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Blossoming Success

Vanessa Udall runs three thriving companies, and yet still manages to find time to help other local businesses. T&L finds out why

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do…
I have always been a busy person – my first job when I was 13 was in a fish and chip shop. I initially trained as a childcarer and then moved into recruitment and became a regional manager. I had the best time, but then marriage and my two sons came along, and I felt it was the right time to branch out and be my own boss. I can’t believe that was around 16 years ago.

So how did you acquire Tinies, the childcare agency you run?
The opportunity arose to buy the nanny agency franchise I worked for. Now I’ve acquired another three, and we cover most of Surrey and south west London. Over the years the business has evolved beyond all recognition, as we’ve now moved into the education sector providing for schools as well as nurseries. We also have an emergency childcare department. It keeps us very busy.

Then came along The House of Flowers?
Yes, I was driving along the parade at Carshalton Beeches, and saw a shop that was unloved and looking sad. It was struggling and up for sale. I investigated it and I thought I could use all the skills that I’d learned – even though I had no retail or floristry experience. I just love how flowers can bring so much joy.

It’s been a huge success...
In a short space of time we’ve really managed to turn around a struggling business. We now have a fantastic, loyal client base and it’s going from strength to strength. I guess I must have a creative streak as I really enjoy coming up with solutions for customers, whether it’s a theme for a party, or a pretty spring bunch to give to mum because she’s had a bad day. Weddings are a big part of what we do and I always go that extra mile to ensure everything looks wonderful for my couples’ special day. In fact, we are really proud to have recently been highly commended in the 2017 Wedding Industry Awards.

Do you think part of your success is giving something back to the community?
I really do. Because not only is it rewarding but it means we get right into the heart of the community. We help with various charities and donate plants to a local garden centre community project. I also help organise a Christmas community event called Beeches Yulefest, where all funds are donated to local causes. The last one was our fourth year and the best yet.

How do you help other local businesses prosper?
I started The Today Club three years ago after I had attended numerous networking events which were very male driven, and I wanted something different that gave me and my business a voice. We hold two free events per year, and have had some great successes. My other business, Events by Inspire, also showcases local talent and suppliers. So for me, working with local businesses is a privilege.

How do you manage to fit it all in around your personal life?
Managing my work life has been difficult at times and I have to say I couldn’t do it without my long-suffering husband. In the early days I always tried to ensure my sons saw me attend important events, and I have learned family really is more important than any business issue. I also have the most brilliant team behind me.

Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Learn to look at each opportunity and ask yourself is this best use of my time? Work to your strengths and pull upon those around you for support. Asking for help is not a sign of failure. And lastly, run your business, don’t let your business run you.

To find out more about Vanessa’s businesses, visit www.thehouse.florist or www.tinies.com. To join The Today Club, visit www.todaynetworking.co.uk

Vanessa Udall