BUSINESS is blooming for Helen Culloden.
The former Colne Valley High School student finds running her own florist shop is the perfect arrangement.
And she has ambitions to grow the business, Four Seasons, which she started five years ago after getting a taste for the trade working in a flower shop on school work experience.
Says Helen: “I was a bit stuck for somewhere to go. My father suggested going to the florist. I didn’t want the school to sort out work experience for me, so I agreed.
“I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea, but I decided to give it a go.”
Helen, who lives at Scapegoat Hill, enjoyed the work so much, she got a Saturday job there.
When she left school, she started work at the Flower Gallery, a florist shop in Moldgreen and undertook an NVQ level 2 in floristry at Huddersfield Technical College.
After a few years, she Helen decided it was time to work for herself. “My parents had their own business for almost 30 years,” she says. “Being my own boss must be in my blood!
“I spotted the empty shop at Manchester Road, Linthwaite, from the bus. It used to be a newsagents and it was also a furniture shop for a short while. I decided to rent it. I thought: ‘The worst that could happen is it doesn’t work out’.
“I make some enquiries and in the space of four months I was open for business.”
Helen chose the name Four Seasons after considering and rejecting a number of awful puns on the subject of plants.
She also selected the decor and transformed the empty unit with help from family and friends.
“I was very nervous about it because I realised what a big responsibility it was and the sort of problems that could come with it,” says Helen. “But so far, so good!”
Helen is well aware that floristry is a highly competitive retail sector – with supermarkets and petrol retailers undercutting village flower shops.
But Helen says the ‘big players’ cannot offer the personal service of the smaller stores.
“The idea is to offer something different to what everyone else is doing,” she says. “I try to get the best quality blooms and I try to relate to my customers.”
A typical day in the shop begins at 8.30am making arrangements for wedding, funerals or christenings.
St Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday provide a boost for business after a “quiet” January while there are always birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions to cater for.
“The first two years were all about getting established and getting the word out to people about the new shop,” says Helen.
“Now I am getting a lot of repeat business and people are coming to me through recommendations.
“There are times I am rushing around like an idiot and I could do with two or three other people to help out.
“That’s when I think it would be a good idea to have some staff to run the shop and go sunning myself in Gibraltar!”
Helen says: “The best part of the job is the creativity.
“I can let my imagination run wild with some of my arrangements.
“Then there’s the fact that you are pleasing people. Everyone loves flowers.”
Tastes and trends can change, says Helen. “You have six months when certain combinations and types of flowers are popular, then six months later, no one wants them.
“However, Easter is traditional with people wanting daffodils and lilies, yellows and whites.”
Helen has learned the hard way not only to spot the trends, but make sure she’s prepared for periods of peak demand.
“One year, I was so busy with Mother’s Day orders I ran out of flowers the day before. I didn’t finish until about 10pm on Saturday night and I was back at the wholesalers at one in the morning to stock up.”
With another Mothering Sunday looming, Helen is getting her paperwork in order.
While the shop keeps Helen busy, she finds time to raise cash for charity – and enjoys chilling out after a busy day delivering the flowers.
“I like to go walking and going out with friends for meals and drinks,” she says.
“I have taken part in a few sponsored walks for charity with Paul Robertshaw, of SMileS, for the British Heart Foundation. I also do the Race for Life.
“I also like to sit down in front of the television and chill out with a glass of wine after a busy day.”