The Apprentice 2017 semi-finalist, Elizabeth McKenna, recently took some time to speak to Brooksby Melton College about her time there as a Floristry student.
Elizabeth, who lives in Nottinghamshire and owns her own successful business, Elizabeth McKenna Flowers, studied her Level 3 Floristry qualification at Brooksby Melton College back in 1995-7, and still returns to the on-site wedding venue, Brooksby Hall, from time-to-time to provide wedding flowers.
After completing her Level 3 Floristry qualification in the summer of 1997, Elizabeth started her first Floristry business, Busy Lizzies, which she ran for four years. She then went on to complete a Degree in International Relations and Global Politics, combined with Heritage Management, at Nottingham Trent University. She now owns a series of flower shops in Nottinghamshire, and has recently launched Lizzie’s Bundles, a new venture based on her business plan from The Apprentice, which enables customers to choose the colour, bundle and size of their arrangement, for next-day nationwide delivery.
When speaking about her time at BMC, Elizabeth said ‘My most memorable times at BMC include huddling around the electric heater at the Spinney Campus, where the Floristry courses used to run, and sitting in the Portakabin at break times, attempting to warm up with hot chocolate and chatting to the Agriculture students. I also have fond memories of jumping in the bin, which is a skill that every Florist should have!
BMC really provided me with a sense of camaraderie, as I made many new friends during my time there, several of whom I have remained in touch with as we have progressed along our individual career paths. Studying at BMC was a formative experience for me that I really loved; aside from the important Floristry skills that I learned, I found a friendly, supportive peer group, which I had never before experienced.
The Brooksby Campus has been a prominent feature in my life as, not only did I attend as a Floristry student, but my mum was also a cook at the College in the 1960s and my uncle studied Agriculture there after the Second World War. My uncle always spoke very fondly of the College.’
When asked about her late BMC Floristry tutor, Naomi Strachan, Elizabeth said ‘Naomi saw a spark in me that she took the time to mentor – she gave me the inspiration to go further in my career and I will always have a lot of respect for her. Without her drive, her knowledge, her visions and her love, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was so touched by the students who attended Naomi’s funeral and provided the floral displays for the occasion.
Elizabeth also spoke to BMC about her time as a candidate on The Apprentice: ‘Being on the 2017 series of The Apprentice was an excellent opportunity for me to see whether my grassroots, rural skills would be enough to take on big city business. I am a huge fan of the show and I was in it to win it from the very beginning. I was able to show that my business skills are relevant and credible, and the love that I have received from the British public has been truly heart-warming. My primary goal was to earn the respect of Lord Sugar, Karen and Claude, and I think that I did that: they know that I am good at what I do, and that I do myself and my business justice.’
In December 2017, Elizabeth also designed and created the presentation posy for the newly engaged royal couple, HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which was presented to the couple during their visit to Nottingham Academy. When speaking about this, Elizabeth remarked ‘creating the posy for Meghan was a case of everything coming together at the right time. As I am based in Nottingham, I had heard that the royal couple would be visiting Nottingham Academy, so I offered my Floristry services for the occasion. The posy was designed to fit the school colours, purple and white, and I bound the design in Nottingham lace as a nod to Nottingham’s lace making history. I also included some forget-me-nots, due to it being such a memorable occasion. I am very proud to have been a part of their day and hope that the posy provided a finishing touch to make their day that little bit more special’.
BMC offers a variety of Floristry and Horticulture courses at its Brooksby Campus, a specialist land-based site situated in the heart of the Leicestershire countryside. These include a full-time Level 3 Floristry course and short courses in general Floristry, Wedding Floristry and Flower Arranging for Occasions. You can apply to study a full-time course or a short course by visiting the relevant course areas on the BMC website; it’s not too late to apply.
To find out more about Elizabeth and her businesses, head to www.elizabethmckennaflowers.co.uk
Photo credit: Ursula Kelly