Business Time

How a passion for flowers launched a pioneering business

Kerry Bradburn’s love of flowers prompted her to launch one of New Zealand’s first online retail stores. She explains how advances in technology gave her the freedom to follow her passion, and gives her top tips for would-be entrepreneurs.

In 1998, Kerry Bradburn was a successful Auckland restaurateur and the mother of two young children when she spotted a gap in the market for a new kind of florist.

“I’d noticed that the style of floristry was incredibly staid and formal, and I wanted to create something more natural and modern. Flowers are so beautiful - they don’t need to be cut down and controlled,” says Kerry.

“I wasn’t a florist - I was an outsider who loved flowers. But I took a leap of faith and launched Wild Poppies.”

Pioneering a new kind of floristry, Wild Poppies was an immediate success. Within two years of the launch, Kerry had five stores.

But there were challenges. Flowers are a fragile commodity, and managing staff across five locations wasn’t easy. Then a customer suggested Kerry take her business online.

“I got rid of four of the shops and the overheads and started again, building Wild Poppies as a product-driven service,” says Kerry.

“It was 1999, and we were one of the first online sites in New Zealand for retail. Wild Poppies has grown up with the internet.”

The business has gone from strength to strength since going online. Kerry kept her Ponsonby store, which she says builds credibility with customers, but almost all her sales are online and she delivers flowers throughout the country.

The biggest changes to the business environment since she started Wild Poppies, says Kerry, involve technology.

“In those days, we didn’t have the tools we have now, like online banking and Xero. It’s dramatically easier now - I often think back to what a nightmare running a business used to be,” she says.

“I absolutely adore online banking and using my mobile. I’ve been away a lot recently and my business is in my pocket, on my phone. I can check my cash flow before I even get out of bed in the morning.

“Over the years, technology has enabled me to work smarter, not harder. It is a phenomenal change and has given me the freedom to be creative and work on my business, not in it.”

Kerry’s top six tips for people considering launching a business are:

  1. Find someone who’s in the same industry as you and ask if you can shadow them for a week or two. “You can shortcut the learning curve and save yourself a lot of time by buddying up with someone who’s good at something you want to be good at.”
  2. Honestly analyse your own strengths and weaknesses, then hire someone to do the things you’re weakest at.
  3. Explore all the tools available to help you improve your business. “The quickest way to be more successful is technology. Stop and ask yourself if there’s a product or service that could save you time and make your business better.”
  4. Seek advice. “We’re in a global village now, so look further afield if you can’t find the answer to your question here. Someone overseas might be doing exactly what you want to be doing, and you can learn from them.”
  5. Guard your time - don’t let yourself be distracted at work by emails and social media posts that aren’t helpful to your business.
  6. Do what makes you happy.

Kerry has been self-employed since she was 19, and says she can’t imagine working for anyone else.

“I’m used to having my own freedom and choosing my own hours. The thing about having your own business is that it’s entirely up to you whether you succeed or fail. It’s up to you to make it work.”

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