Business is blooming for a Birmingham mother-of-six who turned over a new leaf and became a florist following years of unemployment.
Budding entrepreneur Janet Braithwaite, of Nechells, had been out of work for six years before getting help from Pertemps Employment Alliance to establish a florist shop at Bordesley Green.
Now, with her business - JB's Flowers - showing healthy signs of growth, the future looks rosy. She is planning to recruit two assistants and move into larger premises.
Most of her business involves weddings, funerals and special occasions such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.
Ms Braithwaite studied floristry at Matthew Boulton College and Sandwell College for three years, gaining expertise and qualifications.
She said: "I had been unemployed for several years while bringing up my children but I had gone to college to study floristry and had this dream that I wanted to open my own shop.
"To be honest, I was a bit scared because I had no idea what to do or where to start."
However, under the Employment Zone and Lone Parent initiatives, her PEA employment coach helped her put together a cashflow forecast and business plan, and provided guidance as she searched for suitable premises. PEA also provided a #1,000 grant to help with rent and marketing costs.
She added: "When I first opened the shop some people were a bit sceptical about whether I could make it a success.
"My reputation has grown by word of mouth and the business just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I'm planning to expand into larger premises and would like to recruit a couple of assistants."
Daughter Shamwara, aged 21, who is studying for a degree in art and design, often helps her mother in the shop.
She said: "All the children love the shop. We are very proud of what mum has achieved."
Maggie Jones, centre manager at PEA's Nechells offices, said: "Janet is a great example to many lone parents of what they can achieve given the right support and the will to win.
"She had worked but had to leave to care for her children and couldn't find a job flexible enough to fit in with her situation. Her dream was to become self employed but she didn't know how to go about it and didn't have the confidence, self esteem or motivation.
"She decided to take a chance. She discussed all her fears with her adviser and the challenges she faced in life, as well as her goal to become self employed. It is wonderful to see that with help and support Janet now runs her own successful florist shop and may soon be in a position to offer opportunities to other unemployed local people."
And Pertemps Employment Alliance has also helped singing coach Lynette Whyte. She has launched the Anointed Vocal Academy based at the Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham.
Winner of a Business Link Black Aspirations award, the mother-of-four, from Perry Barr, wants to work with schools, community groups, ex-offenders and disabled people to provide therapy through music.
To get off the ground she was given more than #900 of funding for furniture, rent, insurance, and a printer to enable her to produce marketing literature. Employment coach David Schofield also helped her produce a business plan and cash-flow forecast.
She said: "Singing tuition is often too expensive for most people. I want to provide it at a price most people can afford so that they can come along and sing just for fun, as a hobby, to keep them off the streets, or even to pursue a professional career," said Ms Whyte.
"Lots of people have a dream to become a singer and I can help them actually realise that dream."