Steiff Bears, an idea from Rome

A romantic Rome trip inspired Catherine Johnson and her husband Paul to open a shop selling Steiff Bears and other collectable teddy bears. We stumbled across a store selling all manner of soft toys during a visit to the Italian capital last summer to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary. Catherine, 34, a mum-of-two, initially started selling bears online, and last month launched the Willow Tree Bears store in Wilmslow, Cheshire with husband Paul, 42. The duo offer teddy bears from suppliers including Steiff, Charlie Bears, Merrythought and Teddy Hermann. Catherine said: "I had been thinking of launching a business for a while, and we discussed a few options. "When we came across the teddy bear shop in Rome, I was totally stunned by it. "It was beautiful and you could see the smiles on parents and children as they browsed the shelves. It was then that we thought we should do a version in the UK as we were very fond of Steiff bears. After setting up their website, the couple received orders from across Britain and overseas. She said: "Our business grew before our eyes, and soon we were surrounded by boxes of teddy bears. "After a busy Christmas, we decided to look for a shop and found one at the Grove Arcade in Wilmslow. "After a hectic, tiring but exciting few months we finally opened our doors in May. "The response from our customers has been fantastic, with people coming to see us from all over Cheshire and Greater Manchester. "The shop is full of beautiful, collectable and limited edition bears. Our latest supplier is the Great British Teddy Bear Company, which supplies bears dressed to represent various vocations," It’s fair to say that Willow Tree Bears’ biggest fans are the couple’s children – Joshua, aged nine, and Ellie, six. Catherine added: "You don’t see old- fashioned toy shops selling teddy bears any more, so when a customer walks into ours, it puts a smile on their face, and that makes me feel good about what I am doing."