Small Business Spotlight: Bold Botanicals

6 min read

Small Business Spotlight: Bold Botanicals

Small Business Spotlight: Bold Botanicals
Small Business Spotlight: Bold Botanicals

In the heart of Earlwood in Sydney’s inner west, a unique and inspiring small business blooms brightly. Bold Botanicals, founded by Suzanne Robbins, is not just a floristry; it's a testament to all the creativity, passion, resilience, and community spirit that comes to mind when we think about small business.

This month we caught up with Suzanne to gain some insight into her entrepreneurial journey, including some of the challenges she’s faced (and overcome!) along the way and the vibrant ethos that helps Bold Botanicals stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Seeds of change, the genesis of every small business

An interior designer by trade, Suzanne built a career over 25 years working in the architecture and design industries until COVID-19, as it did for millions of others around the world, became the catalyst for a total career transformation.

"I started studying floristry during COVID as a creative outlet, and actually registered the name Bold Botanicals whilst I was still studying," Suzanne said, reflecting on her move into floristry. “I was lucky to have some funds behind me from real estate investing and savings, so I thought, at the age of 42, ‘it’s probably now or never’.” 

“I have not looked back.” 

When asked about the best piece of advice she's received since, Suzanne was quick to respond: avoiding the traditional florist shopfront. "The ‘florist shop’ concept is dead," she explained, highlighting a shift towards a more flexible, more innovative business model that prioritises sustainability and direct community engagement over a physical retail presence.

Community support and permission to bloom

Suzanne's local community's role in her business journey is undeniable. "My community is why I am a florist!" she explained. “Flowers are used to send messages of care, love, sympathy, and celebration for many significant life occasions. 

“Living in the inner west for over 20 years is a choice to have ‘my people’ as neighbours, allies, clients, and community. I know I can walk around and feel safe in this area. This greatly impacts feeling free in my creativity on a day-to-day level. Plus, ‘gays support gays’ where we can."

Her grassroots approach to business growth, from a simple chat with passersby from her garage workshop in the early days to leveraging Facebook community groups and Instagram, has not only helped her build a loyal client base but also fostered a deep sense of belonging and safety, giving her the confidence to keep building on her local foundations.

Embracing (and celebrating) LGBTQIA+ values

Suzanne's LGBTQI+ identity is intricately woven into the fabric of Bold Botanicals, influencing its values, vision, and the inclusive space it aims to create. "I don’t want to hide who I am," Suzanne said.

“Flowers have no a-gender!” 

Jokes aside, Suzanne relishes the comfort she takes in being able to talk and share freely her experiences in being queer and her daily business life in general, without fear or retribution.  

“If you don’t think that is a thing in Australia today – I’m here to tell you it still exists in many companies and businesses. Even things like not being able to say ‘my girlfriend’ or ‘my trans boyfriend’ around the lunch table with colleagues is impacting people every day. 

“The ‘YES’ referendum tally showed us that homophobia and non-equality still exists well beyond who we can marry legally,” she went on. 

“I don’t want to hide who I am – part of which is my queer identity – and I use my social media platform to educate and inspire inclusion along the way to creating beautiful flower vibes, whether that is for two grooms enjoying their native bridal bouquets, or a fabulous they/them bride in red silk with luscious roses in a bouquet.” 

This sense of personal pride extends to using her platform to advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. Each June during Pride month, for example, Suzanne runs a 'Pimp for Pride' promotion where she offers to ‘pimp’ orders with extra fancy ribbons, wrapping, and campness for an extra $10. She then donates money raised to various LGBTQIA+ non-profits.

On overcoming challenges…

Suzanne’s greatest challenge to date? “Probably right now,” she said. “Like it or not, flowers are a luxury item. There is no such thing anymore as a $50 bunch of flowers from a florist. The cost of living in Sydney coupled with mortgage stress and inflation has really affected multiple areas of my business, such as average spends for weddings. 

“I have to think outside the square and build long term visions and relationships with key local businesses who remain buoyant and thriving. I look for them online, when I’m driving, when they’re advertising locally to me. Hustle, hustle, hustle!”

“Also, this year, I created the Queer Wedding and Event Collective, to be held as part of the Mardi Gras Fair Day. We’d booked multiple vendors from celebrants to photographers to caterers and were anticipating 70,000 people at the event before disaster struck! Due to a contamination issue at the event site, the whole event was cancelled. To say I was devastated is an understatement.”

Suzanne’s response? “Pivot! I connected with people I know and who support my business, so very quickly I found four new venues willing to host pop-up ‘mini’ events, which was amazing.”

The power of partnerships

“I also distribute the only Australian-made flower pins or ikebana flower Kenzans, which replace the need for toxic flower foam and are a great investment in flower arrangement tools for home or events. I support locally made as part of my ethos wherever possible.”

