National award is no small feat for Stalybridge business

A STALYBRIDGE businesswoman is still pinching herself after winning a national prize she barely even thought she should be shortlisted for.

Nicola Buckley, of Florence and Amelia’s, scooped the Sole to Sole Award for being best sole trader or small business in the UK at The Small Awards, which recognise operators around the country.

When her name was read out as the winner at the lavish ceremony in London, it came as such a shock, husband Steven had to point out, ‘That’s you!’

Now thoughts are turning to the future while also basking in the glory – a remodelled store on Corporation Street, selling the usual array of gifts, handmade and vintage household items and furniture, as well as candles, bath products, fragrances, jewellery and cards should be open in August.

But at weekends the company van hits the road for an altogether different purpose, ferrying amps and drum equipment around for son Jackson’s band The Modern Business.

“To be honest, we thought we were going down for a free meal,” said Nicola. “The other four people on the shortlist had won world awards and had about 16 accolades, we were completely honoured just to be shortlisted.

“I went up on stage and I can’t even remember what I said. My husband had his phone out as if he was recording me but he forgot to press record!”

To be eligible for a Small Award, Nicola had to apply giving full reasons why Florence and Amelia’s, which she set up in 2014, should win.

Now the gong is taking pride of place in what will soon be the old-look store, she admits she will apply again for 2020.

Her victory has also seen an upsurge in customers and media interest – as well as a realisation that there is something big happening in Stalybridge.

“On the back of it, we had radio down speaking to me and they wanted to speak to other owners,” Nicola added.

“I listed all the independent businesses in Stalybridge and realised that a lot of them are owned and run by women.

“This award is big for Stalybridge in general. I’m vice-chair of the Town Team, so I’m really passionate about Stalybridge and it’s great there are so many small businesses here.”

Before founding Florence and Amelia’s, which will move a small distance away while, in her words, the ceiling is taken down and a few walls knocked out, Nicola worked in a legal office.

However, wanting to be around sons Jackson, now 17-years-old, and Noah, 12, saw her take the plunge.

“I’d put Noah to bed on a Wednesday and not see him again until Saturday,” the 39-year-old admitted.

“It’s often said that people who go self-employed are one of two things, unhappy in their job or in need of more family time. I was definitely the latter.

“So I drove past what is now the shop, told my husband that I wanted to set up in there and went for it.

“I’ve learned many things. You’ve always got to be self-motivated, even though there are days when I’m not but I give myself a kick up the bum.

“I’ve also built my own website and marketing was something I’d never done before. I came from a legal background and while I’ve always been creative, that side of me has evolved since I set up here.

“It’s true that you can’t always please everybody 100 per cent of the time but, touch wood, I’ve never had anyone come in and say they want a refund!”

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