Some apprentices play a vital role in a small business from the very beginning. Before Lauren Henderson even opened her florist shop, A Ray of Sunshine, she had Danielle Johnson in mind as an apprentice.
Lauren and Danielle had met while they were both doing placements at another shop. Although both women were also doing the same course at East Durham College, Lauren was two years ahead of her future apprentice. She recalls her journey to business ownership and creating the Apprenticeship:
“I‘d been to college to learn floristry. As part of the course, I had to do a placement and by chance there was a girl doing her placement in the same shop – Danielle. When I decided to open my own shop, I knew she needed somewhere to finish the Apprenticeship that she’d already begun so I asked if she’d join me.”
For Lauren it’s important that Danielle has learned specific techniques and that the two operate as a team with common goals.
“Danielle is trained up to work in this shop. Even if it’s just making a bouquet, we each know what the other one wants and we work really well together. It just works.”
Because the shop was so new, Lauren appreciated having someone to share the pressure with:
“In a way, Danielle and I have set up the business together, she’s been a big help, although it’s been all my money, stress and worry! Danielle has really helped – she’s been there from the start. It’s always good to have someone to reassure you that your work’s good when it’s sent out because it can be hard when you’re just starting.”
Lauren is committed to the idea of continual learning, growing the business’s offering and making sure that new skills are introduced and innovative methods explored. This is a way of thinking that she applies to herself, as well as to her apprentice.
“Danielle can do everything that I ask and we sometimes teach each other. We both do everything – everything I ask Danielle to do, I’ll do myself. I want to give her the opportunity to try everything out because that’s how you learn. She’s really good and she can help with the other side of the business too – marketing, the books… Hopefully I’ll be able to make her a full time, permanent employee.”
Asked how she went about formally initiating the Apprenticeship, Lauren explains:
“We just spoke to the college. Because I’d been there two years previously, I knew the lecturers so it was very straightforward. Danielle goes to college once a week every Monday. She gets given her work to do and she just has to collect her evidence in the shop. It all goes in with her coursework so she learns the theory at college and she gets to put it into practice in the shop. Work Based Floristry Level 2 is the name of the qualification Danielle will get.”
Taking on an apprentice was always part of Lauren’s wider business plan. The young businesswoman took advice from relatives who also run small businesses:
“My dad’s got his own business and so has my uncle. And I know other people who have had apprentices as well. Everyone told me that both parties – the business and the apprentice – benefit. The business gets to train someone to do things in a particular way. For the apprentice, I think it’s better to learn a job in that job because it gives you the hands-on skills, as well as the qualification.”