We heard from Iain last time and he had a lot to say! Are you a bona fide plant nerd too?
Haha, people always ask me that! … The honest answer is, I didn’t use to be. When we started this business, Iain was the plant guy (and the ideas guys), and I was the one making all the practical stuff happen. I worked on the logo, website and branding. I set up our social media, our quoting and bookkeeping, and our working processes. I picked up the phone and started building relationships, and signed us up for lots of wedding and event fairs and vendor directories. At that point, honestly, I had only a cursory knowledge about plants. But, living with the plant guy for most of my life, I have definitely picked up a few things… And nowadays I live and breathe all things green just like Iain does. Plants definitely grow on you (excuse the pun) when you spend your life talking about them, growing them, ordering them, tending to them…!
I was going to ask what your role in the business is, but I guess you’ve already answered that…?
You won’t see as much of me – I’m a bit camera shy and prefer working behind the scenes. I have a lot of interaction with clients – via email and on the phone every day, and also in face to face consultations and venue site visits. But you won’t see my face on social media very often. I’m the one who organises everything – the scheduling, the ordering, the quoting and invoicing. Iain is the one doing a lot of the heavy lifting (both literally and figuratively) with the actual event set-ups and pack-downs, especially now that we have Amelia and I’m at home more.
How did you & Iain meet, and what’s it like working together?
We’ve been together forever – since I was 17! We met during Freshers’ week at Uni in Edinburgh, and moved in together just a few weeks later. It was one of those situations where you just know straight away that you’ve met your person. We’re lifers.
We’re very much on the same wavelength with most things in life (except coffee!) and have very different but complementary skill sets, so we work very well as a team. We’re both very passionate about the environment and animal rights, and our aim for many years has been to live and work as sustainably and ethically as possible. Moving out to the country and having our own proper veggie garden is the realisation of a dream we’ve shared for a long time. We’re also working together on finding as many ways as possible to make Pop-Up Gardens a truly “green” business – ways to become more sustainable.
Don’t get me wrong though, we’re not the Waltons – we have our moments! One of the things we’ve learned about running a business together is that it’s important to have quite defined responsibilities and clear processes. Good clear communication is key – that way there’s far less scope for misunderstandings or arguments.
Iain told us how Pop-Up began, but what were you up to before that?
I got myself a law degree, for want of anything better to do with my life. But I quickly realised that being a solicitor just wasn’t for me. I’ve worked in a variety of corporate roles over the years, and have a background in operations and management, but my real passion is events. I’m an organiser – I love to make lists and organise people. But I’m also very creative – I get that from my mother, who went to art college and is amazing with textiles and mixed media. Event planning and styling is therefore a really perfect mix of those two sides of my personality. My corporate experience has really helped with the “business” side of being a small business owner – I’m across the admin and bookkeeping and all that boring stuff that needs to get done in the background. I suppose owning a plant hire and event styling business isn’t where I thought I would end up, but after we moved to Sydney it made a lot of sense to go down this path together, and it just fits our respective skill sets so perfectly. We love it! Funny how these things can just work out perfectly.
What does your day-to-day as a small business owner look like?
Well, things have changed quite a bit this year! We had Amelia in April, after a difficult pregnancy. Between that and Covid, I needed a break, so I feel like I was in hibernation / survival mode for three months. It actually worked out ok for us that the events industry was closed for a few months, because although it caused some financial stresses, at least it meant we had some enforced time off to enjoy our daughter.
Now that things are sort of returning to normal (or the “new normal” anyway), my day-to-day is an interesting (and at times chaotic) mix of running around after an active teething baby (going to mother’s groups, sensory play, swimming lessons), and trying to keep on top of styling consultations and meetings all over Sydney, creating design proposals, doing the scheduling, and all the everyday admin stuff. And then in my spare time (what’s that?!) I’m actually starting another little business (my other passion project), because you know… I just didn’t have enough going on already haha!
Taking a baby to client meetings can be challenging, but at the same time, everyone has always been extremely understanding and welcoming. Being a working mother is such an accepted thing these days, so I just try to go with the flow. I strap Amelia into the baby carrier and take her out to our plant nursery, and she’s already a regular at all our local growers. Iain will be teaching her to drive his ride-on before we know it! Her first words are just as likely to be “Metasequoia glyptostroboides” as mummy or daddy (yes, that’s a plant 😊).
I feel like now that Amelia is nearly 7 months old (how did that happen so quickly??) and a bit more independent, I can start to focus a little bit more on myself again too. I’m a control freak so feeling more on top of everything again is definitely good. Lately, I have a renewed sense of purpose and motivation.
Do you have a favourite plant?
I have so many favourites – it’s like trying to pick your favourite child! I especially love anything variegated, like Devil’s Ivy, Monstera ‘Thai Constellation’, stripey Aspidistras, Calatheas. They’re so beautiful, and I just can’t quite wrap my brain around the fact that nature can create something so interesting and “painted” looking – like an intricate work of art. I’m also a real girlie girl at heart and a lover of bold colours, so I have a definite soft spot for Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ and Chain of Hearts, and all the varieties of rubber plants.
So what’s your favourite event you’ve worked on?
Again, like trying to pick a favourite child! Tough question. I guess if I had to pick, I would say…The Citrix conference last year. The whole thing was orchestrated by our friend Amy at Starts With A, who is an events and branding dynamo! She and her team are always such a pleasure to work with. It was big conference at the ICC and those are always a bit hectic to get set-up, but it all turned out really beautifully, and was so much fun to work on! I thrive on the frenetic energy of these big events. We’re very lucky to have awesome clients that we work with regularly.
I also love working on weddings because I get excited about all the beautiful little details – its always such a privilege to be part of a couple’s big day, and the styling brings me lots of joy.
What’s your favourite food?
I have a real sweet tooth, and also love salty-sweet, so anything with pretzels, caramel and chocolate. Ice cream with all those things in it? Heaven! More and more I’m going dairy-free, but I’m definitely struggling a bit with giving up chocolate. And no, I don’t like coffee – controversial, I know. I drink tea or soy chai lattes, sometimes a soy hot chocolate.
What are your hopes for the future?
I suppose becoming a parent, your hopes for the future change substantially. I now focus on the fact that I want to create a happy and healthy environment for my daughter. I want to teach her core values like compassion, respect, and care for the world around her. She’ll be an animal-lover like us, that’s for certain! She’s already best buddies with one of our rescue kitties 😊 Pop-Up Gardens is going from strength to strength, and we’ve been extremely lucky to come out of this pandemic more or less intact – I am grateful for that every day. We have lots of plans and lots of different projects in the works. I think Iain touched on some of these last time, so I won’t bore you with the details again, but let’s just say “watch this space”. I’m definitely feeling excited about things to come next year!