Welcome back to the Creative Corner blog series! In this month’s edition, we’re featuring one of my very first clients who runs En Flor, a brand and business with a focus on reviving the beautiful art of flower preservation. She has a wealth of business-related knowledge to share with you all.
Everyone, meet Nicole…
Nicole, thank you so much for chatting with me! Let’s start off with a quick introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 😊
Sure! My name is Nicole, I love the outdoors (especially being out in nature). On the weekends you’ll find me mountain biking in the Blue Mountains or enjoying a nice walk along the coast of the Royal National Park. I live in Sydney Olympic Park with my partner. I love being in the middle of Sydney as this allows us to travel in any direction from here and arrive at most of our destinations within 30 minutes! Being from Sydney, I totally appreciate how convenient this is!
That sounds awesome! Olympic Park hosts quite a few events too (well, pre Covid times anyway), so you’d be able to get to them with no problem at all. Love the National Park and Blue Mountains too.
Now, can you tell us a little bit about your business?
En Flor is a brand and business which I have established from scratch. The inspiration & idea came to me after a trip to Japan in 2017. During this trip I spent time learning not just about how amazing the culture is, but it also led me to learn more specifically about the art of flower preservation. I was completely in awe of the art, so I spent an entire year researching and developing the Botanical Keepsake that En Flor sells today. At the time, I felt that these everlasting flowers (each with meaning) would make the perfect gift idea.
Since then, En Flor has been successfully operating and growing, this year reaching the 3 year mark.
Taking En Flor to a commercial scale was the hardest part. The moment that triggered me to make the decision to take En Flor to that level was when I was sitting at a bar in Kensington Street in the CBD sipping on gin & tonic which was served in a circular glass cup, encapsulated with floating rose petals. It was beautiful and it obviously reminded me of what I was working on. That very moment was when I decided to turn a hobby business into a real one. I can’t explain why this was the moment in which I had that turning point but it just happened!
Here is a photo of the gin & tonic cocktail I was enjoying that day.
That cocktail looks amazing! I can definitely see how it inspired you to kick your business up a notch. There are some beautiful similarities between your products and the cocktail, for sure!
So, how was the business set up process for you? Did you find any particular part of it difficult or frustrating?
Coming from a background of being an accountant, I have to say, in the most modest way, that the business set up was the simplest part of it. I understood how each element gelled together, from the business structure to product costing and analysis…this was my area of expertise.
However the most challenging part was all to do with marketing and understanding my customers. I have learnt that it is one of the most crucial elements, if not the most important part of growing a business and drawing in the right audience.
The second most challenging area was the IT expertise that I lacked! Despite being a 90s kid, I am somehow quite primitive when it comes to computers!
I completely understand! I have a strong background in customer service so I found the client-facing work super easy. I had a bit of an idea of business operations and processes too. Marketing is such a huge part of business, you are 100% correct. I agree about the IT difficulty too – I built my own website but boooyyyyy did it take a while hahaha
With the difficulties surrounding IT know-how, have you been working to overcome that? Are there any other areas of your business that you find challenging but have found solutions for?
Website maintenance is definitely at the top of the list. For someone like me who wants to know, engage in and do every single task (I’m an ISTJ for anyone who reads Myer Briggs personalities), it is very hard to let go of a task and trust that someone else is in a better position to do the job. But this realisation has allowed me to grow. Understanding that delegating and outsourcing to experts allows me to work a little smarter and not so hard all the time has made things much easier. As any experienced business owner would know, your time is better spent strategising.
I’m also still learning the art of digital marketing, there is so much to grasp and the ever changing environment for e-commerce adds another layer of difficulty. After testing and trialing different methods to increase reach and engage the right audience, such as running ads on all kinds of social media platforms and personally engaging in posts from a similar audience, I now know what works for my business and what does not. Website analytics is so important to utilise, it’s a tool that business owners never used to have and it makes a very powerful marketing tool in directing you to the right market if used correctly.
Great advice! Speaking of outsourcing, do you outsource much of your work? What parts of your business do you leave in the hands of other people?
When it comes to the IT side of things, I definitely have thrown in the towel in trying to do this myself. I now have a technician that will fix all my IT related problems! This is a huge relief for me because I am able to let someone else handle it and they always do an excellent job.
However, when it comes to crafting the products, I personally do this myself. As with any artwork, there is a level of authenticity, consistency and craftsmanship that comes with the individual making the product and this guaranteed quality is what I envision to deliver.
I can relate 100%. I’ve been told that I need to start outsourcing some of my client work to other writers but I just love the work too much and I want to make sure everything I do is up to a certain standard.
Now, you have a background in accounting, right? Is there any advice you can give to other small business owners who may struggle with their numbers?
As an accountant by trade, I learn so much everyday in my job and the knowledge & expertise that I have accumulated over the last 8 years is definitely the backbone that allowed me to successfully create En Flor. To anyone who is in business or about to start one, I think it is extremely worthwhile to take up a bookkeeping course and upskill as this will help you tremendously in your business and it will take the fear factor out when dealing with those daunting numbers!
Great advice! Accounting is one of the areas of my business that I happily outsource. I manage my own Xero account to keep everything in order but the BAS and tax return stuff goes completely over my head.
What brings you the most joy about your business, and what is it that you love most about being a small business owner?
Nothing makes me more fulfilled from my business than receiving feedback from a customer expressing that they cannot wait for the gift to arrive at the doorstep of their loved ones, and having the privilege of being able to handwrite gift messages on behalf of the sender. To help deliver this service brings more meaning to my work than any other aspect of the business. The result of bringing joy to the gift recipient on behalf of the sender is exactly what I envision my business doing.
Apart from having happy customers, which is always my number one priority. To run a business as a sole proprietor gives me complete control which means that my success or failure lies with me. This to me means that the achievements are a reflection of my capabilities. And of course the monetary reward will always be a by-product of hard work!
This is so true. The saying “you only get out what you put in” is 100% accurate. You’ve already given us some awesome advice but if you could give three tips to aspiring business owners, what would they be?
- Firstly, like any major project that you are about to commence, it’s always important to look at the end goal to never lose track of your vision, but it is equally important to break up your work into smaller segments and then into smaller tasks. That way you have everything covered. It is also a very good way to map out your business in the establishment phase.
- At the start of En Flor, I have spent way too many hours trying to work on things that are out of my area of expertise. Save the time and effort by allowing the experts to do their magic or utilising automation softwares & apps (there are so many out there – free too, if you are starting out with minimal capital). Website building, bookkeeping & social media marketing just to name a few. This will allow you to efficiently run your business and allow you to have more time on your hands for more important things!
- If you are someone with very little time on your hands, opening up a wholesale/distribution channel is very much recommended. Setting up an agreement with retailers will take away a lot of the hard work for you in regards to sales volume and logistics as opposed to being a retail only business.
Perfect! I definitely agree that it’s a great idea to investigate apps, software and sales avenues that can help make your life easier and free up your time.
Thank you so much for your time Nicole! I’ve taken away a lot from this chat and I’m sure my readers have too 😊
If you’re searching for a beautiful unique gift, you can use any of the links below to check out Nicole’s preserved floral decor business, En Flor!
☕ Coffee is good. Sponsor Nicole’s next cup here: www.ko-fi.com/iscribecreative
If you have any questions at all for Nicole that weren’t answered in this article, pop them in the comments and I’ll follow up with her for you 😊
Creative Corner will be back at the beginning of next month so follow the blog to stay in the loop!