North’s flowers have been trading for 30 years. We are growers, dealers and wholesalers of Australian Native Flowers.
The business commenced as a means to supplement the farm income by picking remnant vegetation on the family farm. Then the fun started! We had up to 40 local farmers supplying product and the first few years were a huge learning curve, developing markets, training staff and designing and building systems to help mechanise the business.
I left school at 16 and studied accountancy by correspondence. Prior to moving back to the family farm, I had worked as assistant accountant in the motor vehicle industry and as business manager in the rag trade. This previous experience certainly helped to give me the confidence and skills for the business.
What advantage do you have being a woman in business?
None really. The floriculture industry is dominated by men in the wholesale and export areas. I am proud that we are one of the respected suppliers of product in the industry.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There have been so many over the years and we have had to reinvent ourselves three times.
Initially we were mainly dealers of product. However with ageing changes in our community and the advent of tree farms, the number of farms supplying dropped to crisis point. We then commenced growing our own product on a commercial scale. This is an expensive, long-term, ongoing process.
When we began, the demand was from the dried flower industry - 90% of our product was processed dry and only 10% fresh flowers. With the popularity of silk flowers, the emphasis has now changed to 80% fresh and 20% dry. When China and India began mass producing silks and plastics, the demand for dried flowers dropped almost immediately. Exporters closed or became risky. We had to modify our handling, transport and install new equipment to handle the change.
With the drop in exports, returns on product dropped or were stagnant. We have now changed to value adding our products and supplying florists direct.
Constant expansion places additional pressures on finance. Streamlining systems and being adaptable to new ideas is the answer.
Lastly, the physical work is a constant challenge now we are getting older. Thank goodness for great staff!
How do you achieve your work-life balance?
Wow that is a hard question! I am not sure I have achieved a work-life balance. However we are looking forward to taking more time for ourselves now that our eldest son and his wife are involved in the business.
Best lesson you have learned?
Be adaptable. Speak to your customers regularly and understand their needs. Pay for expertise you do not have.
What message would you deliver to young women considering a business career?
Being involved in your own business gives flexibility particularly when raising a young family. It can be frustrating but very rewarding to achieve your goals. Follow your passions, the buzz is fantastic. I am proud of what we achieved.
FINISH THIS SENTENCE
If I had my time again I would….
Change nothing! Business is a learning curve, work hard and be adaptable, explore every opportunity and be prepared for failures. Set goals and strive to achieve them.
Visit us at 39234 South Coast Highway, Green Range