I had always wanted to start my own business and I knew I wanted to work with flowers. I live in Albert Town in Wānaka with my husband, Chris, and our two sons, George and Charlie, aged six and four. After having my children, I decided that I wanted to work from home in a more creative job instead of going back to my physio job, so I started investigating business ideas.
In a light-bulb moment, I decided to investigate pressing wedding bouquets. I saw some pressed-flower earrings, so I looked into pressing flowers. It’s a preservation technique used by libraries for herbariums. I took that tradition and fused it with wedding bouquets.
It’s still small-scale – our presses are A4 size, but we have a lot of them. It’s such intricate work, and it’s really important to control the pressure. Our studio is ninety-five square metres and it’s full of cardboard and paper and presses. We are very organised; everything is labelled. Each flower has a different preservation method as well, so we have different flowers from one bouquet in different areas that have to be put back together. It’s a time-consuming process but it’s worth it. Opening the presses, we are like, “Oh my God, look at this one!”
I had a vision that I wanted a nationwide business, with my team based in a studio. I didn’t expect it to grow as quickly as it did, though. I launched in June 2020, at a time when everyone was at home. There was a New Zealand-made products page that I posted on, and it pretty much went viral. I have been inundated ever since.
I pretty much launched the business and went full-time straight away. I think usually you would start a business on the side and build it slowly, but I quit my job and jumped straight into it. I took on my first employee a year later; six months after that, I took on two more; six months after that I took on another one and now we have kind of settled into our team.
The mouldings for our frames are made in Christchurch, using New Zealand timber. They get shipped to Wānaka and then we have a local framer who makes the frames for us. We used to design on the glass, then drop it off for framing, but now one of the team here has been trained to put them all together. It’s a lot of fun – us women are doing it all here at the studio.
Learning to manage a team and being responsible for employees has been a big learning curve. This year, most of my job has been behind the scenes looking at finances, the strategic plan, marketing, making decisions and so on. I haven’t enjoyed that as much as I thought I would, so next year I’m outsourcing some of that desk work and going back to doing design.
This has also led to my decision not to scale any bigger. We were thinking about pushing into Auckland, but I just want to keep our base in Wānaka as a boutique floral studio, to protect our creativity. I’m trying to find that balance, not turning into a CEO of a big company, keeping it creative because that’s where it began.
During stressful times, I need to protect myself from creative block. That almost happened this year – I started feeling stressed about how many bookings we were getting rather than excited for each booking. You always have to be energised and motivated; you have to have new ideas. You have to look after yourself in order to be able to do that.
It’s been a tough year for a lot of businesses. Nothing really happened to us; it was more the “What if?” stress that got to me. My husband works sixty-hour weeks and travels a lot because we live remotely in Wānaka. I work Monday to Thursday, nine to three. That’s what I can manage; I need time on the weekends to exercise and draw inspiration.
We need to be invested in each piece – this is someone’s forever art piece. We put our soul into each creation, so we do just take our time with each piece. Storytelling is a big part of why people use us to preserve their flowers. We have just made a grand frame for a customer whose dad passed. He grew orchids, so we have created a memorial piece of just orchids, and it is incredible. The customer contacted me last year with the idea, then she had to wait for the flowers to bloom. When they bloomed perfectly, she shipped them to us, and now we have created a piece for her.
We do quite a lot of memorial work and custom pieces as well as wedding bouquets. We have done recreations of bouquets from weddings thirty years ago. We also get quite a few elopements, where couples get the bouquet made into gifts to give to their families.
It's been a really hard journey as a woman, having to balance my dreams and my time, and making choices around how to use that time. I think defining what success looks like to me is really important. I definitely got sucked into what success looks like to other people, and actually what’s important for me is having a supportive workplace, a creative job, and time for my family and myself.
There is no right or wrong. If you are working for yourself and making a living and enjoying it, that’s awesome. Growing and scaling is awesome, too, but the most important thing is defining what success looks like for you.
The NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards celebrate the creative and innovative women running rural businesses and their contributions to rural communities. Visit ruralwomennz.nz/business-awards/ for more information.
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