Ya gal was lucky enough to chat to Bonnie Dowie of Willunga florist Bonnie Blooms last week. Bonnie is an absolute delight and her creations from local flowers and lots of Aussie natives are GORGEOUS. Big on sustainability and bloody beautiful, what more do you want in a florist??! Here’s a peek into Bonnie Blooms.
How did you get into floristry?
Bonnie spent a summer or two working in a shearing shed in Scotland (um, BADASS). Being in the middle of nowhere, her days off were spent wandering the local areas, picking wildflowers. She loved it. Back home in Aus, she just kept doing it! It all started with a simple offer of Christmas bouquets for friends on Facebook, and slowly grew into more and more requests. She rolled with it and, with the help of Australia’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, Bonnie Blooms began.
What do you love about your job?
The best thing about working with flowers is that you develop an eye for spotting them - Bonnie told me she has become more observant and aware, noticing beauty in nature everywhere. She loves meeting new people when asking to raid their gardens. Her gorgeous studio is a bit chilly (though this is good for fresh flowers!), but definitely her happy place.
Hardest thing about owning your own business?
Bonnie describes herself as not a naturally organised person, making the business side of things the biggest challenge. People imagine florists as spending their entire day making bouquets, but as the business owner there is so much more to it! From mindset to managing money, there is a lot to learn. The other big challenge is the financial strain of being a small business. I can totally empathise with Bonnie here - though it makes supporting other small local businesses so much more fun when you know the smiles it creates behind the scenes.
Tactics for championing sustainability?
Bonnie uses locally sourced, seasonal flowers - “90%, no probably 95%” she says are from flower farms basically just down the road. How bloody good is that! The other 5% are all Australian grown too, never imports. She uses plastic-free wrapping and compostable twine or raffia rather than tape and synthetic ribbon, and no floral foam of course! She also loves to minimise waste where she can, delivering leftover blooms as random acts of kindness or wrapping wedding decorations for guests to take home.
Bonnie didn’t mention this (tall poppy syndrome lives on well in NZ and Aus alike!) but I can’t go past this: 5% of her profits go to Daughters of Destiny, an initiative in Uganda. They are creating space for single mothers to make friends, find support, and gain vocational training. With education of women and girls being #6 on Project Drawdown’s list of methods to tackle climate change - I am so bloody impressed by this. RAD.
Educating her customers about her ethos and mission is a big one too. Bonnie so elegantly does this in a gentle and encouraging way, knowing that empathy wins out over anger every time when incentivising action. People deserve to make an informed choice.
What makes you so passionate about the sustainability aspect?
When Bonnie first stepped into the floral world, she went to her first flower market. It was so intimidating being there amongst seasoned florists walking around confidently, and she just picked up a few bunches of whatever. When you’re using to plucking your own wildflowers, picking up flowers from a huge building can feel bizarre - and led her to wonder where the flowers came from.
This began her search for local flower farms. As well as supporting local and reducing the carbon footprint of her blooms, Bonnie found so many more reasons to buy locally-grown. When flowers arrive in the country from overseas, they need chemical treatment to reduce the biosecurity risk (which can be devastating if it still sneaks in!). On top of this, there is the ethical side: imported flowers can often come from farms using slave labour and terrible treatment of their employees. Taking care of the earth goes hand in hand with taking care of people.
In short: there is nothing better than locally grown flowers.
What is something you didn’t expect to learn?
Bonnie told me she surprised herself at being able to start a business. One of those things she would have laughed at if someone had told her she would be doing this - she didn’t think her personality meshes with running a business. But working with flowers brings her so much joy, and that is a big enough motivator to tackle all the biz stuff. Out of her comfort zone and with so much room to grow, but what. An. Inspiration.
Who inspires you?
Katie Davis from Ponderosa and Thyme was the first one to come to mind when I asked Bonnie who her biggest florist inspirations were. Not only for her flowers but for who she is and how she communicates - and I couldn’t agree more. Others were Moss + Stone, and Soil + Stem. And of course any English-garden style florists - they seem to have their own sort of magic.
How are you looking after yourself during this crazy year?
2020 has been draining, Bonnie says. Bloody hell, too true. Having trained in community development and being super passionate about humanity, Bonnie takes others’ pain to heart. I relate to that big time, and 2020 has been PAINFUL. Her favourite thing to do to take a break and find some time for herself is to go to the botanic gardens in her town, or just generally be amongst nature. She lives with her family on a 6 acre block about 10 minutes from the beach, (hello life goals!!), which is so good for the soul. She loves spending time with her nieces and nephews, chilling with her ADORABLE bunny Peter, and hanging out in front of the fire.