ANZ customer case study – Kathryn Fleming

Kathryn Fleming believes the key to a successful start-up is perseverance. Twelve years ago, she moved back home to New Zealand from the UK and found the gaps in our marketplace exhilarating, so was motivated to start her own business.

“I fancied the freedom and I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I would never do it and so I took the plunge”

“There are so many opportunities here plus it feels like there’s this real entrepreneurial spirit, that ‘can-do’ vibe about New Zealand that gives you the confidence to go out and do something new because people will love you for it and accept you for it, nobody’s going to put you down for trying something new”.

With no formal business training, she embraced that can-do kiwi attitude, starting her first business Boudica Flowers, the old fashioned way by door knocking.

“It’s not really in my personality to throw myself out there and be really confident, but I tried my best. It started off slowly”.

One of the doors she knocked on was a niche-grocery retailer who just happened to be looking for an in-store florist. Kathryn jumped at the opportunity and credits the seven years she spent on the shop floor as an invaluable experience, particularly later when she decided to expand.

“A lot of the mistakes I made, I didn’t even realise I’d made them until way down the line and things weren’t selling or I’d bought too much or not enough, or I was selling something too expensive. It’s just learning and knowing and experience.”

As the grocery retailer expanded, so too did demand for Kathryn’s business; at its peak she provided flowers for all five of their grocery stores. Looking back she’s still surprised by how long it took to establish herself.

"It’s always a bit of a shock when you’re two years in and you still aren’t making any profit that’s going to pay your salary, but when you have a small business you’re putting money back in all the time to try and see the growth”.

Kathryn learnt early on that understanding and managing cash flow was paramount to success. She credits ANZ for keeping her afloat during the lean times and supporting growth when times were good: “I’m always asking for different things…whether it's finance for a car, or finance for an extension, a different structure for our repayments… there’s always something that comes up and it's always been very flexible.”

Boudica Flowers continues to turn a profit and has even helped bankroll a second business “The Flower Project”, a joint venture with Kathryn’s technologically-savvy brother.

An online-only subscription service, The Flower Project allows customers to order weekly, fortnightly, monthly or one-off custom bouquets: “no middle man, straight from the market to your house, whatever is fresh on the day”.

Subscribers range from husbands on the hunt for a romantic anniversary gift, to the time-poor who love seasonal flowers, to those simply interested in improving their DIY floristry skills.

Unlike a traditional bricks and mortar business, online commerce requires a different skillset than Kathryn is used to. “A huge part of an online business is worrying is your website going to be seen?” Regularly servicing social media, vlogging, and understanding how to rank highly in Google searches are now essential parts of her business management; she admits the learning curve has been steep.

“The biggest challenge in my view is just having the skills that cover every single aspect of the business…there’s so many skills you need, especially when you’re online because of all the marketing.”

The online investment is paying off, The Flower Project has had steady growth in the two years it’s been active and shows no signs of slowing down.

Looking back over her career in small business, Kathryn says taking advice whenever the opportunity arose was important for her growth, whether it was tapping into her brother’s knowledge of online commerce, scanning social for photography tips, or signing up for small business events.

"I’ve met a lot of other young entrepreneurs and start-ups through going to workshops, women-only seminars and all sorts of business building workshops which have been beneficial."

Her advice for newcomers starting out, “It won’t be easy, and it will take a lot of endurance but stick at it and you will get there in the end, as long as you’ve got a good response in the beginning and your feedback is good, you’re onto a winner.”

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