Blooms on Bridge
We sit down with florist Mandy to chat all things family, business and how she juggles it all. Navigating business is often a daunting prospect and with all that life throws at us we feel incredibly grateful to share stories like this one. Mandy has learnt to pivot as her life changes and gives us an insight into how life can get messy, but with support anything is possible. We hope that this real life story of fears faced, leaps taken and the day to day role of a business owner excites you to chase your wildest dreams! Life can be a roller coaster, but when we are there for one another and choose to live a life we love we are rewarded ten fold.
What first inspired you to become a florist?
I've always loved beauty, all things pink, flowers from the garden and all things creative, but I never really thought about becoming a florist until we were required to make plans for Year 10 work experience. I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I'm not sure who suggested it- I think it might have been Mum or Dad- but I wrote the application letter and filled out the forms and sent them in to Melissa at Blooms on Bridge, and the rest is history!
Did you always want to run your own business and what made you take the leap to start?
It's certainly never been my dream to be a girl boss, nor to "hustle and grind" as they say. I'm more than satisfied at home in my kitchen or my garden, with my family around me. However, after gaining employment with Melissa after an amazing week of work experience back when I was only 15, I decided that I truly loved floristry and wanted to make a career out of it. Years later, when Melissa wanted to sell Blooms, she offered it to Trav and I to purchase, and we made the decision to take on the business she created and built from the ground up. A business that after 13 years of hard work, I had grown to know extremely well and had also grown to love. We made the brave decision to purchase, and we became the new owners of Blooms on Bridge in April 2019.
What is it that excites you most about running your own business? What are the best and worst aspects of the job for you?
The thing that excites me (and scares me!) most is knowing that I am in charge of everything. I can take the business in whatever creative direction I like which is a wonderful thing, however daunting that may be. I absolutely adore working with flowers, and meeting different people every day. In our industry you deal with people going through every single life event- flowers for new babies, birthdays, weddings, the loss of loved ones, and everything in between. It's an honour to be able to assist in creating beauty at these pivotal times in people's lives. The worst aspect for me is definitely the difficulty as a business owner to create and maintain a satisfactory work/life balance, especially with two young daughters and all that being a mother entails.
If you could change one thing about the floristry industry what would it be?
It's an industry that is appallingly bad for the environment. The amount of cellophane and other plastics that are used to wrap flowers for transport, and the chemicals/pesticides they are sprayed with during the growing process seem to be a necessary evil currently. However, many flower farms are working towards sustainable and environmentally friendly production and packaging options. Another thing I really dislike is floral foam- it is a horrible product which contains formaldehyde and carbon black, as well as other chemicals, and we are making efforts to use it less, and to educate our customers on alternative options such as glass vases which can be reused time and time again.
Yet another thing that I dislike (and this completely goes against current trends!) is preserved florals. To quote Prairie Girl Flowers on Instagram: "behold the toxic beauty of a bunch of bleached Italian ruscus. After stripping away all of the colour from the stems using hypochlorites, the ruscus is then processed using barium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide, a little zinc oxide, and sulphur dioxide... bleached botanicals- of all of the unsustainable aspects of the floral industry- might be the most asinine. Adding more unnecessary chemicals to our already toxic environments is insane".
Business is largely about customer service and relationships. How would you best describe your role to give customers an insight and understanding of your schedule?
As I mentioned before, a huge aspect of our job is customer service, and building relationships with our clients. We have quite a few regulars, and it's so important to maintain an excellent level of service especially in a small town! I think so many people don't understand quite how hard we work every day to not only produce a quality product, but to ensure that every order is created exactly to customer specifications and with the same amount of love and care each and every time.
We're not going to sugar coat it, business can often be draining, especially when you wear so many hats! How do you stay positive and inspired?
It can be a real struggle! I like to think of myself as a positive and cheery person, but as we all know, life can be exhausting and downright difficult at times.
Maintaining a positive attitude is hard, and I really do struggle to keep my head 100% in the game of work and business ownership when I have so many other things filling my head. I actually hate the responsibility of it some days, and wish I could just switch off. But I love my job, and I love the people who make going to work worthwhile- the beautiful customers who smile and wave and bring sunshine to the day.