Taking what she already knew about leveraging partnerships with big names who share your values and outlook, Suzanne also highlighted her recent creative collab with Doodad + Fandango jewellery designer Nikita Majajas. 

“Another queer woman and creative, we created a collection based on Australian natives called Wild Flowers – unique designs and very ‘me’ whilst being signature Doodad-style. 

“It expanded my reach – people who love colour, design, print, all the fun things I love! The launch was really great and I almost sold out of two designs straight away. I also sold some wholesale to key retailers who will get my brand out there (though we are still looking for Melbourne and Perth stores!)”

Collaborate or die! 

Suzanne’s business tagline is Floral Purveyor. Designer. Collaborator. She wholeheartedly believes in the power of partnership – sharing skills, sharing creativity and making something unique, and believes that it’s such a significant part of her ethos because, as an extrovert, she works better as a team!

“My number #1 early supporter was Lisa Freshwater of FEM Presents,” she said. “Though she is now Sydney Fringe Festival’s Executive Producer, she continues to support me with both business mentoring and event work for Sydney Fringe and, last year, World Pride Sydney.”

“Then the Sydney Peace Prize was awarding the Uluru Statement, and I was lucky enough to dress both Sydney Town Hall for the lecture night and a grand 800 person gala at Carriageworks. Supported by a team of 15 florists on the day, I was delirious by the end but we made a magnificent native flower meadow-scape and 80 table arrangements that I still dream about!”

Another significant connection was with Sarah Barry and Victoria Spence of Life Rites, a funeral celebrancy and death doula service. “I became involved with a death rites performance piece they produced about grief,” she explained.

“We had talked about death and grief, where I shared my experience in not being involved in the funeral arrangements for my mother due to family dynamics. I was able to make a floral installation and type of memorial for my mother Faye at the performance, which was extremely healing for me. 

“As a business, they are extremely progressive, inclusive, and celebratory, and their queer inclusion is a huge part of how they support the LGBTQIA+ community through death care. I always wanted to create flowers for funeral tributes and now I am!”

The art of unwinding 

Despite the demands of her business, Suzanne emphasises the importance of self-care and work-life balance. From riverside walks with her dog, Betty White, to meditation and swimming with friends, she finds ways to recharge and maintain her well-being, ensuring she can continue to pour her energy and creativity into Bold Botanicals.

“I’m also partial to a power nap in the middle of the day,” she said, “especially if I had a 4.30am start at the [flower] markets!”

“I use a meditation app called Better Sleep – it has spoken meditations, chill music, focus sound and so much more. I also try to prep meals on the weekend, particularly if I have a big week of events – healthy snacks are essential as a florist as we work strange hours and there’s always a fast-food outlet on the way.”

Let’s talk tech – best apps for productivity?

  1. Canva: my favourite tool for creating print and digital media myself and the best $17.99 I spend a month (for the Pro version). Now with AI, I make stunning client visual proposals, which I know have helped me win contracts for events and weddings.
  2. Instagram: I built a business through IG visuals and posts alone – I didn’t have a website or Facebook page for the first 1.5 years! It helped me ‘show’ what I do, who I am and how I operate in a storytelling sense through imagery, for free. Next on the list is TikTok. 
  3. Google Suite: Being organised, templated, and systemised is important. G:Drive lets me share, control access, integrate calendars, store large data and photo libraries. I feel like I still have a lot to learn and add new systems as I discover them. $10/month well spent.
  4. Sales funnels: I have templated emails for responses and am currently integrating automation through Shopify and Mailchimp. This year I am adding a sales email funnel through my website to advertise to leads and build email subscriptions.
  5. Online courses: I’m currently researching platforms for hosting online courses and marketing such as Kajabi and Class Bento. I want to reach global clients, doing bite size courses and education in eco-floristry practices, to build my passive income streams.
  6. iPhone: my most essential tool! I have insurance in case it’s damaged and backup processes in place. Photos and videos are a major part of what I do. Client and network contact is important to access 24/7 and Apple integrates easily from phone to laptop.
A final flourish

Suzanne Robbins' and her Bold Botanicals journey is a vivid illustration of how passion, innovation, and community can intertwine to create a business that not only survives but thrives.

“But let’s be real,” she added. “Running a business is hard yakka. It’s many hours of your life sucked up and sometimes a thankless beast that runs your life, too.

“Seeing the joy on people’s faces when they see flowers or products I create is what keeps me motivated. The day I stop feeling challenged or inspired, is when I will move on from flowers…so I think we are quite a few years away yet!”

Connect with Suzanne:

In-person: Studio,121-127 Riverview Rd, Earlwood 2206
Phone: 0420 877 186
IG: @bold_botanicals_sydney
FB: @boldbotanicalssydney