As the head of the business forum for Shifnal and the owner/manager of Blue, Jan Park has been trading successfully in the town for the last 14 years. Jan is a passionate and forward-thinking retail professional and when she became aware that via the National Skills Academy for Retail she could access the support of a specialist retail business mentor she was quick to do so.
Retail mentor Mark O’Dolan, is part of the Grey4Gold network who work in partnership with the National Skills Academy for Retail (NSAR), and he was able to support Jan through funding the NSAR had secured from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, specifically to support small retail businesses.
After a successful career as a university lecturer in Art and Design, Jan moved into retail a number of years ago but her professionalism and passion for the business still burns just as brightly.
Blue is already being used as an unofficial centre of retail excellence by Mark and you can see why. Like many of the retailers in the town, Jan is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what she does but she is equally clear that this is a business and needs to be profitable so she is just as comfortable talking about margin and profitability as she is about the latest trends.
“People just don’t recognise the breadth of skills and experience you need to run a successful retail business,” she tells me “it’s a profession and you need to treat it as such if you want to succeed.”
Visiting Blue and hearing from Jan how she approaches every aspect of her business you can see just why she is so successful but she still recognised the value in having an experienced senior retail professional come in to support her – even if that was just to reassure her that she was getting it right.
“Mark has been brilliant,” she says, “not just for me but for the whole town.” “I want the town to be filled with great retailers. The more great stores there are, the more people will visit and that benefits us all, and Mark is really helping to make that happen.”
As the head of the town’s business forum, Jan is constantly striving to get the retailers in the town to work more closely together and she sees skills and training as being central to its success.
“Some retailers were hesitant to take up the offer of support at first but are now actively seeking out Mark when they hear he is visiting to ask him if he can help them too,” says Jan and she is now looking at additional courses and training that they can provide for the town’s retailers.
“There is still some way to go and we see the continued support of Mark as essential in helping us to build a successful future for the town’s retailers.”
To find out more about business mentors as well as a wider range of courses and services on offer please visit the website www.nsaforretail.com