A CRAFTS shop which closed its doors has been given a new lease of life thanks to an employment initiative run by a landlord.

Retired primary school teacher Annette Cooper of Burnopfield, near Stanley, got free advice and support from Karbon Homes to help her become self-employed.

The Solo project is a joint initiative between Karbon Homes and social enterprise company Social Enterprise Strategies (SES), to give residents aged 16-65 years old living in Derwentside and Chester-le-Street the best possible start to becoming self-employed.

The free service provides residents with access to experienced advisors to help them develop their ideas into sustainable businesses. Advisors help them with business planning, market research, marketing & financial advice and access to small business grants and loans to give them the best possible start.

Ms Cooper was a regular visitor to the Crafts House located at the Old Post Office in Marley Hill, Gateshead, before it closed its doors. She bought the premises and collected the keys in November and is now running drop-in sessions on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10am to 5pm and Sunday mornings from 10am to 2pm.

Visitors pay £6 per person per hour for use of all the facilities and materials. Crafts House also offers craft-themed parties for children and adults and has a small gift shop area.

Ms Cooper sells her own handmade products and those by other local crafters. She also teaches arts & crafts when there is sufficient.

Annette said: “I visited the Crafts House once a week while I was working to relax and get away from the stresses of my job.

“It was such a shame to see it close. I made a lot of friends and we used to meet up and enjoy making arts and crafts together. I’ve never run a business before so this is a dream come true.

“I am grateful to Karbon Homes and my mentor, Ernest Dodds from SES who gave me advice on business planning and cash flow.

“It’s early days but my long-term plan is to grow the business and maybe extend the premises to include a little coffee shop.