Big thank you from

Jenny Munro talks to Ann Cunningham

Ann Cunningham ANN Cunningham, 56, owns Glenavy Florists and Gifts. She lives near Crumlin with her husband Frank. They have five grown up children and 14 grand children.

Ann spent many years working as a florist and studied management at college. Last year she decided to set up her own business and hasn't looked back since. Her business is thriving and she is enjoying working for herself.

Recently Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer and is about to embark on radiotherapy treatment. Despite this she remains positive and says running the business and having the support of her family is helping her through her illness.

I get up at lam and get myself ready before heading to the wholesalers in Lisburn at 8.30am. I think about the orders I have received and what flowers I will need to get. I sort this out the night before and then the next morning I know exactly what I need. As well as the flowers, I might have to stock up on sundries such as oasis, baskets, ribbons, silk flowers and paper. The wholesalers is great as everything is under the one roof.

My main emphasis for my business is freshness - I maintain that my customers should be able to select the freshest flowers and I pride myself on the length of time the they will get from the flowers they buy from me.

When I get back to the shop I sort out the flowers, cut the stems, dead-head the leaves at the bottom of the stems, water and condition them with flower food. Then I will start to arrange the flowers and put them into display stands. Next I will look at the order list and begin to sort out the bouquets and arrangements, which have to be delivered throughout the day My husband helps me with the deliveries.

Gifts are a big part of my business. I especially cater for people who need to buy a gift at the last minute. I have the Willowtree franchise and sell their beautiful trinkets and gifts. If I know a customer is looking to purchase something to bring to someone in hospital, I will ask them what type of ward they will be visiting - if it is a ward I know won't allow flowers then I'll suggest an alternative gift.

I sell angel collectables and these are very popular and I stock range of jewellery too. Once every two months I go to the south of Ireland to see my jewellery supplier and look at their new stock. I enjoy doing this. I do like to meet suppliers and attend trade shows and wedding fayres - this is a good way of keeping my finger on the pulse and finding out what is going on in the industry as well as attracting new business.

Throughout the day I will be serving customers, offering them advice and putting together orders. I have been poorly recently but I am recovering and I don't have time to be sick. Keeping busy is the best way for me to deal with things and helps me stay positive. I am very fortunate to have such a great family too.

I normally close the shop at 5pm and go home but sometimes I have out of hours appointments with brides-to-be to discuss the flowers they want at their wedding. My husband and I regularly go to a nearby hotel to use the sauna and Jacuzzi facilities and Frank goes for a run too. It's very relaxing for us both. When we have finished we will go back home and have a light dinner.

Most nights I enjoy catching up with friends and family and when I have time I write short stories and poetry. I get a lot of pleasure from this. By 10.30pm I am ready to go bed.

Ulster Star