of people nowadays are moving away from physical shops however I think there is still a real need for them in our community, especially in trades like this.

“Flowers tend to be bought to reflect how people feel and to evoke emotion, so when customers place an order, it’s only natural that they want it to be perfect, and I don’t think you could do that without a physical retail presence.”

Having no previous experience of setting up or running a business, Julie turned to the North East BIC to help get it off the ground.

The free start-up support ensured her business was legally registered, helped her understand more about managing her finances and begin promoting the store.

“It has been great working with my business adviser, Hina, who has been a real help,” she said.

“She has answered every question I’ve had, and I know that, should I have any concerns going forward, she is only ever a phone call away.

“They helped me to understand what I needed to do to set up, how to go about securing my own premises, managing my money and ensuring everything is above board legally, I couldn’t recommend them enough to anyone thinking of starting a business.”

Hina Joshi, business adviser at the BIC said: “It’s been wonderful working with Julie to help her finally realise her dream of opening her own store.

“She is so passionate about floristry and is obviously really well thought of by her customers who have followed her to the new store, so I’m sure she will prove a real success. We’d like to wish her all the best for the future.”

The start-up support from the BIC forms part of the Enterprising Sunderland project which has received £1,271,885 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and is being overseen by Sunderland City Council.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The Enterprising Sunderland project was set up to provide the support and advice required to help residents set up their own businesses, so we’re delighted to see it already having an impact.

“Julie is the first of many to hopefully benefit from the programme and her success is a fine example of how, if you have the expertise, passion and knowledge to deliver a product or service to such an exceptional standard, then the support is on offer to help you set up on your own and become your own boss.”