We catch up with Newcastle’s mother-daughter floral duo
Proudly sponsored by Square
Over the coming months, we’ll be checking in with some of our region's most talented – a Hunter Valley chef at the top of their game, the local queen of aesthetic beauty, our city's go-to cheery artist and illustrator, and the personality behind one of Newcastle’s most renowned community cafe spots – to hear about how they marry together their core passions whilst successfully running a small business.
We called into Cooks Hill’s long-standing floral boutique Blooms on Darby for a chat with mother-daughter duo Natalie and Melissa Hart, to hear all about this flourishing flower business, and exactly what it’s like working alongside family.
Let’s take it right back to before Blooms on Darby had launched. How did you both get into the industry and what inspired you to do so?
We have both spent a large part of our lives in the floristry industry. Mum [Melissa], started her traineeship in her early twenties and I grew up in mum’s shops over the years.
What we don’t often talk about is that our creativity spans back across our family of artists. We love to be creative, and our art is using our hands with flowers as our medium.
In the floral industry, we get to take inspiration every time we pick up flowers to design for our customers and for ourselves – that’s why you don’t often see two of the same designs come from our shop – we are forever changing, using different textures, and drawing from different sources.
Can you take me on a brief tour of the Blooms on Darby business journey?
Mum had sold her florist shops on the North Coast, and I was looking for a new flower challenge. I was wanting to jump further into the flower world after years in the daily Sydney grind in an events office. It was burning me out and not meeting my creative desires.
We kept meeting in Newcastle as it was in the middle of both our locations. We found we were drawn to Newcastle’s growing city that still had a country charm and found that the shady streets of Cooks Hill kept calling us back.
In August 2015, we decided to jump all in – eight years ago! We opened our teeny tiny flower studio on Darby Street and have not regretted it for a moment.
In that time, we have upgraded to our bigger space – although the front shop is small, out the back we have our full workshop where we handle deliveries, functions, weddings, sympathy flowers, and everything in between.
We are a small team and love to keep it that way, surrounding ourselves with kind people that want our business to flourish as well!
Over the eight years our business has grown and changed to adapt to the times with our main focus to always provide beautiful flower gift bouquets across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
What would you say is at the core of Blooms on Darby’s philosophy?
Never underestimate determined small business owners! We have had trying times over the years – from partners working away, growing families, and general life which never goes to plan. but at the end of the day, our passion for providing a boutique floristry service that consistently delivers unique and seasonal flowers keeps us making sure our business is sustainable in the florist industry and the Australian small business market.
You’re not only working together as mother and daughter, but you’re also owners of a business that you’re running together. How do you find working with one another?
We obviously have our days, but I would consider Mel (my mum) my best friend and someone I constantly look up to and have done so throughout my whole life. Especially through my parenting and working journey – she juggled her flower shops with four kids at home!
I have two kids of my own and a baby on the way, so I give all credit to her in how I handle myself. Our respect for one another gets us through the hard conversations and our flexibility in co-owning the business allows us to each take a breather when we need it.
We both love our careers, but we both also love our own personal lives. Getting to share it with one another relieves some of the pressures that arise in small business, and allows us to also say yes to big goals and projects.
How would you describe the brand’s floral aesthetic that Blooms on Darby has become known for?
Our inspiration is drawn from European florists spilling out onto cobblestone laneways. We like to harness the natural design of flowers and not manipulate them to look too perfect and artificial.
As a design-based business we need to consistently adapt and follow trends, updating our website options each year. To reflect this, we still try to maintain the signature Blooms on Darby touch throughout our work.
You’re both naturally creative with your hands, how do you manage the behind-the-scenes side of the business?
As our business grew so did the need to jump into the world of a cloud Point of Sale. We needed to work with a system where everything could be accessed no matter where we were. Square was an easy choice for us because of the ease of convenience it offered.
Did you find moving to a system such as Square helped with running your business more efficiently?
Yes. From checking orders prior to market collections, offering multiple payment options, the modern and easy to use payment system, and being able to track our daily and weekly business sales and trends from our personal devices has been one of the most important tools in our business.
That, and the easy tap and go payment system for all of our customers.
Some might envy the life of a florist – what do you love most about what you get to do on the daily?
We have a lot of tasks that are the same each day including flower care, processing orders, cleaning buckets, vase cleaning, cool room cleaning, and honestly, just lots of cleaning! But besides the general back end of running a business, we get to chat to our local community and create with our hands day in and day out in the most beautiful environment.
We may be biased but have you ever popped into our space and just taken a moment to enjoy it? She may be small but she sure is mighty!
Blooms on Darby celebrates eight years of business this year, what has helped make your business so successful?
Determination, passion, commitment, and constantly sticking to our business values in what we offer and deliver has got us where we are today.
People are very quick to forget that in small business you have to earn trust and gaining forgiveness can be a little harder, so it’s so important to be across everything to ensure you are consistent in what you offer.
From our opening hours, delivery times, flower quantity, flower quality, and a knowledgeable team – the Blooms on Darby experience has always been consistent.
As a pair, you have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to running a small business. What piece of advice would you give to emerging small business owners?
When you jump in, jump all in. From branding and socials to creating a space that breathes ‘you’.
Many businesses close down in the first few years, don’t see immediate growth, or make a large change that loses momentum. Stick to your values and dig your feet in during the hard times.
What does the future look like for Blooms on Darby?
We ask ourselves this daily and constantly question and ponder where we are heading. We have dreams, but this paired with the current happenings in the world and the heavily increased cost of wholesale flowers has really shaken up our industry which has made us relook at our business structure and what we offer.
Our most important goal is to continue to deliver blooms all over Newcastle with seasonal flowers, sustainability, quality, and presentation as our main focus. After all, flowers may not last forever, but the impression and message you delivered with those flowers will last a lifetime.
Gracing our local florist scene since 2015, and adding their own colourful approach to our homes and hearts, we can’t wait to see what the future for Nat and Melissa’s Blooms on Darby holds.
Produced by HUNTERhunter in partnership with Square.
Square brings you tools that connect every side of your business.