Bakulia Ayupova: Delivering Flowers That Last A Year
Flowers play a huge role in the traditional Russian gift-giving culture. Every occasion, no matter how big or small, is celebrated with lavish bouquets and floral arrangements.
“We love the symbolism that comes with giving flowers,” enthused Russian-born Bakulia Ayupova (above right) who now lives in Brisbane. “The act is such a spontaneous expression of affection and it totally changes a person’s mood or sets the mood in a room.”
Like many others, Bakulia remembers her bedroom literally filled with flowers on her 21st birthday. What she also remembers is how the beauty wilted within a week.
“I love flowers and its gorgeous gesture but I wished I could preserve the sentiment for more than a few days,” she said.
In 2014, Bakulia and her sister Aida Samsonova (above left) made that wish come true with the launch of Fleur du Luxe, an online floral business using Parisian preservation methods to create floral arrangements that last a whole year.
The roses are sourced from Columbia and shipped to Brisbane where they are treated with the Parisian preserving techniques to ensure their longevity. The flowers are then hand-dyed and packaged in Fleur du Luxe’s signature hat boxes.
woman with drive spoke to the woman whose passion has disrupted the flower industry in Australia and lifted it to a new level of luxury.
What did you foresee as your biggest challenge and advantage?
The biggest challenge was sourcing the right product and making sure our suppliers were ethical, environmentally friendly and capable of doing the job.
The biggest advantage was being an industry pioneer in Australia. And also having the luxury of time to source for quality products.
What was your research process like?
With Google you can research anything so that was really helpful! I also travel a lot and used that opportunity to speak to other floral suppliers abroad. That was quite challenging as the suppliers we needed were not available everywhere since this concept is still fairly new.
I had also started an inspiration page on Instagram when the idea first sparked to test what people would think and to get a feel for our competitors.
Alongside posting different images of floral arrangements, I would ask my followers how they would like to receive flowers and how long they would want the flowers to last. The response was really good and that gave us a bit of confidence to start the business.
Who is your primary clientele?
For now, it is definitely men. You should see the number of men who get tagged in our posts! We are also getting inquiries from hotels, hairdressers and beauty salons, and we have developed special packages for commercial clients.
Why did you opt to get your flowers from Columbia?
Based on my research, Columbia has the best quality flowers. Its climate allows for larger and more long-lasting rose heads. I used to work next to a little flower shop here in Brisbane and their best sellers were these beautiful Columbian roses. Australian roses are gorgeous and last longer as fresh flowers but might not take the treatment process well.
Why is it important for your business to be environmentally responsible?
I am allergic to a few things, and so are many of my friends, so we wanted to make sure that the dye used in our products is environmentally friendly.
In terms of selecting our suppliers, we wanted to work with those who pay their workers fair wage and who do not harm the environment. We have found two partners now who we are confident will uphold their standards, which are in line with ours.
What is it like starting a family business?
My sister and I are best friends, but like all sisters we can bicker from time to time! It can be challenging but it has helped us find our strengths and to learn to not take things personally.
We also had to make sure we respected each other as co-owners and business partners. It has been a really good learning curve for us. And sometimes we have too much fun and have to be reminded that we are running a real business!
Share an early success story with us.
We had one difficult customer who was also our first international client. At the time we were still working on our packaging methods and when the flowers reached him, they were damaged.
We had been talking on the phone prior to the delivery so I called him to follow up. I found out what happened and offered a refund but he was so angry that he decided to write a complaint on our Facebook page instead.
We were embarrassed and debated whether or not to delete his post but decided to leave it up and explain our side. Then the most amazing thing happened. Our customers replied to his post saying that his experience was unfortunate because they only had really good ones with us. That was such a great moment.
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