“A time of reflection”: Why Bronwen Clune launched her flowery side-hustle in the midst of COVID-19

ok bouquet founders

Bronwen Clune and Peter Costin, founders of ok bouquet. Photo: Mim Costin.

Bronwen Clune and Peter Costin have been working on their new flower delivery business over the past few months and are preparing to launch any day now.

The Melbourne business owners were looking for a creative outlet outside of their work in the tech and community sectors, and as their city has grappled with being completely locked down, they say their journey to launching ok bouquet has already been an adventure.

We caught up with Clune to chat about the values underpinning ok bouquet, and why family matters in small business.


What’s your elevator pitch?

We sell limited edition dried flower and grass bouquets through an online store. Deliveries are via Australia Post (so not dated-deliveries). We put up brightly-coloured themed bouquets every two weeks or so, and they are all limited editions.

We want to build a sense of connection between people through our bouquets, and remind people that we are all valued and loved. The gift of flowers are a perfect way of doing that, while bringing people joy. 

Do you have any employees? 

At the moment it’s just us working on the company, but our kids (Bronwen’s 19, 17 and 16-year-olds along with Peter’s, 13 and 16-year-olds) will be helping us too.

What has the journey been like since first developing the concept for ok bouquet?

We’re both creative people and it’s not something that we get to exercise a lot in our other work, so it’s been great to unleash that with each other.

I think we went very quickly from thinking about it to just doing it, and didn’t overthink it all too much. We don’t have a grand plan other than to have fun with it, and we’re figuring out stuff as we go along. So, you could definitely describe it as an adventure so far. 

How are you funding the business?

We’ve managed to do a lot of the setup ourselves, including building the website and other costs you usually incur in setting up an online business, so we haven’t required a lot of funding. The biggest outlay has been the flowers, and we invested our own money in that. 

Why now? Why launch a business during a global pandemic?

I think the pandemic has been a time of reflection for a lot of people and for us, it’s been about wanting a bit more autonomy and security around work.

Our (collective) kids are also at an age where they would like to earn money, and casual jobs are impossible to come by. That’s going to be the case for some time. This is also about giving them the opportunities that we have all otherwise taken for granted. 

Did you have a moment where you questioned whether it was the right time to launch a new business?

No. If anything, it’s good timing for us. There’s never been a more important moment in time for us to all show each other that we care.

Is there ever the perfect time to launch a startup?

I think this is relative to what you are doing, and where you are in your life, but for us, the timing feels good.

What particular challenges has COVID created for a business like yours? 

There have been major shipping delays that have created a lot of headaches for us. We’re just being patient — we know that everyone is doing the best they can.

And what are the opportunities?

The opportunity is to spread a bit of joy at a time when a lot of us need that.

 

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Let’s talk about values. What are ok bouquet’s values and how do you plan to incorporate these into the everyday of your business?

One of the reasons we settled on the idea of ok bouquet — after tossing around a few other ideas — was the fact that we could align it to a lot of the things we both believe in, and issues we want to contribute positively to.

One of our taglines is: “Are you bouquet?” That speaks to the importance of all feeling and being cared for — including self-care. Mental health is something that we both really advocate for. While dried flowers don’t need much care, people do — and that messaging is built into our branding and comms.

We are also hoping to break down barriers around masculinity that prevent men from admitting to their vulnerability — and their need for care too. It’s crazy that flowers are so gendered and we want to encourage men to buy flowers for each other.

No business exists without its community. Who’s in your community? 

The beauty of a small business is that it’s so relationship-driven, so our immediate community is our friends and family who have all been so supportive.

Beyond that, social media is a huge driver for us, and we want to be more than a ‘brand’, but really bring our personality and true selves to the business. We’re both writers and want to be open and honest about some of the issues we’ve mentioned, and the beauty of having your own company is having the full freedom to do that. To be your true, vulnerable selves.

Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Do you think we’ll see more women start their own businesses because of this?

Definitely creating something that is your own is incredibly appealing when opportunities are hard to come by, but until we properly address the inequality of caregiving that COVID has exposed, then we’re not empowering women in the way they deserve.

Can entrepreneurship be an answer to some of the problems exposed by the pandemic? And if so, what do local, state and federal governments need to do to support it?

Equality in caregiving is a federal issue and needs to be something we all work for – that is, men and women need to demand it. We’re all held back by it, including men, who can miss out on important bonding with their kids.

With regards to federal and state grants, some grant initiatives around creating new businesses, much like we’ve seen with JobKeeper, would be welcome. This needs to be cash that new businesses can access, and not just access to initiatives like mentoring and skill-building (quite frankly, that should be something the government is promoting now, so that once recovery is initiated people are ready).

I know these can be hard to administer, but we’re going to need new businesses like never before once the economy starts recovering. A lot of people, women and young people in particular, won’t have jobs to go to.

What’s the big goal for ok bouquet? When you picture the business a year from now, in September 2021, what do you see?

We want to make sure we’re still having fun with it. We want to still be learning and growing as individuals.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

Fear should never be a reason that stops you from doing something.

Bronwen Clune is a former editor of StartupSmart

NOW READ: Why Georgie Cavanagh and Carlotta Casals went all-in on their side-hustle, even as the pandemic was taking hold

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