Trainee teacher Rachel Lowe has come up with a crafty idea for her own business.
Rachel, 27, is originally from Dudley in the West Midlands but has lived in Sunderland for the last six years and is now in the final year of her education studies degree at the University of Sunderland.
To be honest it just started off as a little hobby, but as I became more involved in working with small businesses, and studying for my degree, I realised I could combine the two.Rachel Lowe
Now her love of her adopted city has inspired her to open her own shop, Rock Paper Bears, in Hendon.
“I started my own business as I saw a lot of negativity towards Sunderland,” says Rachel. “I wanted to do something that helped support small and independent businesses.”
Rachel started out promoting local businesses on Facebook while running fairs and markets, but soon realised she could promote these businesses and also encourage children and adults to get involved in crafts that would perhaps inspire them into further study – while having fun.
Rachel approached the university’s Enterprise Place to test her idea, who gave her advice on how to shape her original online business, helped her access marketing courses, and helped with the initial set up of Rock Paper Bears online.
Her next step was to work with the North East Business and Innovation Centre, who helped her progress the business from an online presence to a shop premises.
“To be honest, it just started off as a little hobby, but as I became more involved in working with small businesses, and studying for my degree, I realised I could combine the two,” she said.
“Bear is the name of my dog, Rosie Bear, so the name is a reminder to do and be with the things that you love – and a name that I hope people won’t forget.”
Rachel’s aim is to make the shop a real resource for her community, with daytime craft sessions for children, and adult evening sessions for crafts, pamper nights, board game nights and student workshops.
The university’s Internships and Enterprise project is receiving up to £2,207,656 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.