I've never come away from visiting a local business without feeling inspired. The energy, enthusiasm, and drive it takes to run a business is always contagious for me and as you know, I visit an awful lot of local businesses!
So it was with Maria Allen Jewellery. Like so many of our brilliant enterprises it's tucked away within one of our neighbourhoods, in this case close to Hove Station.
Maria went to school locally and between bouts of travelling went to City College. As a student she made things, mostly jewellery, and sold them on. She loved it, had a real passion for it, and turned it into a business.
Her story is so similar to many other people, including me, who's been involved in setting up a business. A brilliant idea turns into an all-encompassing passion matched with determination which leads to the craziness of turning a home into a factory! In this case, Maria's mum's home because the production and distribution centre for her enterprise and the photos she showed me of this period was hysterical.
Today, after periods of huge risk and bravery, Maria has a wonderful set of offices where they create and sculpt stunning pieces of art and jewellery, personalise it with etching and engraving, and dispatch it around the world. She is surrounded by a wonderful team - that still includes her mum - and the atmosphere in the office is purposeful, relaxed, and clearly huge fun too.
They even made me a gift - a trendy wood-lined thermos that's personalised with my initials, which I'm loving in my Hove office!
I learned a lot from the visit. Maria needs to expand but wants to stay local which is difficult due to the lack of new commercial space. She's ambitious for her business but wants to retain the culture, and she wants to be plugged into our local community but finds it difficult to find enough time because running a business is tough and demanding. These are pressures many of you face too and I'm keen to hear about your experiences of setting up, growing, and running a local business because this is one area I relentlessly champion in parliament.
In the meantime, huge thanks to the team at Maria Allen Jewellery for being so welcoming, I can't wait to see you grow, succeed, and play a bigger role in our community through taking on apprenticeships and inspiring others to set up their own businesses. All the best, Peter