Creative Corners - The Grateful

Welcome to the first instalment of a new series on my blog called Creative Corners. This series is going to focus on people doing wonderful, creative things in my hometown of Newcastle, Australia. Not only will I find out about the awesome things they’re doing, but also delve into their thoughts on creativity and take a sneak peak at the places where all their wonderful work comes to life.

What are you grateful for today? Maybe it’s for having wonderful friends and family, maybe it’s for having a roof over your head, or maybe it’s for something simple like the sun shining down. But do you often feel grateful for just being you? We can regularly forget to look out for ourselves in the rush of everyday life, and that’s something founders of The Grateful, Gemma and Jessica, began to notice.

Their boutique gives people the opportunity to not only treat themselves, but to give back to someone special in their life or the local community. Not only do they allow people to feel good about treating themselves, but people can feel good knowing they’ve brighten someone else’s’ day, all with the simple gesture of giving flowers. Every time someone purchases a bouquet through The Grateful, the girls also donate and deliver a bouquet to the John Hunter Hospital to show appreciation for those who both volunteer and work there, and to help brighten the day of patients.

Not only can you purchase one-off bouquets, The Grateful also offer a weekly subscription service. Each week, not only will you get a bouquet to do with as you wish, but a bouquet will go straight to the John Hunter.

For those who might not know, tell us what The Grateful is all about?

Jess: So the concept for The Grateful is just reconnecting people again and providing people an easy way to give back, look after the community and look after themselves at the same time. Flowers are just sort of the mechanism we’re using at the moment because they’re so sensory.natural and beautiful and reconnect people on a tangible level.
   In society now we’re so disconnected and people are longing to reconnect with their community.  Like here in Newcastle, there’s this great network, but people are so distracted and connected to these things (holds up phone) and just aching and longing for a way to reconnect again. So the concept for The Grateful is really just to bridge that and provide a way for individuals or businesses to reconnect with their community, but without it being really complicated.
   Just doing something simple like buying flowers for themselves, their office, people that work for them or their clients, just to make them feel a bit better and acknowledge them and recognise we’ve got a pretty good life and we’re really grateful for that. But at the same time recognising there’s other parts of the community that might not be in such a good place right now and need that support.

Gemma: It’s giving back, but also giving to yourself. Also the fact they are able to be in touch with every part of what’s happening. When they buy flowers for a friend or someone else, they get a picture of the bouquet and then they get all the updates and everything through social media. So instead of just going ‘alright I’ve done this’, they're seeing the process and it adds to that feeling of being grateful for yourself but also passing that on; it keeps that mood going. A big market of ours is mum’s because obviously it reflects our ideal, where you’ve got to take care of yourself first, because no mum does that.

Jess: People will text us or text their friends going ‘I feel so good I just ordered from The Grateful, and then on the Friday, once we do the deliveries, they get an email, they get tagged in social media and they can see the bouquets and a little update of where it went. Or when Gem’s dropping them off, if someone’s brought flowers for someone else, she’ll send a picture in a text saying ‘these are on their way to so and so’. Because normally when you order flowers for someone, you don’t get to see them and be a part of it, and it’s really detached the way we’ve created society to be more efficient. It’s a lot more work for us but it’s so much more rewarding. You watch it happen on social media. The emergency department writes to us thanking us for the flowers and then you’ve got clients writing thanking us for the flowers and then you’ve got those who’ve received flowers as a gift from someone, and there’s just this world of people connecting.
   We’ve also got a few businesses that sign up to the subscriptions. So every week they get some flowers for themselves that they’ll either keep in the office or give to clients or give to their team members. 

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds.

Gemma: I use to work in childcare and I was saying to Jess, I haven’t been back to work much since I’ve had the kids and I wanted to do something more, and I wanted to do something creative, and I said ‘Oh I want to do flowers’. Then Jess had this great idea and she said ‘well why don’t we do it with flowers’. So it’s basically been a learning process, neither of us have floristry backgrounds; it just comes from the heart really.

Jess: I just finished my MBA and I majored in social entrepreneurship, so that’s where my passion is. My background is originally finance, and I was like ‘okay Gem, you do all the creative stuff and I’ll do the other part’. But since Gem’s had the kids and I’ve had to fill in and switch roles, I’ve found so much comfort, release and reward and therapy in putting the flowers together myself. Learning that they’re naturally beautiful on their own and not to overthink it and not put all that pressure on yourself, and it’s so therapeutic, it’s amazing!

What inspires you when putting together and creating a bouquet?

Gemma: I suppose it’s just how you feel at the time. Usually the best ones come out of these moments when you go ‘how I am feeling? Oh I’m loving this today’ and you just go with it and what’s happening at the time. It’s really quite organic.

Jess: The colours are probably influenced by our moods (laughs).

