Q&A: Helping new business owners bloom

This week we chat with Yvette Timmins, an award-winning florist and CEO and founder of Bloom College, who is innovating the floristry and well-being industries by leveraging technology to educate students on the positive energy of flowers.

ISB: Please tell us briefly about your interest in and earlier career in the flower industry.

YT: I started in the industry as part of work experience and from there it became my after school, weekend and school holiday job whilst attending short courses at night. After graduating from high school, I completed a three-year apprenticeship and worked within the industry before opening my own floristry business. After five years in the business I sold it and went into teaching after a break to have a child. I taught at TAFE for five years before launching Bloom College in 2013.

ISB: What was the driving force behind you founding Bloom College?

YT: After working for five years in the TAFE sector and experiencing the frustration of students firsthand, I felt a burning desire to offer an alternative solution which allowed for flexible learning. On my first day of teaching I had a vision of teaching in a virtual classroom as the traditional TAFE format was no longer able to meet the needs of the modern-day student. The idea for the Bloom College app, which launched the same day as the classes, came from Jamie Oliver’s cooking tutorial app. I downloaded it, watched it and immediately could see it as a floristry classroom.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the venture off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

YT: The biggest challenges I faced were getting the key message out there, managing cashflow and finding appropriate premises to run the classes. The first class I ran, I invited local business women, most of whom I had never met. It paid off as it paved the way for generating further interest through social proofing as the women shared their experience on social media.

ISB: Tell us a little about the programs Bloom College offers and how they help aspiring entrepreneurs.

YT: Our Career Change Course provides people with the opportunity to shift careers at any point in their working life. Many Career Change Course students aspire to have their own floristry business which many go on to achieve. The soon to be launched Bloom in Business course will teach florists how to create profitable floristry businesses using many of the strategies I’ve used in my initial business and now Bloom College.

ISB: I understand sustainability is very important to you – how does this manifest itself in the way you go about things?

YT: We have phased out the use of floral foam products, use green waste bins, are conscious about where our products are sourced from and recyclable wherever possible. We opt for non-plastic containers and do not use plastic wrapping or ribbons.

I co-founded the Floral Acts of Kindness charity which rescues flowers form floristry wholesalers that would otherwise be thrown out and teach volunteers how to arrange them. The charity then delivers the arranged flowers to nursing homes for their elderly residents. We also provide flowers for fundraising events for Beyond Blue, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Hunger Project.

ISB: Finally, what advice can you give to those with a passion they’d like to turn into a business?

YT: Firstly, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Who is my target market and is my offering solving a problem for them?
  2. Can they afford to pay what it’s worth and will they?
  3. Does it fit with my values to work with them?

Look at each product/problem and do the numbers, beginning with the product that can potentially generate the most revenue. Ask yourself how fulfilled you will be delivering this product and does it fit with your values? This exercise will also help you to deliver profitable products and services but more importantly ones that will keep you in alignment with your purpose and passion.

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