Belfast Telegraph

Getting to the art of sweet successs

Two very differernt companies are attracting new custom by complementing one another discovers Heather McGarrigle

It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but two Belfast businesswomen are working together to turn poster paint and pear drops into profit.

Sweet Thing, Emma Dunn’s charming, traditional sweet shop on the Belmont Road, provides the only entrance to Jolie Dennison’s art studio upstairs.

People attending one of Jolie’s art parties or workshops first have to walk past jars of tempting treats. Similarly, the shop’s customers see the artist’s work on the shop walls, along with literature about her workshops and art parties.

Emma left her job as a credit controller to open Sweet Thing in December 2010, having spotted a niche for an old-fashioned sweet shop in the area.

As well as tapping into the fashionable ‘vintage’ trend, there are several schools nearby, which provide busy afternoon trade.

But rather than rely solely on these factors, she wanted to build her new venture upon a strong collaboration.

“I rent a three-storey building and I had it written into the lease that I would eventually sub-let the upstairs space to someone whose work would complement my business.

“My landlord put me in touch with Jolie, who had been looking for studio space in the area.”

Jolie has always been an advocate of businesses working together for mutual benefit and has undertaken several collaborative projects, including joint exhibitions and shared studio space with other artists, as well as party packages with hairdressing firms.

She says: “It just makes so much sense to collaborate where you can — to share knowledge, customers, ideas and resources.”

The two women hosted their first family fun day in June, with Jolie offering free painting and a Father’s Day card craft workshop, and Emma providing the sweet treats.

They hope to do more of the same in the future, with Sweet Thing providing sugary refreshment for Jolie’s parties and workshops and the shop in turn receiving custom artworks from Ms Dennison — which she calls ‘The Sweet Collection’ — to adorn its walls and further illustrate the connection between the two businesses.

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