Emerging from a flurry of bundling orders, Aimie Ryan inspects the suspected damage to her limbs – having let her son, 18-month-old Bear, loose with a texta on her legs while she worked away.
“We had a crazy morning and he didn’t want to leave my side, which suited me just fine,” laughs the woman behind Willow + Bear, an online florist that sprung up little more than a year ago, sporting a no muss, no fuss attitude.
“Our whole aim is about making flowers more accessible to the consumer without skimping on quality or style,” she says simply. “By being based purely online and working out of our studio, we are able to minimise cost. By limiting the choice and only offering two different weekly arrangements, we can prevent waste, and by providing purely seasonal blooms we are keeping it local, supporting the growers of Australia,” she explains.
Somewhere in the tangle of glamorous floral vendors, and cheaper, oversized teddy bear-accompanied offerings, Aimie has snipped out her niche.
“The florists who inspired me were always out of my price range and any others beyond that lacked the creative edge that I was constantly searching for,” she says. “They were very traditional in their approach.”
Having worked in interior design, fashion styling, events and advertising, Aimie was yet to pursue her true passion – one she’d been nurturing since primary school.
“I was always picking flowers from the playground garden and putting them on my desk. In hindsight, I should have realised then that it was my calling, but I guess there was doubt in my mind that I could actually turn what, back then, was just a weird fascination, into an actual living.”
Motherhood, evidently, quickly changed her mind. “After Bear was born, I found myself spending endless hours between feeds and nap times making my dream become a reality. He was all of two months old and I was already underway, doing the website, renovating the studio, hitting the flower markets at 4am to build relationships with the growers…”
With the digital shift in full swing, she opted for online over bricks-and-mortar and was taking orders by the time Bear reached seven months.
“I’m always striving to break the rules a little. I love incorporating branches, twigs or natives into my arrangements and always blend them with a feminine flower variety, like a gorgeous scented garden rose, hydrangeas or sweet peas.”
Her advice for budding florists? Mind the thorns – and competition.
“There are more and more young entrepreneurs out there flying the flag for florals. It’s tough. You wouldn’t think it with flowers but it’s quite intimidating sometimes at the markets now. It really is! Find that gap in the market and succeed by staying true to yourself.”