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    Regional creative spotlight: Kamisha Refalo – Little Wren Flowers

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    By Christina Atherton

    Having recently made a sea change from the big smoke, I’ve noticed an abundance of local creatives doing incredible things across regional Australia, highlighting that you don’t need to live in a major city to fulfil your creative passion.

    One such creative is Kamisha Refalo from Little Wren Flowers in Newcastle who is pushing the boundaries when it comes to creative floristry. Her bespoke work can be seen across retail outlets, cafes and magazines as well as weddings and special events. Here she shares some insights into running a small business and her creative inspirations.

    Tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into floristry?
    I’ve been working in the floristry industry since I was 17 years old. My first job was at Roses Only in Chifley Plaza, Sydney. I felt like this would be the perfect ‘earthy’ job for a young country girl in the big city. I stayed there for a few years before moving back home to Bellingen on the north coast of NSW.

    After that, I dabbled in the industry for a few years but never felt confident or ready to branch out on my own. It wasn’t until my partner and I travelled around Australia with our sons then 1 and 3, that I really gave some thought to starting my own business.

    When we returned to Newcastle, I started Little Wren Flowers from home with just one client – Saluna Café – who I still work with today. From there, it grew really quickly and, with plenty of wedding requests and clients coming in, I moved into our studio on Darby Street.

    What was the motivation behind starting Little Wren Flowers?
    Essentially it was to create something that could be flexible around my young children – at the moment I work part-time which I’m really grateful for. Rather than have a typical shopfront, my flower studio is by appointment only which means I can be more flexible with my hours. I never thought Little Wren Flowers would turn out to be as creatively rewarding as it is, which is great. I really love working for myself and am thankful that, at this stage, the business isn’t driven by money.

    You have a really unique approach to floristry and a great eye for detail. Where do you get your inspiration from?
    I get my inspiration from the flowers. If you have fresh, beautiful blooms to work with, nothing can go wrong. I love natural, true-to-form arrangements – this style of floristry comes easily to me and I love that it resonates with so many people, too. In addition, living so close to the country, I am lucky enough to be able forage and handpick ingredients on a weekly basis.

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    How do you keep yourself creatively challenged working in a small regional business?
    I’m lucky that I have great clients who make me think outside the box each week. Creative collaborations are great, too, as they challenge what is possible. Social media keeps me on my toes and the changing seasons help as well, as I get to work with flowers and foliage that may often only be available for those few months each year.

    What do you love most about running your own creative business?
    I love having flexible hours to suit my home life. I love the control and being able to drive Little Wren Flowers in the direction that is right for me. I also love the freedom to work at my own pace and indulge, at times, in creative ideas. Floristry is a very satisfying job – it’s about making clients smile using the beauty of a natural medium.

    What are the challenges of running your own creative business?
    Like most creative people, I find bookwork and quoting on jobs can be challenging – I try very hard to please everyone! The other big challenge is to not take on too many overheads. I don’t want money to be the sole motivation of the business. At present, we only buy for clients so there is very minimal waste or loss.

    I also currently have three amazing casual staff at Little Wren Flowers and we all work really well together. As the boss, I am always learning how to make my team more comfortable and happy after each big project. My aim is for my staff to genuinely love what we do and never feel like it is just a job for them.

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    Do you find there are any differences between working in a regional area compared to a big city?
    For sure! Everyone is so supportive in Newcastle and I get such great positive feedback from the locals. I couldn’t imagine living in a big city, let alone operating a small business there! We have it made in Newcastle – everything is close enough that it’s rarely stressful. The furthest we ever travel is an hour-and-a-half to the Hunter Valley to set up weddings. Unfortunately the drive to the Sydney Flower Markets is a mission from Newcastle. I would love for the Sydney Flower market to be more accessible.

    Is there are a strong creative community in Newcastle? Does this help with your creativity?
    Yes, the creative community here is very strong and inspiring. I collaborate regularly with a number of different people and am grateful for each and every opportunity. I just wish I had more time! There are so many awesome creative projects, openings and markets happening in Newcastle every day.

    What does a typical day at work look like for you?
    I have three types of days. A typical market day sees me wake at 2:30am and drive to the Sydney Flower Markets. It’s a 2.5 hour drive each way, so I usually get back to the studio around 9:30am and unload all the flowers and group them according to events, weddings and our weekly clients. If there’s time, I head home for a nanna nap, then pick up the kids from school at 2:45pm.

    A typical creative day in the studio making up wedding flowers often means I work back until 9/10pm, just to make sure everything is perfect. A wedding delivery and set up day starts at 5-6am to dress all bridal flowers, make any delicate crowns or hair flowers then pack the flowers into cars and head out to the wedding venue, usually by 2pm.

    A typical studio day starts by getting everyone to school then heading into the studio by 9am to check emails. I then create any orders and weekly clients orders, deliver those then pick up the kids and head home, or stay back late and get on top of quoting and paperwork.

    I love the variety of my days, so I guess there is no typical day other wise this job/career would not suit me. I love the ups and downs and the many different briefs and ideas that get thrown my way.

    What are your big plans for 2015?
    To move to a larger studio and buy a cool room – which would be heaven. I also have some creative weddings booked which I am really looking forward to getting my hands dirty for this year. And I would love to grow more flowers!

