Rosebie Morton started The Real Flower Company out of frustration. She couldn’t understand why the cut flowers being sold by florists didn’t have the scent she’d remembered so fondly from the flowers of her childhood. She started small with a few rose bushes in a corner of her mother-in-law’s walled garden. Her first scented cut roses sold out instantly when she took them to Covent Garden flower market. Rosebie’s aim is to bring the joy of scent into people’s lives. The average readily available bouquet is scentless and bland – a long way from what nature intended. Rosebie aims to bring back the magic of an English country garden with its myriad of colours and scent in the sustainable flowers that The Real Flower Company grows.
How are you navigating your business through the current COVID-19 crisis?
When we had to close the London shops in line with government guidelines, we furloughed the relevant staff and have been channelling as much of our business as we can through our website. In Hampshire, whoever can work from home - i.e. our IT and accounts departments - are doing so whilst our florists are still coming in to the workshop to create our bouquets. We are lucky to have the space to be able to social distance and therefore continue to dispatch flowers. Equally, our customer services team is based here and are incredibly busy with phone orders because so many people have gone to the country where their internet is too bad to be able to place orders on line, so we have had to expand this department. We are endeavouring to be as nimble as possible to cope with new demands on a daily basis.
What has the situation taught you about leadership?
The importance of communication, empathy and maintaining a cohesive team. Our people are going above and beyond their normal roles and it is so important to acknowledge this commitment and to lead from the front.
And what has it taught you about your business?
The importance that people attach to the flowers which we grow and dispatch, to bring positivity and to boost their psyche. In these extraordinary times, people have come to us to send poignant messages to those that they are separated from - or indeed to improve their own mood - and it is very uplifting to hear how much people appreciate what we do.
How are you – and the wider business – supporting your people?
I think the government’s response has been fantastic, the speed that they have jumped in to help those unable to work has been excellent. On our side we have tried to react as best we can to look after peoples’ needs and to listen to what they are worrying about and how we can help them. We are so lucky to be based on a flower farm so just getting out of the house and coming to the farm has given the team good motivation and we are all supporting each other at this time.
What do you see as the potential long-lasting changes to your business?
I think the London shops are going to struggle to get back to where they were pre-COVID-19. I cannot see public confidence returning anytime soon and social distancing is going to have a drastic effect certainly on our smaller shop in Cale Street. As a result, I imagine we will see an increase in telephone and online orders in London. Weddings and events, I envisage, are being put on hold or being made considerably smaller. We have had a huge uplift with online sales across the board and I hope that this will continue.
How are you, on a personal level, dealing with lockdown?
To be honest, it has been business as usual but just busier due to us working with a skeleton staff. I feel so lucky that we are still able to continue to at least conduct one side of the business, so I wake up each morning feeling grateful! The farm side has also been flat out, playing catch up after such a wet early spring. We also have our three children at home, which is a huge bonus because it is so rare to have us all together - so lockdown is having some positives for me as well as negatives.