Gillian Pollard

Education Blog

How my business came to be.

2009… cue oversized belts and low cut jeans. The year of the Black Saturday, a year well into the GFC. Notably Miley Cirus had her breakthrough hit “Party in the USA”, whilst in Melbourne a 21 year old found herself out of a job.

My time at Flair in Richmond had been an extremely influential time of my career. Starting as an eighteen year old, I had hardly been out of Diamond Creek- suddenly I found myself doing house flowers in some of the most prestigious homes in Melbourne, I found myself at The Sofitel every day constructing and maintaining massive displays of flowers. Driving a van all over town, ordering and picking up flowers from growers. Experience, experience, experience!

I perhaps didn’t realise at the time how valuable all that type of experience was. Whilst my friends at trade schools were gift wrapping single gerberas, I was learning how to parallel park a van. In 2009 most florists operated out of retail shops. Studio based florists like Flair were few and far between. However the industry was on the cusp of change. And what was then seen a “different approach” is now the norm. Event flowers were much less of a big deal. Especially for weddings. So much change has happened in the past decade… that’s a topic for another post.

Me in 2009, before unemployment and the riggers of business ownership drained my youthful glow.

Me in 2009, before unemployment and the riggers of business ownership drained my youthful glow.

Like Miley Cirus my career has had some twists and turns and ups and downs. Overall 2009 was a super disappointing year, however the events that transpired, set up the next decade of my life… and like my girl Miley, ten years has seen some massive growth and changes to my life.

In the early days of my career I never wanted to have my own business. I was too busy enjoying my life. I loved to work hard, but I loved to drive home and not think about work again until I returned. Flair being a primarily corporate florist meant hardly any weekend work… I KNOW… unheard of in floristry!! I loved every minute of my life and I didn’t want that to change… but then it did. The GFC meant that most of our corporate clients tightened their purse strings. Flowers are a luxury item. Clients who would normally spend $300 for boardroom suddenly went without. Clients who would have five arrangements in their office downsized to one. The flow on effect would mean that the business stayed afloat, but there was no need for me. Not enough work.

I wasn’t too worried at the start of my unemployed life. I was still living at home, I had no debt, I was qualified, experienced, good at what I did and eager to work. How hard would it be to find work?

As it turns out…SUPER HARD. I was constantly looking for work, emailing my resume, hitting the pavement, but the reality was, in the wintertime coming out of the GFC no florist was hiring. I found a few cash days here and there but nothing permanent. So I ended up on newstart. I broadened my scope for work… maybe I could work at Sportsgirl? Turns out even clothing retail was hard to get a job. I applied, applied, applied for months and nothing. I even turned to applying to admin jobs, but surprise, surprise: NO JOB! And through this process my confidence took a battering.

Partway into this saga someone told me about a government program, where they supported people on Newstart. They paid you your benefits for a year, and provided you with small business training to give you the leg up to start a business. During this time you were not allowed to work for anyone else and expected to fully commit to your business. I tossed this idea in my head for a few weeks… I was only 21, how was I expected to start a business? Did I want that responsibility? Then with the support of my family I started to form the idea. Maybe I could do weddings? And some corporates? Maybe I could open a shop? So many ideas, so many possibilities!

Slowly but surely the ideas turned into determination and I made the call to see how I could get on this program.

I applied. I was accepted. I went to the information session. I had a one on one meeting with a man who looked at my business plan and told me that I needed public liabilty insurance and how to register a business name, number etc. So I rushed home that afternoon and organised it all. I spent every last dollar I had on setting up my business. I was so excited. I was to wait a week and he would call and tell me when the program was starting. HE NEVER CALLED.

I kept calling to see what was going on and there were different excuses and a different place of blame each time. I talked to so many people and no-one knew what was going on. I kept explaining that I was in a stale mate. To be doing this course I needed to be unemployed and on Newstart, but to receive Newstart you needed to apply (and prove you had) for ten jobs each fortnight. I explained I didn’t want a job now that I had invested everything in setting up my business. Something I could only get off the ground fast if I had the backing of the program.

Weeks and weeks went by, and by now it was cemented in my mind that I was going to start my own business. I was applying to jobs hoping I wouldn’t get a call back. Then more weeks went by and I was getting frustrated at Centrelink. It was so demoralising being there every week. I didn’t belong there, I should be doing this course!! Every week I would explain to a different staff member my story again, they would make some calls and tell me to keep applying to jobs and the course will start soon.

Eventually, after 3 months of waiting for this course to start I did get a call back, not from Centrelink, but from a job I had applied for. It was a part time roll at a new homewares store about to open near my parents house. By now I was committed to the business so a part time job was perfect. I went for the interview and they offered me a full time 2IC position. Apparently everyone they had interviewed for the job was terrible… and I was the only one they wanted to be working full time… so I think that was a complement.. and I said goodbye to the Centrelink mindfield and started full time work at this store, with the condition that they would give me any days off I needed to do weddings. I was open about my side huddle from the start.

I only worked there for three months, and I hated every moment of it. It showed me exactly what I did not want to be doing in life. The culture of the business was so toxic and depressing. The area manger would swing in and make all these unrealistic demands. There was never enough time to do everything you were meant too. The only thing that got me through was dreaming up what my business could become.

I worked hard hustling for small weddings. It helped my older brothers friends were all at an age where they were starting to get married. I did wedding expos and I even did a letterbox drop. Slowly but surely, I started booking weddings and I had no idea what I was doing! Everyday a different idea, everyday a different way to waste time investigating something!

In November of that year I got a phone call from a florist in Carlton. She was looking for a staff member and had heard I was looking for work. I took the job (again with her full knowledge of my side hussle). Had she called a few months later I definitely would not have started my business, I would have given myself fully to the business and who knows where I would be. But when she called, my business had been born, the wheels were in motion and I wasn’t planning on stopping. I worked part time there which paid my bills and did weddings on the weekends. The business was not earning me any serious money. I didn’t have enough knowledge of what I was doing for that yet.

Looking back, in 2009 I had no idea where my business would lead me or where I would end up. At that stage it was a temporary fix to not finding a job. Over the past decade I have loved my business and at times resented my business, but without the events of 2009, I would most likely never have taken the crazy road which is self employment and I would not have ended up where I am today: Happy, successful and proud of what I have achieved.

Gillian PollardComment