A former seamstress with a flair for wedding dress design has launched her own bridal boutique.
Julie Cooper decided to turn her passion for wedding wear into a full-time business venture and with the help of the North East Rural Growth Network has now opened Ivory and Gold Bridal Boutique in Trimdon.
The shop, a former community centre based at Redesdale Shopping Centre, sells sourced dresses as well as designs Mrs Cooper has created herself, as well as wedding accessories including bridesmaid dresses, shoes and tiaras.
Mrs Cooper, a seamstress for 40 years, said: “After having children I went back to work in a completely different role as an assistant at a convenience store.
“Within five years I was promoted to assistant manager and then manager and it was in this role I learned how to run a business.
“I’d also worked in a bridal shop in the past and decided I really wanted to combine these passions and my skills as a seamstress to launch my own bridal boutique.
“I started looking into the idea seriously and knew the unit at Redesdale Shopping Centre was standing empty, so I enquired into the possibility of taking it on.
“I also approached East Durham Business Service about getting support to set the business up and with the planning process and I was lucky enough to be eligible for assistance through the North East Rural Growth Network programme which was a bonus.
“Once I’d done all of the planning and preparation behind the scenes, it was then all hands on deck to gut the shop and get it ready for opening and I must admit when I see it now I am so proud.”
Julie runs Ivory and Gold Bridal Boutique on her own but does call on the services of her wedding make-up artist daughter Carrie-Anne Smith when she needs an extra pair of hands.
As well as the range of dresses and accessories she stocks, Julie also offers customers an alterations service, both on wedding and general wear.
Sarah Marshall, East Durham Business Service’s Rural Enterprise Development Officer, worked with Mrs Cooper to get the business ready for launch.
She said: “Julie came to see me with a clear idea of what she wanted to achieve and I was so impressed with her determination and desire to turn her idea into a viable business. When you see the boutique now compared to what it was like just a few months ago, it’s clear how hard she has worked to get it ready. She’s done a brilliant job.
“It’s people like Julie that the North East Rural Growth Network programme is there to benefit.”