The constant grower
Julie Treanor grows flowers and grows leaders. The Upper Hutt-based floral entrepreneur, leadership developer and business coach lives a remarkably fulfilling life. When Julie Treanor emigrated to New Zealand from the UK in 2006 she brought with her 20 years’ experience in leading and managing communications and marketing teams. Here she took up a role […]
Julie Treanor grows flowers and grows leaders. The Upper Hutt-based floral entrepreneur, leadership developer and business coach lives a remarkably fulfilling life.
When Julie Treanor emigrated to New Zealand from the UK in 2006 she brought with her 20 years’ experience in leading and managing communications and marketing teams.
Here she took up a role as GM, communications for the Ministry of Social Development before working as a leadership coach and consultant in Wellington. A desire to work with smaller businesses and startups led her to launch Just Lead, a consultancy that focuses on leadership for all humans.
But there was one real passion Julie could not ignore – her passion for growing and supplying flowers. So she started up The Pickery – a small seasonal cut flower growing business with an ethos of using sustainable, environmentally and wildlife-friendly methods of working, and located in Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.
As if that didn’t keep her occupied enough, in 2019 she co-founded The Wellington Flower Collective together with grower Heidi Holbrook, based in Carterton and working with other small-scale flower growers in the lower North Island selling directly to florists and buyers.
How does she manage all this?
“Dividing time between coaching and flowering depends on the time of year but typically I split my time into two days coaching and three days flowering during the season and then flip to three days coaching and two days flowering out of season,” explains Julie. “It varies though. No two days or weeks are the same.”
The Wellington Flower Collective is a crucial part of the success of The Pickery she says, “so I don’t really separate the two”.
Collaboration between growers is important for mutual support and brings greater capacity to fulfil orders, she explains. And enquiries to the collective are shared amongst members depending on the location of the enquiry and what the customer needs.
“So, a customer who wants to buy flowers for their wedding in Masterton but lives in Wellington will have the choice to source their flowers from one of our members in Hutt Valley or in the Wairarapa.”
“Being true to your values, beliefs and commitments will give you strength when things get hard.”
If the Pickery can’t fulfil all the flower needs of a florist Julie contacts another grower to source the balance of the flowers which provides a one-stop-shop for the florist.
“Members of the collective also work together for pop-up markets,” she says. “For example, we are working together to sell plants at the upcoming Pukaha Wairarapa Garden Tour and growers in the Hutt Valley are collaborating on a weekly flower market for locals in Upper Hutt.”
The network of growers in the Collective isn’t just good for business, it’s also an essential professional and personal support system for what can otherwise be isolating work, says Julie.
Lessons on leadership and business growth
Starting and running a business is an act of leadership in itself, believes Julie. Your personal leadership as an entrepreneur, and your business having an agenda for your customers, supporters and the wider community, influence the decisions you make, actions you take and conversations you create.
“The most successful business leaders are those that know themselves well and look to continuously improve who they are and what they do – so that they can make their ventures as productive, profitable and impactful as possible,” says Julie.
“Being true to your values, beliefs and commitments will give you strength when things get hard. And recognise that being human means that mistakes happen. You can feel tired, stressed and be inspired, excited and empowered – sometimes all in one day.
“Being in touch with your energy, emotions and creativity means you are better able to create the conditions and working habits that make you happier, healthier and productive – and therefore create the best conditions for your business to thrive.”
What is the Floral Business Activator?
The Floral Business Activator is a community of floral business owners who are learning to lead, grow and sell their flowers.
“During the pandemic we worked together to raise the profile of the impacts of not being able to sell our flowers at Level 4 lockdown,” recalls Julie. “Unsold flowers were being composted because they are perishable and cannot be stored long term and the terms of the lockdown also meant that we couldn’t give our flowers away. It was one of the most dispiriting and financially challenging times.
“We also set up a simple web directory so that people could find a local grower and buy flowers direct.”
Julie says people might join the Floral Business Activator for the education and information but stay for the conversation and sense of community.
“The number of small-scale floral businesses in New Zealand is growing. It’s a modern cottage industry if you like – mostly women building their own businesses from their homes.
“Our members are mostly based in New Zealand. But there is growing interest amongst growers in Australia who are looking to grow their local and seasonal flower businesses as an alternative to mass produced and imported flowers.
Never go it alone
Julie admits to having an independent streak in her that’s a mile wide. “Yet experience has taught me that a problem shared with someone you know and trust can ignite new thinking, ideas and generate energy. Struggling alone doesn’t help.
“There’s no one person I look to. I’m lucky enough to have smart, creative and inspiring people in my life as colleagues and friends, and I like nothing better than chewing over challenges with them.”
As for the future? Well, Julie admits that the past few years have been challenging with the pandemic, climate change and global geopolitics.
“So, I’d like nothing better than to find space in my life for more peace, calm and creativity.
“Business wise I’m excited about being part of a movement that’s bringing local and seasonal flowers into more peoples’ lives via the Wellington Flower Collective and the Floral Business Activator.
“There’s so much potential for us to bring a new perspective to the floral industry that’s better for people, the planet and local communities – as well as helping people find the joy and satisfaction of growing flowers of their own.”