When walking through Clarendon Park in Leicester, it would be hard to miss the stunning mural painting and bright colours at Karma Corner Gifts – an appropriate prelude to the beautifully-made, eye-catching gifts that can be seen inside.
At the heart of this popular boutique gift shop is Sally Birch, who, having heard about The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, took the steps forward to borrow an interest-free business loan from the Charity, and hasn’t looked back since.
Sally begins her story by explaining how a change in career direction from education to business owner first came about.
“I was previously a secondary English teacher, working in a school with children with emotional and social mental health needs,” Sally explained.
“I had worked in education for over 10 years and during lockdown was looking for a change of direction. Years ago, I used to work for Habitat and managed the ground-floor home department for many years, so going back to my retail roots was very appealing. Also, having a better home-work like balance was very important to me. I have two teenage sons and during lockdown I realised I wanted to spend more time with my family.”
With motivation to pursue a new opportunity, Sally decided to do what so many STWLC business loan borrowers have done before: follow their one true passion.
“I opened up Karma Corner Gifts – a boutique gift shop in Clarendon Park,” Sally continued.
“I offer one-off and unique gifts, many hand-made or quirky and unusual. I hand pick everything, so I like to know the story behind my products and enjoy passing this message on to my customers. There isn’t another shop like mine locally. I really try hard to source products you can’t find everywhere else.
“I like to source as many of my products that I can locally and support other small businesses. There are lots of creative people in Leicester and helping them to fulfil their ambitions is something I love being a part of. My shop being part of the surrounding community is really important to me.”
So, where does STWLC come in to Sally’s brave entrepreneurship journey?
“My mum, many years ago, had told me about the Charity; she passed away 10 years ago, so I’m so thrilled she still has had an input on my business,” Sally reflected.
“I have used the funds to help start my business, sourcing stock and enabling me to attend some trade fairs. I’ve also allocated some money to build and start my online business by creating a website, that’s my next objective. I had a mural painted on the outside of my shop to make it stand out. The shop previously had no fixtures or fittings, so I had to invest in those and everything that was needed to have a new lifestyle start up!”
Thinking back to before her interest-free business loan was approved, Sally remembered the first stages of the process with the Charity:
“The application and interview was fairly straight forward. I was naturally nervous as I wanted my passion and enthusiasm to come across, but I also wanted to demonstrate that I have a good business mind and that I had created quite a robust business plan. After I had my interview, I was really pleased with myself. It was a big step to have taken, but the first step in a totally new direction.”
With heads turning towards Karma Corner, and with plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future, Sally concluded with some kind words on STWLC’s offer of interest-free business loans, which are available up to £20,000 for nine years, with nothing to repay in the first three.
“It’s played a pivotal role in helping me start my business, one I shall be eternally grateful for,” Sally said, when asked about the Charity’s impact.
“Not only has it supported me financially, which has been crucial, but it has also helped to build my confidence and allow me to grow my business knowing I have the backing of some great, successful business people. I could not recommend STWLC enough! It is a fantastic charity that have a brilliant team of people waiting in the wings to support and contribute to a new business.”
For more information on STWLC’s interest-free business loans, please click here