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    {Photos by Hannah Robinson}

    Having swapped the big smoke for coastal life, Christina Atherton is on a quest to live a more creative life and shine the spotlight on regional creatives. She has an unhealthy obsession with Instagram and loves any type of creative project having tried everything from watercolours and flower arranging to paper craft and calligraphy. When not working in PR, she spends her time as a mama, wannabe photographer and coffee addict. Christina is also the CWC Event Host in Newcastle, NSW.


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: interview, regional | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Service design: what it is and how to get it right

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    By Jes Egan

    Have you ever recommended a restaurant or product and then realised that the product or food wasn’t what you are really recommending, but the experience that you had? Or that time when you walked into the Apple store when there was something wrong with one of your ‘iDevices’ – overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people and massive technology overload – until someone in a blue t-shirt finds you, politely asks what you need and tells you to just have a wander around and ‘Aaron’ will find you. 10 minutes later, and techno guru ‘Aaron’ comes up and says ‘Hi Jane, lets have a look and see what we can do today to fix your problem’. Crisis averted.

    I like to call this ‘Service by Design’. Apple have done this very well by addressing the number of people in their store, how intimidating this can be and how hard it can be to get served at times in these situations. They have just thought about everything they possibly could and developed a solution in advance.

    Put simply, service design is when a company, no matter how big or small, or in which industry, thinks about every single aspect and touch point that you may have with their company or brand, and both considers and designs how to respond at each individual point.

    Look at it from a different angle, have you ever not returned somewhere or purchased again from a company because you had a bad experience? I’m pretty sure we’ve all done that, a bad experience can be the end of a relationship with a customer, however, if some of it was handled differently it could result in a more loyal and happy customer.

    Why service design is important
    In this day and age, I believe a business can no longer be just about the product/service that they sell – it has to be much much more than that. Each purchase has to be packaged with a positive experience in order for that business to stand out from the crowd. This is particularly true for a small businesses, and  it really doesn’t matter what you sell, from coffee to jewellery to photography to management solutions.

    To stand out from your competitors or create a lasting impression, any interaction a customer has with your business needs to go above and beyond expectation. It is so much more than just exchanging money for purchase.

    How to do it
    The elements of service design in one business will differ from the next, but there are some fundamental basics that can be applied and tailored to the specific needs of your individual customers:

    Communication
    Communication is key. Consumers like to know the status of their purchase at every stage, particularly if it is an online purchase. Keeping your customer informed of the progress of their order is a little thing that can take only seconds to do (or less if you have a wonderful automated system). I personally get really excited when I receive an email or text saying that my order is in the delivery van and on its way. It builds up an anticipation about its arrival and sometimes – even when it is not something that is even that exciting – because I know it is on its way, I can anticipate that I should stay in to sign for it, or put that ‘do not ring doorbell!’ sign on the door (so the babes don’t get woken up!). Either way, I appreciate the communication that my purchase is on its way.

    Alternatively, perhaps there is a delay with my package being sent out. Being aware of this in advance alleviates any worry or negative thoughts that might come about when it doesn’t turn up as expected.

    Delivery
    It is such a simple thing, but the way a purchase is delivered to you can make such a huge difference. Whether you are buying face to face in a shop or at a market or an online delivery – everything from a helpful, happy sales person; a beautifully wrapped item; a handwritten note or a simple thank you. A package doesn’t have to be extravagantly wrapped, just a considered wrapping/packaging experience will do.

    Follow up
    More often than not, this stage is overlooked. Many businesses treat the delivery of a purchase as the final transaction. It doesn’t have to be. If it’s a product, a simple email or follow up call to say ‘thank you’ or to offer a discount on a future purchase might be all you need to do. If you’re wanting to offer a more personalised service, a quick call or note to see if your customer was happy with their order can really make them feel appreciated.

    If what you’re offering is a service, the same rule applies. Tailoring this to your business and clientele is very important – you should only do this kind of thing if you can make it relevant to your audience. A simple follow up may be all it takes to gain a loyal client. After all, studies show that it is cheaper to keep an existing customer who purchases repeatedly from you than it is to acquire a new one.

    Disputes
    The truth is, they do happen. How a dispute is handled by your business can be the difference between a very unhappy customer (which can translate to vocalising that unhappiness on social media) and a customer who walks away reasonably satisfied. While customers can be difficult or unreasonable at times, it is important for a business to act professionally and resolve problems efficiently and kindly.

    While I’m not saying you have to ‘give in’ and go against what you think is fair or right in the face of a demanding situation, but ensuring you deal with the issue quickly and politely can resolve it much faster and more effectively. Perhaps it is something that is out of your control, such as a third-party postal or delivery issue. The best time to think about how to respond to a dispute is not when you are in the middle of it. If your heart is entrenched in what you do, it can be really hard to not take it personally when a dispute arises. So thinking about what you would do in advance can be very effective. A solution such as offering a discount on the next purchase or a small token of appreciation could help ease the tension, and is easy to set up in advance should you ever need to play that card.

    Over to you
    Service Design can create value. Creating a positive experience for your customer by designing your service around your offering is so important, and often overlooked. In most cases, once you have thought through how you are going to interact with your customer and put your plan into place, it’s a simple process and hopefully will become second nature. Adding a bit of service design to your business can help you create a warm and appreciated experience around your business. And service design is all about designing that experience.

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ with a past life in advertising. These days Jes is an artist, lecturer, and small business owner who can be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips | Comments Off