How this local florist found fresh ways to flourish
At a glance
A small business loan from Prospa helped florist, Kerri Murphy:
- Upgrade her signage to make her florist shop more visible.
- Stock the complementary products her customers wanted.
- Embed her business in a community that wants to shop local.
For owner of Twisted Willow florist, Kerri Murphy, flowers are a universal language for every emotion and occasion.
“Flowers can express love, celebration, grief – and everything in between,” she says. “I love working with these beautiful products every day. Floristry really engages the creative side of my brain.”
Another great love of Kerri’s is literature, and she often names her floral arrangements after favourite novels. It’s the kind of very personal and individual touch that makes Twisted Willow memorable. That and the much loved shop dog, Willow.
“Willow the dog came before Twisted Willow the shop,” Kerri says. “When I saw Twisted Willow was up for sale – well, it just felt like a sign!”
Twisted Willow is in the Wellington suburb of Tawa, with a growing population of about 18,000.
“People here like to get what they need locally if they can, and avoid going into the city,” says Kerri. “I really like being part of the Tawa community – I’d rather be here than in the city.”
While Kerri only bought the business three years ago, she’s had a passion for flowers since she was a teenager, and has worked in and out of the industry over many years. She also has a degree in psychology – it sounds unlikely, but she uses it every day as a florist.
“Florists are a bit like bartenders,” Kerri explains. “My customers like to sit on the bench while I put their flowers together and tell me what’s going on for them. After all, they are often buying flowers for an emotional occasion – an anniversary, funeral, wedding – so it’s important to them.”
This is the first time Kerri has owned her own business. “I went back to floristry about eight years ago and I know a lot about the industry and have seen how things work. But running a business yourself is much more of a challenge.”
Mastering the juggling act
“Running a florist is a real juggling act,” explains Kerri. “It’s quite a unique business in that most of your products – flowers – are bought on an auction system. So the prices are always changing.”
And of course, flowers can’t sit on a shelf for weeks at a time. They have to be sold. This makes buying a major challenge and can strain cash flow.
“I’ve had to really learn about and understand my clientele,” says Kerri. “What do they want? When do they want it? What are they prepared to pay? And I’ve had to get to know the growers too and figure out what I’m prepared to pay.”
Preparing for seasonal peaks like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day takes that juggling act to a whole new level.
“I know other florist owners who, even after 25 five years in the business, still find those days incredibly stressful!”
Last year, Mother’s Day was so different to other years – with New Zealand just having come out of lockdown, Kerri saw many more people sending their mothers flowers. Combined with the ‘shop local’ push Kerri says has been embraced in Tawa, this made Mother’s Day huge.
It showed Kerri the potential Twisted Willow had and got her thinking about how she could meet that potential. Small business growth is never without challenges but Kerri calculated that if she could put some funds into two key areas – improving signage and stocking complementary products – Twisted Willow could really take off.
Hear more about Kerri’s small business story:
Creating a visual brand
“The shop has always been a work in progress,” says Kerri. “I really wanted to improve signage and the range of complementary products, but I put my sensible hat on and used the money I had for the website – that ate up a lot of my resources.”
Still, Kerri knew the signage – unattractive, inadequate and at odds with her style – would have to change if she were to capitalise on the foot and car traffic of the busy street.
“I thought a bit about contacting a bank but I decided that getting a loan from them would be especially hard after COVID,” says Kerri. “So when I saw an ad for Prospa, I figured why not give them a try? I sent an email to Prospa and got a call back really quickly – I had the money in my account less than a week later. It was amazing.”
With her small business loan, Kerri was able to update the signage and the shop fit out.
“It has definitely made a difference,” she says. “Cars are often stopped in traffic along the street and now they can really see that there’s a florist shop there. And pedestrians who didn’t even know I existed before are coming in. Tawa is a growing suburb and a very community-minded one so people are keen to support local businesses.”
Kerri was also able to use the loan to expand her stock to include complementary products and giftware – a step she’d always wanted to take, but which had seemed like a luxury rather than a possibility.
“All my communication with Prospa was so easy,” says Kerri. “So I was able to secure my small business loan quickly, keep the store fresh and new for my customers, and get cracking on growing the business.”
Looking towards future growth
“The hamster wheel is always turning,” Kerri says of the new ideas and directions that are constantly on her mind. “I love collaborating with other local businesses and being part of Tawa’s business network. I get together with other women business owners to discuss the challenges of running a small business and there’s a strong business networking group in the community as well.”
Next on the agenda is book club and flower-arranging workshops, and Kerri will continue to steadily work at improving the website.
For now, with her shop bench a favourite spot for locals to have a chat while their flowers are being prepared, and with Willow the dog welcome at the nearby pub, Kerri and Twisted Willow are well and truly embedded in the Tawa community.
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