This interview is with Yvette Timmins, who went from being a florist to running an Australian floristry educational platform with more than three thousand students.

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your business?

My name is Yvette Timmins and I am an award winning Australian florist, and the CEO and founder of Bloom College, Australia’s first multi-dimensional educational platform which offers a range of virtual and face to face courses, an online members community, an app and YouTube Channel to educate students on how to utilise flowers to achieve a healthier and happier sense of mental, emotional and spiritual well being.

Launched in March 2013 Bloom has educated more than 3000 students, held more than 350 workshops, created more than 10,000 floral arrangements, had over 260,000 views on the YouTube channel and had over 1,000 downloads of the app. With sustainability one of its core values, Bloom College is also the first floristry school to ban the use of floral foam which toxic non biodegradable, non reusable product that is heavily used within the industry.

What motivated you to get started with Bloom College?

This business came about through a personal challenge. At the tender age of 24, I experienced my first mental health ‘episode’. I was young, an award-winning florist and I had the world at my feet. However in my early 20’s, I hit rock bottom, suffering from severe depression and anxiety before my passion and love for flowers pulled me from my darkest days.

There is much research to support the premise that flowers contribute significantly to a person’s overall happiness. In fact, behavioural research from Rutgers University* conducted over a 10-month period explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction. Their findings show that flowers are a natural moderator of moods and have strong positive effects on emotional health, providing scientific evidence that flowers do promote happiness and joy which are certainly essential for our psychological health and well being.

This experience was the basis for founding Bloom College, which has become a success. I’ve built it based around my own values and advocacy of mental health as I want to provide Australians with a ‘hands on’ and creative outlet for those striving for less stress and a positive and balanced wellness ethos in their own lives.

Who is the ideal customer for Bloom College? Why would they benefit?

My ideal customer would be a 30 something female who is either in a high stress role or disenchanted with her career and looking for more fulfilment via a creative outlet. Flower arranging is a meditative type activity with can move us from a parasympathetic state (flight or fight mode) to a sympathetic state (relaxed mode).

Creativity is sparked which flows to all areas of life allowing people to feel more fulfilled and better able to cope with stress in other areas of life. Mothers tend to benefit greatly too.

Cash flow can be challenging especially when I want to keep investing money back into the business to facilitate growth.

Looking back, how has your business evolved from initial idea to now?

Its evolving into the health and wellness space with yoga, chakra and flower workshops, vision board workshops, flower therapy workshops and other offerings which are more for the hobbyist. On the B2B side its moving into the floristry business space, educating business owners on how to create more profitable businesses which is our newest course offering which is soon to be launched.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

My one piece of advice to someone starting out would be to stay on track with your core brand story. Do not deviate to please other peoples wants or needs. Your core brand story can and will evolve but essentially it should communicate your passion and purpose and the ‘why’ behind the business and how it came to be.

How do you market Bloom College to attract new customers?

Much of it is now done via social proof as many of our successful graduates are out there marketing themselves which in turn markets what we do. We also have specific campaigns for products and have been actively collaborating through events with a select group of influencers who share the same ethos as Bloom.

Could you share with us how the idea for Bloom College came into your mind?

Seeing and feeling the immense frustration for many clients who were not having their needs met via other floristry education offerings. The lack of flexible training was apparent whilst I was teaching Floristry in the TAFE sector and I wanted to offer a solution. People want the opportunity to learn in a fun environment which provides options for them to study at a variety of times including the weekends.

With respect to our digital offerings, when I was teaching at TAFE, digital learning was virtually non existent and so the app and online courses seemed a natural progression in order to service those unable to attend classes.

What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?

People and finances have been my two biggest challenges. Cash flow can be challenging especially when I want to keep investing money back into the business to facilitate growth. Dealing with personalities and choosing the right team fit can be hard including bookkeepers but I’m very happy with the team we have currently.

However, I do believe that the onus starts and stops with the business owner which drives me to constantly learn how to be a better leader.

What trends have you noticed in your industry, and how are you evolving to meet them?

I have noticed a growing number of my students are wanting to, not only pursue floristry as a career, but to also start their own businesses so I have been focused on developing more business courses specific to the industry, which teach my students the strategies I have implemented myself with successful results.

Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? How have they helped?

I am a big advocate for professional development and believe that coaches are are a necessary part of the growth of a business owner. As such, I’ve invested in a range of coaches covering a variety of business topics from the outset of my business which has helped speed up my growth.

My partner and his business expertise has also been helpful. I would also recommend Anthony Robbins business course and books such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

What do you attribute your business success to?

Timing – seeing a need and filling it at the right time. Also, having a deep understanding of my target market and their underlying emotional needs and wants and anticipating when to flex and move. I have also invested a great deal of time in staying up to date with technology and not quitting when the going has been tough.

If you weren’t involved with Bloom College, what would you be doing instead?

An excellent question! I would likely be have founded another business focused on the interior design or property development industries.

What is unique about your business?

I believe that Bloom has many unique elements. We offer flexible learning to give as many people as possible the opportunity to pursue floristry as a hobby or career. We are socially conscious and have become the first floristry school to ban the use of floral foam which is toxic non biodegradable, non reusable product that is heavily used within the industry.

We are also privately owned which means we can flex and move as the industry and consumer needs require it, actually ideally we anticipate it and so flex and move before its required.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

My background has helped me immensely since I’ve founded Bloom. I have a culmination of 28 years industry experience across all levels which has enabled me to understand the business from all sides including creative, operations, target market and the industry itself. I have also undertaken and completed a variety of small business courses, marketing courses, personal and professional development courses and teaching courses to further improve my skills as both a teacher and a business leader.

I also regularly draw from a well of internal strength I have built up over the years as a result of some of the challenges I’ve had to overcome which means that I fully believe I am able to meet and overcome any challenge which comes my way.

What do you wish someone told you, before you started Bloom College?

Listen to your gut first and analyse secondary information after that. Everyone thinks they are an expert and will tell you how you should or shouldn’t be doing things but at the end of the day, you have to make your own decisions based on what you believe to be right for you and your business and I believe that your gut will always lead you in the right direction.

How did you acquire your first 20 customers?

I leveraged my own networks and social media by inviting guests to attend the first class to demonstrate social proof as they shared it on social media and ran targeted ads on Facebook.

What are the main goals of Bloom College?

My business mission is to ‘feed your soul with flowers’ and every aspect of the business flows from this. Essentially I want to innovate the floristry and well being industries by leveraging technology to educate students on the positive energy of flowers and how they can be incorporated into a daily well being ethos.

Do you have a favourite business book, blog or podcast to recommend? Why?

Favourite book; Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I love this book as it also relates to life.

Favourite blog; The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes. This blog has incredibly inspirational stories with great lessons from those who are achieving great things in business and life. A must read for anyone really.

LocationsBloom College – 5 / 339 Williamstown Rd, Port Melbourne (Main space)
Thrive Flowers and Events – 12 Dight St, Collingwood
As Daisy Does – 16 Rutland Street, Newtown