Customer stories

The Flower Project: How to take your bricks and mortar business online

For florist Kathryn Fleming, e-commerce unlocked the door to a world of opportunity. It hasn’t always been rosy, but find out how she’s made her business idea bloom.

Reading time: 3-4 minutes

Sowing the seeds

Perseverance – that’s the key to a successful start-up, according to Kathryn Fleming. She moved back home to New Zealand from the UK and found the gaps in our marketplace exhilarating; this motivated her 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.”

She started her first business, Boudica Flowers, the old-fashioned way – by door-knocking.

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, spending seven years on the shop floor – an invaluable experience.

The Flower Project – how an innovative idea helped this start-up succeed

Kathryn Fleming, owner of the Flower Project talks about how they took their brick-and-mortar business online.

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 [ANZ has] always been very flexible.”

A new business blooms

As it continued to turn a profit, Boudica Flowers 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 middleman, 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.

Jill of all e-trades

Unlike a traditional bricks and mortar business, online commerce requires a different skillset than Kathryn was 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.”

But while it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses, the online investment is paying off: The Flower Project has had steady growth and shows no signs of slowing down.

Listen, learn, and persevere

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.” 

In life as in business, the best way to learn and grow is often through trial and error. 

“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,” says Kathryn.

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.”

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 [ANZ has] always been very flexible – Kathryn Fleming

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