Who: Hayley Donlon
What: The Deluxe Hamper Co.
Hayley manages her side-business, The Deluxe Hamper Company, while working as a florist at The Eternal Vase.
Tell us about yourself/your background:
I suppose the one thing that I feel I “need” to tell people about me is that I was home schooled or “un-schooled” for high school. My mum was and still is very entrepreneurial and with that approach to life and business she did what she felt was right for us at the time. I’m not going to lie, I resented her decision when I was around the age of 17 because I was limited in my work opportunities. I couldn’t get an office job like my other friends because I “didn’t go to school” and this limited my options. In hindsight I am so very thankful that she chose the path she did, as I would not be here doing what I love if she hadn’t.
From the moment I was allowed, all I ever wanted to do was work. Working meant earning my own money so that I could pay my way and have some savings, so that’s exactly what I did! I was given an opportunity to get some qualifications under my belt and learn on the job in various work places. I didn’t know that this was a way you could get a “piece of paper” to your name.
To this day I thank Pete Cavallaro from GPO (the restaurant) for taking me under his wing as a junior. I learnt a lot from Pete about customer service and how to treat people in a business sense. His policies and procedures have always stuck with me too. I was fortunate enough to complete my Certificate III in Hospitality and my Business Management Diploma through traineeships at GPO. We need more young people doing traineeships! They are fantastic stepping stones for people and can lead to wonderful opportunities.
I went on to do a very brief stint in real estate but found it wasn’t for me. I soon realised that we are all very different and what suits one person might not suit another. Until you find what you truly want to do, you’ll never be happy in a work/life sense.
What inspired you to be a florist?
I was given an opportunity to give floristry a go by Miranda (my awesome boss) from The Eternal Vase. We got to know each other through my management role at GPO’s Balcony Room where we often hosted weddings and events. We got talking one Sunday afternoon and my new career was born!
With a similar platform to traineeships, I took to my floristry apprenticeship like a duck to water. I truly enjoy the “learning on the job” platform. You learn so much, continue to grow and build your skills all while earning an income.
Three years later, I am qualified and “playing with flowers” as people say. I have learnt so much from Miranda and I really cannot thank her enough for the opportunities she has given me.
Where did the idea for The Deluxe Hamper Company come form?
The idea for The Deluxe Hamper Company came from me doing something else I love that also ties into my experience as a florist: gift giving and presentation. I am always the relative at Christmas who goes above and beyond with gift wrapping because I love it. I could see an opportunity for a local gift giving business that prioritized quality over quantity and my business has grown organically since it began.
How do you balance working as a florist by day and as a small business owner by night?
5am – 8am: Get up, have coffee, gift wrapping, packing orders & early AM deliveries
9am – 5.30pm: Work at Eternal Vase
Lunch time: attend to emails and deliver or post hampers.
5.30pm – bedtime: eat ( of course ) emails, gift wrapping, packing hampers & PM deliveries.
It never ends, but I love it.
Days off involve making hampers, meeting people, going to meet with suppliers and visiting my Nana if I get time (she’s my favourite person). My nana has always said to me “only the best will do” and I have tried to model my business on that. At the end of the day, nobody wants to receive a box full of junk!
How many hampers are you selling each week? Does it vary?
It certainly does vary. I have some corporate clients whose support gives my business consistent cash flow. Having corporate clients not only gives me security but it also increases my buying power. It sounds simple but the more you buy the more you save and I like to pass these savings on to my customers.
Aside from corporate clients my bridal party range has been extremely popular with online sales.
I think it’s important to give clients a gift that they will actually like, with that being said, I customise all my orders to suit the individual.
Do you have a point of sale anywhere offline (such as local markets)?
No, I don’t. As much as I would love to attend markets because I’m such a chatter box and I love people, I don’t usually qualify because I am not “handmade”. I am currently seeking someone who can stock my hampers locally so that people can buy from a bricks and mortar retailer.
What were your start-up expenses? For instance – hampers, stock, logo design, website … talk us through this process.
I’m not going to name figures exactly, because I don’t even know 100%. If it was in my savings before, it isn’t now. It’s either sitting on my website (logo, web design, photos) or in my hamper room. I really need to work on keeping track of my incomings VS. outgoings a bit closer!
My logo and website was created by Dale at Studio Ink. He is just fantastic and knew exactly how to create something that matched my expectations. My images were taken by Leah from Leah Ladson Photography. She is worth every cent. Image is everything these days and I am so glad I invested in her.
My hamper stock has come from near and far. This was the fun part! Shopping! But I had to be realistic with my purchasing decisions. I have learnt some hard lessons for sure. Packaging and postage is the most expensive part. Postage can be crazy depending on weight. I try to cover postage for my non Bendigo customers as often as I can. I feel it adds to the service.
What triggers have you identified that led to growth?
Knowing the right people. We all know someone who knows someone. Networking and reaching out to people is the best way to grow. Just don’t be too pushy!
What marketing do you currently do?
Social media mainly. I did a print advertisement in a local publication and I have regretted it ever since because I did not gain one sale from it.
Are you comfortable in the social media sphere?
Yes. It’s an age thing I think. We use it every day, day in day out.
How did you go about building your social media following? For a small, part-time business you have a very large Instagram following.
I was fortunate enough to provide Snezana from “The Bachelor” her bridal party gift boxes. I followed her on Instagram and she followed me back and sent me a message about my bridal party gift boxes.
With her “tag” on Instagram alone my page grew. Since then it has continued to go up and up with followers. It was as simple as that. I delivered them, met her and came back to Bendigo. It was a great chance to grow all for the cost of some gift boxes and fuel.
Have you ever thought about collaborating with other small business owners who use digital media to sell their product?
I have, yes. A lot of people do it! So it’s about finding the right person that will complement your brand and going from there.
If you could ask a marketing professional one question, what would it be?
I don’t know much about SEO, analytics and google ads. Where can I find out more information on this?
What do you feel you need to do to help grow your brand or business?
I don’t feel I need to do anything other than give 110% to everything I do personally and professionally. What I really need to grow my business is support from the local community. When I say “support” I mean supporting me by purchasing a locally made hamper rather than a cheaper hamper from a big chain. Buy direct from your local florist rather than a relay company or online from a generic website. Buy from your local green grocer rather than a big supermarket. We all want so much for nothing these days. For small businesses to be sustainable we need to support each other with our purchasing decisions.
I will continue to live by “quality over quantity” with my business. If you only want to spend $25 but you want it to look like it’s worth $50 then my business is not the one to buy from. I know my business will not last if people choose to buy from a big chain for gift giving occasions.
I hope people see the value in a thoughtfully put together, quality gift hamper and will be willing to pay a little bit more for it.
What is the most rewarding part of running your own business (even as a side venture)?
I do something I love. Every day.
What is your vision for the future?
I would like to say a little shop. I would really love to run gift-wrapping and gift presenting workshops. But rent isn’t cheap. I feel we need more government or local assistance with helping people get into a shop front. We have so many empty shops in Bendigo. If we could get subsidised rent assistance that would help so many small business owners