Meet Marisa! She’s the talented woman behind Lavender & Willow, a Sydney-based floristry business. After 15 years working in customer service roles, she made a brave leap to embark on a new career path, combining her creative interests with her passion for helping women and children. This is her story.
Why I made a career change
“I’ve always been passionate about social justice and social change, particularly for women and children. It’s what drew me to work at a global children’s charity for so many years. I was part of the sponsor relations team, helping people with enquiries about their sponsored children.
My role involved answering the phone, checking emails, your general customer service duties – with the added bonus of liaising with our overseas partners and even visiting countries like Ethiopia and Vietnam. Leaving this role was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.
The charity I worked for is a big advocate of empowering women and children through education. I guess I’d reached a point where my own life was a ‘hot mess’ and I took on board what I was advocating.
I decided that it was time for me to be the change in my life and to make the move to pursue and complete my education, in the hope of creating a better future for myself and my family.
After leaving my customer service role, I enrolled in and completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Child and Community). I’d been warned that we’d be studying dark subject matter and that it was important to have a creative outlet.
I’d always been drawn to floristry, so I enrolled in a floristry course in the evenings through TAFE NSW. Lavender & Willow started as a side hustle but has grown into something much more.
What my workday looks like now
My typical day begins at 3:30am to start the flower market run and also to feed my four-month-old. Once I arrive at the markets around 4:45am, it’s a mad rush to find good parking, whilst also trying to lift the brain fog and be sharp in order to find and purchase the best floral products at the best prices.
I’m home by 7am to get my 14-year-old ready for school and then it’s time to prepare and condition the flowers. This includes cleaning my work area and rotating old stock. There’s always a measure of stress working with perishable items.
The rest of the day is made up of creating arrangements, delivering arrangements, answering emails, preparing quotes and when necessary, researching! So much research, especially for quotes.
If I have a wedding, I usually start prepping the flowers three days before and there’s lots of checking in with the various vendors and bride/groom to make sure everything is on track.
I’m also a stallholder and stock items at local markets and stores in the Wollondilly and Macarthur area [in Sydney’s southwest], which means that I need to dedicate time most days to have floral items ready to display and sell.
Where I can, I make time to eat and drink tea and oh feed the baby and the other members of the household. There is never a dull moment!
The best and hardest part of my career change
Floristry is not for the faint-hearted. It is rewarding, but it can also be physically, mentally and emotionally gruelling. My creativity is challenged with every client interaction and it requires me to work with people in pivotal moments in their life (death, marriage, engagement, birthdays etc).
The best part of my floristry work is the freedom to be creative. Meeting clients, creating briefs and hopefully bringing their vision to life.
In spite of my wacky hours, there is also greater flexibility. My studio is at home and it allows me to be a mum – I can help with school runs and after-school activities and engage with the community. I’m enjoying being present in my children’s lives.
Moving forward, I’m hoping to incorporate floral therapy into my business, which will tie in nicely with my university studies. Working with flowers can be very healing and therapeutic, so my plan is to partner with organisations that help women who’ve experienced domestic and family violence, offering support through floral therapy workshops.
I’m excited to see where the flowering world will take me, and how I can help other women too.”
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