Elen Oakenfull, Florence Wren Traditional Sweet Shop in York - My First Job

PUBLISHED: 00:16 28 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:22 20 February 2013

Elen Oakenfull,  Florence Wren Traditional Sweet Shop in York - My First Job

Elen Oakenfull, Florence Wren Traditional Sweet Shop in York - My First Job

Elen Oakenfull, owner of Florence Wren Traditional Sweet Shop in York, chews over her career so far


The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

Elen Oakenfull, owner of Florence Wren Traditional Sweet Shop in York, chews over her career so far

What was your first job?
After leaving university and getting married, I wanted a job that would be flexible enough to fit round the family, so I started my own childcare business from home. My four children enjoyed having a constant stream of playmates and I had the privilege of supporting several children from pre-school right through to secondary.

I enjoyed the variety. No two days were the same; I might be setting up a painting activity or taking 10 children to the National Railway Museum. I also liked the fact that I could make my own decisions and, after 14 years in the job,

I decided to move into training childminders with the National Childminding Association.

What lessons did it teach you?
The childminding business ensured I could juggle both my business and
my family. It also taught me to take each challenge as it comes.


How has your career progressed?
The economic downturn meant there were funding cuts at work, so I took voluntary redundancy and set up my own business again. York has lots of great independent shops and cafes and my husband Mike and I thought we could do something like that. We wanted to combine his skills as a museum designer and my passion for working with people to do something different.


People said we were mad to start a new business in a recession, but we felt people were looking for a bit of whimsy and an inexpensive, fun way to treat themselves. And so the idea for Florence Wren was born. We wanted to remind older people how sweetshops used to be and introduce the experience to a younger generation.


We thought hard about the look of the shop, from the old fashioned sweet jars to the blue and white striped bags and the automata of Florence on her flying machine, which we commissioned specially.

What do you enjoy about your job now?
There is a real community spirit among the independent shops, cafes and businesses in the Gillygate and Bootham Bar area. I also enjoy the immediate feedback of selling and having a chat with customers. Most have a story to tell or a memory of their favourite sweet to share.

Whats next for you?
Although we have only been open a few months, we want to expand and develop our gift range. People also keep asking whether our sweets are available online, so we want to get our website up and running as soon as possible.

What advice would you give?
Follow your instincts and do lots of research. When we were starting out, we spoke to as many independent shop owners as possible. We also went to Business Link classes, which helped to focus us on what needed to be done to get our shop beyond an idea. Take all the help and advice on offer and then decide what works for you.

Latest from the Yorkshire Life