Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Belfast entrepreneur set for London pop-up shop success

Louise finds a career as unusual idea for giftware proves profitable

Louise Firinne with a selection of her company Simply Rouge's product line of stationery and giftware. She now has a pop-up shop in London and has the Prince's Trust to thank for her success
Louise Firinne with a selection of her company Simply Rouge's product line of stationery and giftware. She now has a pop-up shop in London and has the Prince's Trust to thank for her success

A Belfast entrepreneur is set to sell her stationery products at a month-long pop-up shop in London after carving out a new life for herself in Northern Ireland.

Louise Firinne grew up in Australia and after an abusive childhood moved to Northern Ireland at 18 where she started Simply Rouge with the help of the Prince's Trust.

She makes "lovelies" – stationery and giftware – from crisp packets and vintage book covers and her products are selling out quickly.

Her order book includes a number of local shops and she's confident the trust's pop-up shop in London will prove a success.

It's a "good complaint to have" when the fruits of your dream job prove so popular you have to consider your options to meet demand, she told the Belfast Telegraph.

Simply Rouge was born out of her attempt to reclaim a life lived under a cloud in her early years.

Like her transformed merchandise, the craftswoman is flourishing after a rebirth.

From her sell-out stalls at St George's Market and Victoria Square, a creative blog and plans for an online shop, Louise's is a poignant story with a profitable business outcome.

And her enterprise is one of the many inspirational ventures given a foothold by the Prince's Trust's Celebrate Success award, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Louise secured the trust award five years ago, which helped her start up what was initially solely a wedding stationery business but which has burgeoned into myriad giftware. It was all so very different for her just a few years before.

Louise had suffered a traumatic and abusive childhood in her native Australia and when she moved to Belfast at 18 she had to start her life from scratch.

For a year, Louise struggled to find basic housing and eke out a living. Meanwhile, she had to cope with the mental scars from her damaged childhood.

She said: "I was severely depressed and suffered from extreme anxiety. I also didn't have money to study and had very little work experience, so I didn't know how I would ever find a job."

Louise remained unemployed for eight years, but found an outlet through creativity.

"Someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life and it was like a revelation – no-one had ever asked me that before. I realised I could turn my passion for arts and crafts into a career."

Louise started a cake decorating course but eventually decided to try and start her own wedding stationery business after securing a place on the Prince's Trust's Enterprise programme.

Within months, her company, Simply Rouge, was born and her product lines include paper jewellery – she also turns Tayto crisp wrappers into pencil cases.

From her studio in Conway Mill, Louise now has big plans to develop an online shop.

"I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the help I received from The Prince's Trust," says Louise.

Young prosper on lifelines thrown by Prince's Trust

Since 1976 the Prince's Trust has been helping young adults build a life they choose rather than languish in the one thrown at them.

It offers a multitude of entrepreneurial lifelines to people, like Louise Firinne, from grants and enterprise programmes to mentoring and training.

Ultimately it aims to help disenfranchised young people find gainful employment – and a purpose in life.

Statistics from the charity reveal that approximately one in five young people in the UK are not in work, education or training.

Against that backdrop is a UK economy which loses £10m every day in lost productivity from the current generation of youths who are unemployed.

Meanwhile the UK suffers £1bn in losses caused by youth crime – every year.

The trust, whose patron is the Prince of Wales, aims to inspire, but also to offer practical and financial support to the young people who need it most.

Initiatives include the Enterprise Programme, which provides money and support to help young people start up in business.

The Team Programme is another one of its projects and is a 12-week personal development course, offering work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community projects and a residential week.

There is also a series of short 'Get Started' courses offering intensive training and experience in a specific sector to help young people get a job.

Development Awards are among the small grants available to kickstart young adults to seek to improve their lot in life through education, training or work.

Prince's Trust xl clubs give 13 to 19-year-olds who are at risk of truanting, exclusion and underachievement a vested interest in their education.

They aim to improve attendance, motivation and social skills.

Another scheme, the Fairbridge programme, strives to equip people aged from 13 to 25 with the motivation, self-confidence and skills they need to really make a difference in their lives.

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