Having the right skills can make the difference…

January 26, 2018

Suzi Smith discovered – Having the right skills can really make the difference…

After a career in social work, Suzi Smith decided she wanted a change of scene. And while running a flower shop in Maryport might, at first glance, seem to be as far removed from her previous job as possible, according to Suzi her old skills have stood her in good stead.

“People want flowers for all sorts of different reasons, sometimes for very personal occasions and customers often want to talk about it,” she says. “Social work is an emotional job and flowers are an emotional product, and often it’s the case that I’ll find myself offering some counselling while I’m making up an arrangement!”

Most of the time, though, Suzi’s customers are just fascinated to see her putting her skills to work and that, she says, gives her the greatest satisfaction of all. It’s vindication that, at 57, you’re never too old to learn something new.

“I gave up work to look after my mum, who was terminally ill, which I did for three months,” Suzi says. “The outcome of that is you start to re-evaluate what is important in life, and I found myself at a crossroads – do I go back into social work or do something else?”

Despite no formal experience, Suzi decided to open The Enchanted Florist in May 2016, but while she had a natural eye for flower arranging, it wasn’t long before she realised that in order to boost her business, she needed proper expertise. After searching online she discovered that the only Cumbrian establishment offering a qualification in floristry was Newton Rigg College, near Penrith.

Suzi enrolled on a City & Guilds Level 2 certificate course, and has recently completed her first year.

“The course combines practical activities with theory,” she says. “You are expected to go away and research various aspects of floristry – the Latin names of flowers, for instance – and then the tutor will demonstrate an arrangement style which you practice a couple of times before doing it under exam conditions.

“The skills I learned at Newton Rigg have given me the confidence to manage and hold stock, so it lasts longer, which means that my profits are gradually increasing,” she says.

Later this year, Suzi plans to complete the second half of the City & Guilds course which will result in the award of a diploma, with support from The Edge project.