I know you currently create your bouquets at home, tell us about the space where you do most of your work? Is there anything in this space which helps give you inspiration or motivation?

Jess: We’re longing for a space! We’re bringing all these other people together but we’re still trying to find for ourselves. We originally went to start with a space first, like a shop, and build from that, but we’ve done it in reverse.

Gemma: We kind of get a bit disconnected from each other. We went up to the hospital the other day together and dropped of flowers and it was really rewarding to go up there, but to do it together was nice to. 

Jess: There are a few people that have approached us, like the Buff Girls. They’re actually our first subscribers to the bouquet, and every week they usually give it to one of the girls who’s done really well or if it’s someone’s birthday. They’re looking at doing a wellness space in Carrington, and they’ve approached us about whether we want to have a little spot there to do up our flowers and just be around like-minded people. So I think we’re hoping to get that space and have that energy, because it’s great doing things like this, coming together and meeting amazing people.

How would you define creativity?

Gemma: Expressing yourself. To me, I’m not a sit down person when it comes to creativity; I need to be physically doing something.

Jess: It’s giving yourself permission to do something you enjoy and feel strongly about, and then eventually there will be other people who see inspiration in that and appreciate it. So it’s not so much focusing on what someone else is going to like, but learning to just do what feels right to you and that becomes infectious. 

Do you think creativity is something all of us are born with or is it something we learn?

Gemma: I’d say you’re born with your own creativity; it’s different for everyone. It’s only if you continue to use that creativity or express that creativity, then you continue to learn and grow. So it’s not so much a learnt thing, it’s more growth.

Jess: I think it’s one of those things you’re born with that is completely neutral, you don’t have your inhibitions. It’s something people want to reconnect with that they feel has been taken away from them through institutions, schooling and everyday life and focusing on money and stuff like that as opposed to what just feel rights. The different roles people fulfill in society also decide whether it’s stripped away earlier on and moved to a different form for a while. There’s big movement, especially in our millennial generation, to reconnect with that, or rebel against have it taken away.

What puts you in a creative mood? 
: For me it’s a bit of peace (laughs). I love my family, but I find that when I get a bit of time, like I’ll often do up flowers at night, just to get my head into it. But Jess is my creativity. I sort of get a bit quiet and down, and I love this concept but sometimes, with everything that’s going on in my life, it can be a bit of stretch. Two words to her though and I’m back in it (laughs).

If you had to start over, do you think you would have chosen a different career path, or done The Grateful differently?

Jess: No, it’s created itself hasn’t it.

Gem: I think it made us.

Jess: It’s born from these little ideas and experiences Gem and I have had, and then the community has just helped us completely evolve it. If I hadn’t had an office career I wouldn’t appreciate it as much and know how important it is to me, especially doing it now when I’m about to have baby. I want to have a child that feels it’s normal to do whatever feels right. Gem takes the kids sometimes when we deliver the flowers to the hospital, imagine growing up just going “that’s the world we live in, and that’s just what you do for people”. I think it’s amazing and beautiful.

What’s been an opposition you’ve faced, how do you overcome it and what did it help teach you?

Gem: I’ve found it difficult during the school holidays (laughs). It’s just a challenge trying to balance my creativity and doing what I love to do, but also doing what I need to do. I’ve got a toddler that likes to grab flowers and I like them to be involved and enjoy having them around, but it’s also the practicality of it She wants to pull flowers out of the bucket and he wants to get the hose out and water them all.

Jess: You know, sometimes you go “ah it’s hard” or do we have other priorities right now? But when we walk around the hospital, sometimes people just come out of the blue and say “I’ve had the worst fucking day, I’m so happy to see you”. That makes you go “ok, this is bigger than us, we’ve made a commitment to start this”, and then you walk away feeling full again. We know we can’t stop now, and it’s happening on its own even if we did. That’s pretty powerful.

Gem: It’s people’s reactions that keep you going when you’re working hard and you’re having to do things in your own time. Each day you’ve got to find that time, you’ve got to rearrange your life; it’s those reactions that keep you going, the feedback. The way people take this concept on board and they just love it and they share it with everyone they can. It’s such a beautiful giving gift that just keeps going.

Jess: That’s the whole concept of The Grateful, it’s not about you, but you’ve got to start with you. We wanted to do something for ourselves that felt right, but now it’s become so much bigger than us and that’s what we always say to people when they sign up to the subscription, welcome, you’re part of something bigger than you, it’s just rewarding.

What’s your biggest accomplishment to date?

Jess: It’s definitely those moments where people actually thank you saying, “I’m so grateful you just brought these flowers into the hospital”. Or when people write to you and say “I just brought flowers for someone else and thank you so much, I feel so god damn good now”, it’s not one part. 

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