Nicol Lamb is adding a bit of pink to The Green in Southwick, Sunderland, after realising her childhood dream to open her own baby boutique.
Little Lambs Boutique has certainly been catching the eye of shoppers since opening its candy pink doors, having already earned itself a loyal fan base with parents and little ones alike.
But there’s a smart business brain behind the sweet façade, with Nicol working with the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) to develop the type of retail offer that can compete with the growing trend of online shopping.
Specialising in Spanish designer wear for babies and children, as well as accessories, gifts and prams, Little Lambs is now attracting shoppers with its combination of quality products and a personal service.
Nicol said: “We all know the high street is really struggling at the moment so we aim to give people a real reason to shop locally. By providing a lovely shopping experience, unusual stock at competitive prices and a personal service, we are a genuine alternative to online shopping.
“We’ve already had so much support from the community and it’s lovely to be part of local life. People often send me photos of their children wearing my clothes and the Little Lamb community is really growing. It’s very rewarding to see my customers so happy when they find something they love and their children enjoy wearing.”
Nicol sought help from the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) to get her business off the ground and was supported through its start-up programme by business adviser Margaret Cook.
Nicol said: “I spent two years preparing this and Margaret walked me through each step – from researching the market and putting a business plan together to securing a loan.
I’ve tested my products by selling them online and at markets and I had a part-time job in the children’s department of a chain store to learn the trade and understand the trends in retailing.
“Margaret has been there, right by my side, throughout – offering guidance and support and I’m extremely grateful for that. I honestly could not have done this without her.”
Nicol is the third member of her family to set up shop in Southwick. Her uncle Brian ran Homes Second Hand Furniture for 30 years on The Green and cousin Laura ran City Furnishings from the old post office before Nicol moved in. Nicol’s mam and dad also run their own upholstery business in Kayll Road.
“I think entrepreneurship is in my blood! I’ve always wanted to do this,” Nicol added. “I’d been waiting for the perfect place to open the shop and was over the moon when my uncle said this was available – it’s lovely to carry on the family tradition and eventually I hope my sister can even join me in the business.”
The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC)’s start-up programme is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).