DOWN-TO-EARTH Tonie Zanatti still looks back with fondness to being one of the team who used to pack tea bags at the Liptons factory in Leighton Buzzard.
But following redundancy and odd jobs here and there Tonie, who has strong family links in Luton, has well and truly found her market niche with a specialist shop selling dresses for mothers of the bride and groom.
Despite opening in the teeth of the downturn, Tonie’s shop, Love Mum x (that’s x as in kiss!) in North Street, Leighton Buzzard, has gone from strength to strength.
And in November last year she won the new business of the year category at the Rising Stars Bedfordshire and Luton Business Excellence Awards. The category was sponsored by Bedford Borough Council.
“Opening the shop was the best thing I’ve done,” said Tonie, who adds: “I find that mothers of the bride have saved up for years for their daughter’s wedding and for them money is almost no object.”
Tonie’s eureka moment when she realised she might have something to work with came when her own son got married and she had difficulty finding a specialist shop.
“I thought I have to give it a go or I might regret it and it’s turned out so well,” she said, adding that winning the award provided a useful kick-start for her own business which is now two years old.
But she is the first to admit that having a supportive local business community has also been a tremendous help. Sitting just outside the town centre it has also benefited from lower rates.
Her neat little shop, offering imported labels such as Mon Cheri and Occasion Montage, sits in what has become known as Leighton Buzzard’s Wedding Courtyard.
Here nine businesses including a bridal gown specialist, wedding cakes and caterers, all work together providing the high street equivalent of a one-stop area for knot-tying couples.
> Visit www.lovemumx.co.uk
> Watch our video interview with Tonie at www.lutontoday.co.uk/news/business.