So when you found this space, Potts Point wouldn’t have been what it is now.
People were like, “Are you mad? There is nothing down there, there’s no trade, it’s as dead as a doornail.” I was like, “No, I am determined, I love that little shop.” I’d driven past a few times and seen a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window. It was a Lawrence Drycleaner and it was disgusting with dirty old red carpet and the ceiling was really low, but I could see that at the back the ceiling wasn’t actually low. I found out that the building owners really wanted a flower shop in here and that was fortunate because they’re quite discerning about who they have. We had to go through a lot of interviews …
How ridiculous, it was a drycleaner!
I know! We did all the renovation ourselves. We were down on our hands and knees painting and chipping. And then, the minute I put the key in the front door, I found out that I was pregnant so I had to tell Eva that, which didn’t go down very well. I managed to get through all of that, we both did, and that was challenging. When I really feel like I’m slipping, or I can’t cope, I think back to those days and I think, nup this is really easy in comparison.
So you started a business at the same time as having your first child …
Yeah, and doing the markets … I never let any of that slip, I just stayed in the saddle. I was like, no, I’m just going to get through it.
How did you make it work?
Just long hours, long hours and slow-and-steady-wins-the-race.
Did you have the baby in here with you?
No, I talked my mum into leaving her job and she became the full time carer for Ginger, my first child who’s nearly 13 now. She’s at school across the road and she’s taller than me. It’s all gone very quickly.
Is she your only child?
No, I’ve also got Sunday who’s six. That time was easier because the business had grown and there were more people in place. The partnership with Eva had separated and I didn’t have to feel as responsible for that. So that’s it, two girls with a big gap in between, and a step-daughter, Ruby, who’s Gary’s daughter from his first marriage. [Turns to Jo] How long have you been here Jo? Everyone stays here for quite a while.
JO: Since you had Sunday, she was a newborn.
So nearly seven years. Jo’s had two children while she’s been here so she’s gone and come back again. Not that everyone’s like that – there are some people who cannot stand it in here. We just had someone who only lasted five weeks. She was like, “It’s too cold, too wet and I feel like I’m working outdoors all day.” You really have to … It’s very intense in here, it’s full on, so you’ve got to have a pretty good sense of humour. [Gary walks in] Oh Gary, fancy seeing you here. Have you met Kate, she’s from Dumbo Feather, she might want to ask you a few questions. [Small talk ensues …]
Do you live nearby?
Edgecliff-ish, we’ve got this funny old Munster’s house. It’s a bit like living in the middle of a washing machine – there’s always a lot going on at our house – lots of kids and dogs and people. It’s down a pathway and we’ve grown lots of trees and creepers. The house is really irregular, it’s quite old and on lots of different levels. We’ve done a little bit to it here and there, but not a lot, we’ve really tried to keep the integrity of the house. Gary works from home so he’s there all the time, he’s got a studio there, but I’m hardly ever there.
Probably works quite well.
[Laughs] Yeah, it does. It’s the only way.
You’d be one of, if not the most, successful florists in Australia.
Oh, thank you.
How did you get there? Why do you think it’s worked?
I think it’s a combination of lots of different things. No matter what field you’re in, it’s a combination of having a little bit of business acumen, which I don’t have a lot of, but I’ve got enough, and I can pull in the right kind of people to help me. Also, it’s got a lot to do with timing and energy.
Do you think your timing was right?
I could see a place in the market here for flowers that people weren’t getting from Alison and that I knew I could supply. Alison’s work is a bit hard-edged and I suppose I got to a position in her business where people were asking me for specific things that I wanted to put through the door, but I knew it wasn’t quite her style. That was when I really realised I could make a break from there. That was timing. I think it’s also got a bit to do with fashion and a bit to do with trends, and being open to knowing what that is. Luck too … Like knowing that this little shop would be in the right place. So many people have said, “You should get a bigger shop.” I might get a second shop, but I’d never move from here because it’s so our identity. There’s something about the energy in here and the way the flowers sit in the shop that’s really appealing to a lot of people, not just to a certain audience. Anybody can come in here and really feel enveloped.
It’s not a scary, intimidating shop at all.
I hope people come in here and get a buzz, some kind of inspiration and lift, even if they just walk in and walk out. We’ve had all this trouble with our phones this week and were saying how hard it is to get people to be responsive. I think service has also got a lot to do with success in business; whether it’s getting back to people, or letting people know you understand, or can help, and making your team aware of that too. There’s an element of training too and you have to keep on top of that all the time, you can never ever let that drop. I think once you do, you have to be prepared to step aside or change your business or go in a different direction. You have to know you still feel really enthusiastic about it.
Has your enthusiasm ever waned?
No it hasn’t. I did have a little … When I had my children, I have to say, there were times when I thought, this is seriously insane, I’m giving so much energy to my business and not enough to my children. I know that’s a common thing for women nowadays. I feel I can give a bit more time to them now and I’m the right age and in the right space in my own head to click in with them. When you have kids there are stages that you enjoy and don’t enjoy. Some people love them when they’re tiny babies and some people love them when they’re teenagers. I just happen to be loving this time, now, and I’ve got more space to do that. It was hard when they were really little, I felt a lot of guilt, but I never lost my passion. I wouldn’t be here if I had.
Did you actually have a choice?
I didn’t feel I had much choice, I just had the drive. It’s been a pull, a really tough pull between family and work.