A blooming business

One year ago, Oxford Poly alumna Jane Gandon ’87 opened a flower shop – Bicycle Blooms – on Magdalen Road. We caught up with Jane to ask her about her business, life in East Oxford and her student memories.

You gave up a career in publishing – why?

I was in Scientific (STM) publishing for 30 years. I had a great career but for the last 15 years I was commuting to London – and I’d had enough of doing that.

Why did you open a flower shop?

I had the chance to take a break after London, and thought hard about what it is I enjoy. I kept coming back to flowers and my garden. So, I investigated that route and changing careers. For me it was about sharing that passion, but also wanting to offer my floral style to customers here in Oxford.

What training and advice did you get?

I did a career change course at Tallulah Rose Flower School, and freelance work, I spoke to florists, a lot of whom said, “don’t open a shop – it’s hard work!”.

What is the main challenge of running Bicycle Blooms?

When you’re a small business, you are everything: florist, cleaner, accountant, admin, IT, marketer… The challenge is managing all that.

Is it rewarding?

A lot of the business is about me – it’s about my style. You can see it coming through in the flowers and the shop. It’s a form of self-expression. So ‘yes’, and after commuting for so many years, it is also the reward of being part of a local community both as a small independent business and getting to know my regular customers.

How long have you lived in East Oxford?

Since my student days and I still love the vibe of the place. Some things have changed but Cowley Road is still Cowley Road with all its wonderful diversity.

Did you enjoy life as a student?

I started at Oxford Poly in 1983 and loved it! Wouldn’t change my time here for the world. I’m still in touch with the girls I lived with and some of the people I rowed with.

And there’s one person in particular from the rowing club…

I met my husband Alex there, at what was then Oxford Poly Boat Club.

Jane studied Publishing and Economics at Oxford Polytechnic

Photography by Paul Tait

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