TEENAGE entrepreneur Shannon Handyside got so fed up of being turned down by employers that she became her own boss.
The 19-year-old has opened her own business, Happy Handyside’s Funky Furnishings, in Frederick Street, South Shields, – a treasure trove of vintage, retro and handmade furniture and furnishings.
Inside, there’s everything from tables and sofas, to lamps and mirrors, picnic baskets, ornaments, candles, incense, dreamcatchers, paintings – and much more.
Walking in the door, customers can follow a yellow brick road to the till, where the Wicked Witch of the East lies crushed beneath the counter.
Adorning the walls are images of VW camper vans and peace symbols – all hand-painted by Shannon and her friends.
Shannon, of Whiteleas, South Shields, said: “I was on the dole and doing my best to get a job.
“I didn’t want to be on the dole, but I’d been to college three times and I just didn’t enjoy it. It really wasn’t for me.
“I couldn’t tell you how many jobs I applied for or how many interviews I went to, but I was just turned down by everyone. I was trying and trying, but nobody wanted me.”
It was then that Shannon’s dad, Laurence, suggested she tried setting up her own business.
She added: “My dad said I should get a unit and sell furniture from it. I asked him why he suggested furniture and he just told me it’s something everyone needs.
“We looked into renting a unit but it was just so expensive, and then we were driving down Frederick Street one day and we saw this place up for rent.
“I was a bit sceptical at first, but my dad told me that Frederick Street is a huge part of history in South Shields and that I should give it a go.
“I’ve made friends with all the other shopkeepers and they’ve all been in to wish me luck and buy something.
“In the first six weeks, we sold absolutely everything that we had initially bought for the shop.
“I feel so at home here and I wouldn’t want to move anywhere else now. I’ve learnt so much about furniture too, and I’m really into it now.”
Shannon is particularly grateful to the staff at nearby Steam Punk and Pine, who help her identify the value of certain objects she brings into her store.
She said: “They built a gorgeous blue cabinet for me to sell as well. Everyone on the street has been so lovely since I got the shop.”
The young businesswoman even offered work experience to friends, Jodie Sullivan and Sam Sawyers, to help in their own job hunts.
She said: “They were here helping me right from the start, as well as my dad, mam Glynis, and other friends and family members.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who pitched in. I’d love to be able to offer jobs to my friends one day, but obviously I’m not quite there.”
Shannon might not be ready to take any staff on just yet, but she doesn’t work on her own.
Her pet cocker spaniels, Fern and Florry, keep her company every day.
She said: “I love having them here with me. I always make sure that people are happy for the dogs to be there though, and if anyone is allergic, I always put them out the back. They keep me company.”
The teenager also has big ambitions for the future.
She said: “It is quite scary having my own business at just 19, but it’s really exciting as well. I’d love to expand one day and open more shops and provide employment for other people.
“I always knew I wanted to do something different, but I was never quite sure what it would be.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now though. I’m so happy where I am.”