Andrea Christie enjoys a challenge – from working a seven-day week to establish her florist business, to removing a carpet held down with liquid nails during an office renovation, to building her own website, and keeping flower arrangements looking fresh for three successive weddings in 40 degree heat.
But the hard work is paying off with her business, Poppy and the Wallflowers, enjoying its best month in February and having strong forward interest into 2015. Another recent highlight was to provide the flower arrangements for a VIP function for leading fashion accessories house, Mimco, a task that involved a week of research, and two days creating 21 individual floral arrangements to cover an entire wall.
A life-long resident of Port Adelaide, Andrea has not advanced far from home with her shop in St Vincent’s Street just minutes away, but her reputation is spreading far afield. And as a ‘digital native’ Andrea is employing the tools of Gen X and Y as her main marketing tools.
“My major marketing has been Facebook and Instagram, especially with the key market area I’m aiming for – the 25-35 year old women who are heavily influenced by Facebook and Instagram, and what their friends are doing and what their friends are ‘liking’, Christie tells Business Insight.
“Word of mouth counts for so little of my business – it’s generally all Facebook and Instagram related. Four of my recent wedding jobs have come via my website to which they have been directed by Facebook and Instagram and the advert that I have on i-do.com.au.”
Christie’s current business success follows early days studying fashion design and makeup artistry at TAFE before spending ten years in ‘visual merchandising’ creating the shop windows and promotional images for several retailers. But after friends drew on her creativity to prepare flowers for their weddings, Christie started studying and completed a Certificate III in floristry at TAFE in 2014 – and discovered her vocation.
“I got to a point where I said to myself that if working with flowers is what I really enjoy and want to do, then it’s time to start treating it as a business and not just a hobby,” Christie said.
In April 2014, Christie started Poppy and the Wallflowers, initially offering fresh flowers as well as the wedding and events business from her St Vincent’s Street premises.
“But the foot traffic here simply does not sustain fresh flowers daily and I was throwing out more than I was earning. At the start of December last year I ran out of money. We had put all of our savings into the business and we were just surviving on my husband’s wage.
“So I made the drastic decision to not sell fresh flowers daily anymore and just focus on weddings and events because that’s the most successful side of the business.
“By the end of this wedding season – which runs from October to April – I would have worked on more than 20 weddings, I did five alone last month, which is amazing.”
While Christie’s initial foray into fresh flowers took its toll on the family finances, the experience helped define the future shape of her business.
“Now that I’ve changed direction I feel I can breathe again. I’m getting some money in the bank and I can start looking at investing in some marketing in bridal magazines and going to bridal fairs.”
Christie’s new business foundation was helped by access to the St Vincent’s Street property which came via Renew Adelaide, the not-for-profit agency that brokers temporary tenancy arrangements between landlords with vacant premises and entrepreneurial start-ups looking for office space.
Tenants gain rent-free space for various lengths of time depending on the property with Christie operating on a rolling 30 day lease with responsibility for paying public liability and plate glass insurance costs and electricity charges.
Christie says Port Adelaide is starting to move with several new businesses opening in recent months and she intends to stay in the area, regardless of the duration of the Renew Adelaide arrangement.
“It’s my local area and I love being here, and the clientele around here are my type of people,” Christie said.
Christie’s next step in her business development will come when she starts Business SA’s SAYES program for developing young entrepreneurs this month.
“The SAYES program will be that rare opportunity to meet with people who have ‘been there, done that’ a million times and are really successful. I’ll be able to say ‘this is what I’m doing, is it the right option?’
“I think I have got to a tipping point at the moment in being so busy that another pair of hands would help but I’m not earning enough to hire someone yet.
“When I get bigger – and I say when, not if – I want to be more of the creative director. I will still be meeting with clients and doing all the personal work but having staff to put the flower arrangements together.
“That’s the ultimate dream.”
Business SA works with Renew Adelaide to assist young entrepreneurs gain access to vacant office space.
Further information on SAYES: www.threesixty-sa.com
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