Sandra Goncalves, The Flower Studios

A Wellesbourne florist who was inspired to open her shop after encouragement from her late mother is looking forward to brighter times a year on from opening.

Sandra Goncalves opened The Flower Studios on Bridge Street at the start of March 2020, fulfilling a long-held dream to run her own florists.

But not long after she opened, the first national lockdown was issued, which meant she had to prematurely close her premises.

Through her determination, the support of Wellesbourne’s residents and vital grants issued by Stratford District Council, Sandra’s business survived and she is now looking forward to restrictions easing and welcoming customers back properly.

She said: “It’s definitely been a challenging 12 months – I couldn’t really have picked a worse time to open than when I did.

“It was especially difficult during the first lockdown when trade was completely restricted. I was able to get a website set up in that time which helped, but it wasn’t easy to get myself noticed.

“I made sure to open up the shop at least a little bit just to show I was there, as not everyone likes to order flowers online. If I had closed my shop, my customers might think I had gone out of business.

“The grants from Stratford District Council were also really important to help me pay my overheads – I would have struggled without them. My landlord was also very understanding about my situation.

“Thanks to all that support, I was able to make it through, and I’m hopeful things will get better now lots of people have had the vaccine.”

Sandra, originally from the Portuguese island of Madeira, moved to the UK in 2004 and made Southam her home after having two sons and making lifelong friends in the town.

She had wanted to run her own florists for a long time, but had never acted on her ambition due to not having found the right place and the risky nature of starting a business from scratch.

However, Sandra’s mother, Clarisse, had urged her to follow her dreams and open a flower shop not long before she passed away in 2019. Sandra then decided to make her dream a reality.

“I became so determined to make my flower shop a success because of my mother,” Sandra said.

“Admittedly, I didn’t think a pandemic would arrive, but, if anything, my mother’s words helped me get through the hardest times in the last year.

“There were points where I thought I should probably give up the shop, but I never did. It’s not who I am.

“I’m glad I didn’t, because I’ve loved being in Wellesbourne despite the challenges of the past year, and I’m looking forward to restrictions easing and my customers coming back.”

Cllr Matt Jennings, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Tourism at Stratford District Council said: “It’s never easy to start a business, let alone just before a pandemic, but Sandra managed it. She made such a strong connection with everyone in Wellesbourne when she opened The Flower Studios, so it’s no surprise she attracted plenty of regular customers.

“We’re delighted the grants enabled her to stay open, and we will continue to offer advice and support to businesses who need it as we ease out of lockdown.”