“I’ve always loved floristry,” says Hannah Manewell, owner of Blooms by the Bay, located on the waterfront at Lemon Tree Passage, NSW. “It’s always been such a huge part of my life.”
A native of the UK, Hannah moved to Sydney in 2007. “I’ve always found myself in hospitality-based roles like event planning — I just gravitated toward those sorts of services.
When I lost my job with COVID, we decided to move out of Sydney and up the coast.
“Everything had closed down. That’s when I realized I can still work with people — but for myself.”
Bringing a bit of light to people during COVID
Although Hannah started the business in January 2021, it would take her another five months to launch a website.
Two months later, she officially opened her shopfront on Tilligerry Peninsula.
Luckily, says Hannah, the floral industry didn’t grind to a halt like many others did.
“Flowers were always something that could be delivered, so the industry never fully closed down. It was a really good way to show people who were isolated that you were thinking of them.
“When I was just finishing up my qualification with TAFE, I started selling on Facebook from my kitchen,” she recalls. “I would get flowers, make bunches up and post pictures of them with ‘This is available today, Free delivery.’ Then I’d just drive them out.
“For a new startup like me, it was great — my business grew steadily and quite organically.”
“When I started getting more weekly customers, they wanted to have more choice,” says Hannah. “That’s when I realized I needed to offer a selection and grow my stock.
“We now offer wine, bath bombs, chocolates and more. Adding gifts definitely made the shop more boutiquey.”
Putting in the work
Like most budding businesses, floristry requires some sacrifices. “My day starts at 2 a.m. on market days. The markets open at 5 in Sydney so I’m up at 2, out the door at quarter past, then at the markets from 5 to 7.
I love every bit of it.
Other than the supermarket flowers up the street, Hannah’s nearest competitors are the five florists in Port Stevens. “Some have been going for 20 years,” she says. "I’m the newest arrival.”
To set her business apart, Hannah sources the freshest flowers she can get. “I have a really good selection for a small florist,” she beams. “Everybody loves how long the flowers last and how no two bunches are the same. “
Mindful of the ‘buy local’ trend, Hannah buys flowers from local businesses whenever possible. “My gift lines are all designed and made in Australia as well. Three of my lines support women in business.”
Keeping startup costs low
When asked about her best startup decision, Hannah responds without hesitation. “Not having huge startup costs. I looked at website providers and people wanted $5,000 to create a website.
It was very daunting, as I am not super technical.
“So I spent a lot of time looking at providers. I wanted something that had the coding already there, but the websites didn’t look cookie cutter.
“I found that with GoDaddy. You wouldn’t know my site isn’t custom till you get to the bottom where it says “Powered by GoDaddy.”
Early jitters give way to confidence
Like many, Hannah found herself reluctant to hit the Publish button once her website was ready. “I sat on the website for three weeks,” she confesses.
“I was terrified I would have something set to sell for a cent. It was quite nerve-wracking — but the best thing we ever did.
I love everything about my site — it’s so easy to go in and make changes.
“As we’ve grown, I’ve started offering workshops — and guess what? With GoDaddy’s store builder, people can book in and pay up front.
“Whenever I discover a new need, I just call GoDaddy and they help me figure it out.”
Facing fear of failure
Like most small business owners, Hannah has had moments of doubt. “About six months ago, interest rates started going up and I lost probably 70% of my weekly customers,” she says.
“Flowers are not a mandatory item and people were cutting what they could.
“We had to look at where we could save a little every month to pay the mortgage. Everybody was very worried for a while.
“Since then, business has been a bit slower but it’s starting to pick up.”
Hannah’s startup advice
If you are dreaming of starting your own business, Hannah has a few tips.
Have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.
“Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. Rely on the tools that you’re using and celebrate the small wins — from booking your first wedding to doing your first workshops.”
Mistakes to avoid
There are also a few pitfalls you’ll want to watch out for:
- Don’t try and go too big too fast
“And don’t compare yourself and copy what other successful businesses are doing,” she says. “Forge your own path.”
- Keep your expectations reasonable
“Know that every day isn’t going to be a great day, but it doesn’t matter — as long as you love what you’re doing.”
- Give yourself pep talks
“Sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back and say I didn’t do much business today, but I’m rocking it. Put a smile on your face and welcome each customer.”
“Everybody’s so hard on themselves, muses Hannah. "You’ve got to wake up each morning and go “today is a great day.”
- At the beginning you want to be the big guy, but it takes time
- Celebrate the small successes
- Find yourself a great support team that will give you what you need at each stage in the journey
The most important step? “Just deciding to jump in,” says Hannah. “Honestly sometimes you’ve just gotta back yourself. I hemmed and hawed for so long — I’m just glad I decided to do it.”
To find out more about Hannah at Blooms by the Bay visit bloomsbythebay.com.au.