A young design student from the West Midlands with a 'yen' for Japanese culture has set up her own online business selling T-shirts with an oriental theme.
Bonnie Young, 21, is still in her second year of a graphics communications degree at Wolverhampton University. But thanks to expert advice from Business Link West Midlands, she has clinched a £2,000 loan from The Prince's Trust to get her business, Cute Culture Clothing, off to a flying start.
Now, after attending a specialist start-up course, she is marrying her new-found business skills with her artistic talents to make her mark in the world of international trade.
The young entrepreneur buys in plain, quality T-shirts and has them printed locally, to order, with her own designs featuring cute or, kawaii in Japanese, words and symbols which are in hot demand among fashion-conscious young people.
"My idea started last summer when, after doing so much work at university, I got bored during the holidays and wanted to do something productive. I've always been interested in Japanese culture and I'd heard about a girl doing very well selling T-shirts online," she said.
"It gave me the idea for my own company and, with my parents being in business themselves, they encouraged me to seek advice from Business Link West Midlands.
"Through attending their course I met some very useful people and found out about The Prince's Trust, one of their specialist enterprise providers.
"After a lot of research and an interview, the Trust approved a £2,000 business loan as well as providing me with a mentor to support me for my first two years."
Bonnie has already designed her own web-site - www.cutecultureclothing.co.uk - and, using her loan, bought in her first stock to begin trading from her parents' home in Shrewsbury.
Alongside her cute range of women's T shirts modelled by university friend Hayley Sankar, she is designing an anti-cute male version - which her helpful boyfriend, Simon Mills, also aged 21, has agreed to model.
She also has plans to expand her range into hooded tops, bags and underwear.
Bonnie said: "The interest in Japanese style is really growing in the Western world and my friends at uni have all been admiring the Tshirts so I'm hoping there's a ready-made market among people of my age. Also, as I'm selling over the internet, my business can attract international customers."
Janice Betteridge, aged 50, is a Prince's Trust volunteer who will be combining working for an internet marketing company with mentoring Bonnie throughout her first years in business.
"Bonnie is an extremely talented designer who is very driven and confident in what she is doing. I am very happy to share with her the benefit of my business experience and, hopefully, will be able to pass on some marketing tips.
"One of the things we will be looking at is how to get sponsored links so that more potential customers visit her website. We anticipate the online business may get off to a slow start and, because of this, we will also be looking to interest local wholesalers in the T-shirts."
Bonnie will be meeting up with Janice on a monthly basis during her first year's trading followed by quarterly meetings in her second year. Her business grant is to be repaid after two years at a minimal rate of interest.