A woman who set up her own travel business in the front room of her Grimsby home has been able to open her first shop after winning a regional enterprise competition.
Sharon Allen, of Laceby, threw open the doors of her new business base earlier this month after winning the Apprentice Retailer contest, organised by Freshney Place Shopping Centre and the Business Hive Club. Impressing the judges with her business model, expertise and determination, she won the top prize of a unit at Freshney Place completely free from rent, rates, insurance fees and service charges for six months.
Working with her husband Jim, Ms Allen – who is the only accredited Cruise Master in the area – has now opened national travel franchise GoCruise’s first ever outlet at the shopping centre, arranging all types of holidays ranging from ocean cruises and package holidays to ski holidays and city breaks. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, including international travel agent work in Canada and teaching travel and tourism.
Ms Allen said: “This is an absolute dream come true for us. I took on a franchise with GoCruise in 2014 and straight away knew that this was a business I could really build and take forward. As we began to attract more and more clients it became apparent that we would need to find a space to set up shop to take the business to the next level, but the cost was making that seem increasingly unlikely.”
So when Freshney Place Shopping Centre teamed up with The Business Hive Club in 2015 to find a budding entrepreneur with a big future, Sharon jumped at the opportunity.
Amanda Austin, centre director of Freshney Place Shopping Centre and one of the judges of the competition, said she was thrilled that Sharon had entered the contest.“The aim of the competition was to not only provide a fledgling business with a cost-free unit, but also to give the winner the same support and assistance as we would any retailer at Freshney Place – particularly our independent retailers. As well being able to draw on our knowledge and support in everything from marketing and operating procedures to customer service, Sharon will also receive business mentoring from two of our most experienced retailers.”