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Entrepreneur has colour all figured out

HAPPY DAYS: Karen with some of her models

WHEN FATHER Christmas comes puffing down your chimney next month, who says he has to be white? Or for that matter, why should any figurine - from angels to ballet dancers - all have to be pale skinned?

Birmingham-based entrepreneur Karen Shearer, who also happens to be a full-time maths teacher, is about to change the status quo with the launch of her own business selling ethnic ornaments.

It was not easy as she had to put in quite a bit of detective work to track down the delightful figures of colour that reflect and celebrate the many milestones in the lives of black people.

“It started years ago when I used to visit my sister in Canada who always had two Christmas trees over the festive season,” shared Karen, an engineering graduate, who has worked in education for 25 years.

“She did this because her husband is from the Bahamas but he is very pale skinned, so she used to have the two trees and decorate one with white angels and the other with those of colour.

“I asked her where she got them from, but six years later she still hadn’t tracked them down for me! So, on a trip to New York I stumbled across some figurines in an all-year-round Christmas shop and examined the stamp on the base of one of the ornaments.”

The stamp belonged to United Treasured Incorporated and when Karen approached the company, she was told she could only purchase them if she set up her own business.

Undeterred, she returned to the UK and embarked on a second degree – this time in business at the University of Birmingham before founding her own business last year, which she has called The Seasonal Ornament Company (TSOC).

“Even though I’ve always worked in education, I’ve enjoyed being an entrepreneur too and have set up several businesses over the years including a building company,” added Karen, who has two sons, aged 20 and 12.

“After hunting around for these ornaments for quite some time, having to set up my own business for them didn’t put me off.”

Since launching the company which operates under the banner “seeing is believing”, Karen has toured many trade events across the Midlands with her selection of more than 250 figurines, which she says are greeted by “gasps of amazement” from surprised shoppers.

“The church collection is always very popular. People burst out laughing when they see some of the model women, saying they are the image of an auntie or a grandmother.

“The number one sellers are the male and female graduates and also a selection of beautifully crafted female models which double as tea light holders.”

Karen, whose company is currently web-based only, added: “When I set up the business I went to America and met one of the artists Keith Mallett, who is internationally known for his work. I like the figures because they give positive images of our community – recording our successes, or showing people in the professions such as nursing, the military and education. It’s all about having it out there for people to connect with.”

And another important reason for launching the business is to give her elder son Luke, 20, a taste of being an entrepreneur.

“Luke is company secretary so he helps me with the packaging and processing of orders, so the next generation has a taste of being an entrepreneur. To me, that’s very important.”

Her next trade show will be at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel at the National Exhibitions Centre during the NAS/UWT Black and Ethnic Teachers’ Conference on December 5-6.

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