We know you have a wonderful husband and two little girls, how do you juggle home life and business?
Being brutally honest for a moment, let me paint you a little picture. It is 6:44 pm, and my kitchen benches are covered in a combination of dirty dishes, smears of raspberry juice and a collection of Sophia's colourful kinder paintings. There are loads of washing to fold, and a garden to water. I have been awake since 6:20am, after a night of 2 hourly wakes from my six month old Eleanor. This morning I forced myself up, and got myself showered and dressed, frantically attempting to feed my kids a balanced breakfast whilst neglecting my own grumbling belly due to sheer lack of opportunity to eat. Then came kinder drop off, the baby went to Trav's parents for the day, and I spent the day at work. Finally home, with a tearful and exhausted toddler and overtired baby to wrangle. Thankfully Trav made dinner, and I rested my aching legs for a few minutes. Baths, and tears over spilt milk. Sophia is finally almost asleep, but Eleanor has decided to have a second wind. I am completely exhausted.
And I still have a kitchen bench filled with dirty dishes, various stains to wipe clean, and some artwork that I will probably repurpose into wrapping paper at some point, which Sophia is so proud of from her big day of learning. I have laundry to complete, and thirsty plants to attend to. But I am going to sit here a moment longer and rest my weary legs.
It would definitely not be possible to keep all of the balls in the air without my amazing husband Trav and our families. We are incredibly lucky to have the support of both sets of parents, and their help with so many things is what assists us in keeping the wheels turning (literally, Trav's dad John is one of our floral delivery drivers!) Trav does the majority of the bookwork for the business also, as well as taking his turn at stay-at-home-dad on his days off. Sometimes it feels like we're ships in the night with our crazy schedules but we manage to pull it together the majority of the time.
Do your girls love getting out in the garden with you? Do you think motherhood has influenced your work?
My youngest, Eleanor, is still a little too young but Sophia, who is three and half, absolutely loves getting out into the garden and getting her hands dirty! She's always excited to help me with whatever I'm doing, whether it be weeding, planting seeds, watering the plants, harvesting vegetables, or pruning the roses. She just wants to be involved in every process and I really want to work on nurturing this passion as I am excited to spend many more hours in the garden with her! We built a new house in 2020, on a block a little over an acre, so the garden is literally being built from the ground up. It has been a lot of work, and is an ever-evolving process, but I'm excited to watch it bloom and grown along with my girls.
Juggling life, family and work is no mean feat. What is your advice for those in a similar
My top two tips are:
Make lists- I love to create physical, tangible, handwritten lists which I can cross items off as I accomplish them. I feel like I am really "getting things done" if I can tick off several items in a day. This also helps with conquering the ever-persistent baby brain which causes me to forget a thought as soon as it enters my mind!
Get organised the evening before- a typical evening for me, once the kids are finally asleep, is to attempt to do as much as possible to prepare for the next day. Stack the dishwasher, put on a load of washing, tidy up the toys, pack the children's bags, and collect clothes for everyone so we can just get ready and go.
What do you love to do in your spare time?
I honestly love the solitude of my own company. I really need time to recharge alone, and I try to find the time to go for a walk or a run most days. I also love spending time in the garden and in the kitchen; I'm very much a homebody. I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, in small groups, and creating delicious meals for my loved ones.
What is your advice for aspiring florists? What was the best lesson you learnt when you first began in the industry?
Floristry is a career not entered into lightly if you are afraid of hard work. Despite being surrounded by beauty every day, there are many aspects of this job that are far from glamorous! There is a lot of cleaning, much onerous prep work, and many repetitive tasks. There are buckets of smelly water, and freezing cold winter days. Many hours on your feet, and dirty, cracked florist hands. However, the privilege of handling the stunning results of nature's efforts and creating meaningful and lasting relationships with customers make the less exciting aspects of this job completely worthwhile.
Lastly, thank you for all the support you have shown Drawn with Light over the years! We feel incredibly grateful to have you as a valued member of our community and can't wait to see where life leads you.
Thank you for having me! It's been an honour to chat with you and to have you capture both our family and our business so beautifully. Your work is wonderful and I look forward to working with you again in the future!