Starting a business can be tough at the best of times but imagine doing so with the spectre of Brexit hanging over not just the industry’s future but also your own rights to stay in the country.
That’s exactly what Sonia Pounder did when she and her sister, Ada Drozd, set up The Plant Point in Leeds Corn Exchange.
Ms Pounder is originally from Poland but Yorkshire is very much her home. She’s married to a British citizen, they have a whippet and Ms Pounder says she’s even working on convincing her husband to start wearing a flatcap.
Not planning to move out
Despite having been in the UK for 14 years and building a niche business, the entrepreneur is still waiting to see what the outcome of Brexit will be.
She is still deliberating whether to take the onerous citizenship test or to apply for settled status post-Brexit.
“I’m not planning to move out,” Ms Pounder says. “I’ve paid my taxes, council tax, National Insurance. I’ve never used any social services here – luckily I’ve never needed to – but I don’t have a say in anything that happens.”
Although you sense an underlying frustration, Ms Pounder is remaining optimistic. In fact, the former student of political science says she has the utmost respect for British democracy.
“I was always impressed by Britain, its lack of a written constitution and the trust that British people always had in Parliament,” she said.
Ms Pounder and her sister set up The Plant Point in 2018. The business to date has been very successful, employing two other people and in March 2019 opening a store in Ilkley.
All of the firm’s plants come from Holland and Ms Pounder is afraid that hold-ups at the border could lead to empty shelves.
She said: “I’m trying not to worry too much because I’m thinking that every single florist in the UK gets flowers and plants from Holland. I’m not the only one here.
“Nonetheless, if there are queues at the border, plants will definitely not be a priority. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Growing up with plants
The Plant Point came about simply as a result of the two sisters wanting to expand their plant collections.
Ms Pounder said: “We were always passionate about plants. We grew up with plants. Our parents were plant lovers and gardening hobbyists. Our dad would take part in gardening competitions.”
They realised that they were restricted by the range on offer from high street retailers.
“There was no real speciality plant variety there,” says Ms Pounder. “More importantly, I think there wasn’t advice. There wasn’t that individual care.”
Minding your business
While dealing with plants has been easy for Ms Pounder and her sister, she hurries around her shop looking after plants as well as speaking to customers and, learning to run a business has been a continuing challenge.
She said: “It’s just the day-to-day running of a business and trying to make sure that it’s profitable that’s the challenge. Counting your costs and your expenditures.
“It’s trying to make sure that the business is profitable so that we can, at the end of the day, pay our bills, pay our mortgages, pay our staff and if there’s anything left then that is just a success.”
Challenging but satisfying
Despite the uncertainty over Britain’s membership of the European Union, life goes on for The Plant Point and Ms Pounder certainly has no plans to up sticks and shutter the business.
In fact, the business has plans to grow further.
“My sister said something very interesting once. It’s that if it was easy everybody would try to start their own business. It wasn’t. It was challenging but incredibly satisfying,” Ms Pounder says.
Falling in love with Leeds
Sonia Pounder initially moved to Newcastle after graduating from Northumbria University with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing.
She moved to Leeds about seven years ago because she wanted a new challenge.
“When we moved here I almost instantly fell in love,” she says.
A big draw for The Plant Point is its location in the Leeds Corn Exchange. Ms Pounder said: “Who doesn’t know what the Corn Exchange is? It’s such an iconic building.”
When they first launched the business many people didn’t know the name but “everybody knew there’s this plant shop in Corn Exchange”.