What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
I have always loved flower arranging and gardening, so this was just an extension of my floral passion. Prior to this I worked for nearly 20 years in Corporate Tax for PwC in London and Birmingham. It certainly helped with the financial side of things. It also gave me a grounding in how to put together processes, manage a team and left me with a strong work ethic.
How did you decide on the name?
My flower business began as Hedgerow but when I was opening the shop I came across lots of other florists called Hedgerow, so it morphed into Hedgerow Stories. Each of the items we stock has a story, as do our flowers and I felt it reflected our passion for sustainability and nature. People began shortening it to Hedge, and at the time my brother really didn’t like the name, so we officially changed it to Hedge and that stuck.
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
I wanted to create an emporium, a peaceful yet exciting space for people to visit. I love colour and colour combinations so the choice of colours was important, it had to feel cohesive, stylish, unpredictable but not too serious. I took inspiration from the paintings of Carl Larsson and wanted to bring a more ‘folk-like’ colour palette here (it is our third shop). Pinterest is a constant source of inspiration.
I am lucky enough to know a wonderful architect, Anna Parker who is the director of Intervention Architecture. She made sense of all my ideas and distilled them into a workable shop space, adding in the flower carts to add a bit of fun to the space, which a local carpenter made for us. I am constantly finding new things to love interiors so the shop is always evolving around that.
Tell us about the range of products you stock…
The shop is a mix of flowers, fancy goods and gifts. We stock homewares, ceramics, greetings cards, candles, accessories, jewellery, home textiles, soaps, perfumes and skincare, stationery, art, baskets and lighting. It is carefully curated, filled with hard to find pieces, one offs from local makers, wares from far away places such as Japan and the US as well as local creatives.
We focus on British flowers. The floristry industry can be incredibly harmful to the environment and has a huge carbon footprint so we have done all we can to minimise this. From March to November we buy solely from local growers who grow sustainably, with clear ethical supply chains, without chemicals. They supply some of the best florists in the land as well as us. Flowers arrive in buckets, picked fresh from the flower gardens ready to be made into bunches and arrangements. Working like this ties us to the seasons which I love. We practice sustainable floristry and we don’t wrap our flowers in anything that isn’t compostable or reusable. We have our own range of textiles, soaps and accessories and lots more items in the pipeline.
Do you make anything in-house?
Me and my team’s joint obsession with gingham led to us developing a homeware and accessories collection during lockdown, we just couldn’t find what we were looking for anywhere, so thought we may as well make it ourselves. It was hugely important to us to ensure the range was not only beautiful but would be something that would last and not be damaging to the planet in the process, so we have sourced the most beautiful, high quality oeko-tex certified linen. Linen which comes from the hemp plant is such a brilliant, sustainable fabric, we’ve made sure to source organic labels and threads too, to create the most eco friendly, ethical range of cushions, tablecloths, napkins, scrunchies and tea towels. We just released a range of scarves and have plans for a children’s wear collection. We have lots of ideas to develop this range, so watch this space.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like?
Its a bit of a juggle as we’ve got quite a few strings to our bow, the shop, our online store, the flower shop and the floristry studio. We try to post on socials most days and get some lovely images together from the shop. We want to keep that conversation open with our followers. We are so immersed in the seasons with our flowers, every week the shop looks different.
For most of the year we get buckets of flowers first thing that all need to be conditioned, and then made up into bouquets for delivery, arrangements for contract clients, bunches to sell in the shop and also bundles for our flowers club members (a subscription service we offer). We may also be flowering an event or wedding, so will need to make up the arrangements for that, or do some planning with the team.
We open up the shop, give it clean, check pricing, re-stock the shelves, deal with any deliveries and often have a rejig and maybe redo the window, but mainly it is a matter of planning where we will be getting lunch from, and if we need to get in the queue early for our fabulous neighbours. We are completely spoilt for choice for wonderful food round here.
After we shut there is still lots to do, delivering flowers, keeping on top the website, dealing with enquiries, posting out orders, ordering stock and flowers. There is always something that needs to be done and no day is really the same.
How do you choose your wares and stockists?
We are passionate about ethical supply chains and buying locally where we can. Most of our flowers come from local growers, who grow their flowers sustainably without using chemicals. Our main supplier is Stokesay Flowers, who are the most wonderful growers in Shropshire and now dear friends, but we have lots of other growers in Warwickshire and Worcestershire that we love to work with too.
The shop is filled with items that I love and would love to own. I look for something different, that you can’t easily get here and is a little bit unpredictable. I have a long list of suppliers I would love us to stock and will do as we grow. I try to choose brands that align with our core tenets, I look for sustainability, quality and craft and clear ethical supply chains. We do need to keep commercial too so we have items from some larger design houses so we can offer a range of price points. This space is also an opportunity to support local artists and makers, so we stock lots of wonderful pieces from local creatives.
Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
Aside from the flowers, we have our own range of simple soaps and shampoo bars which do really well. We launched the range during lockdown, and it has been a huge success. It is the type of pared back luxury we love, effective simple quality products ticking all the ethical boxes, right through to the packaging. They make wonderful gifts and people come back for more. They smell amazing too.
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
Mine is the wash your face soap bar, its the best body bar I’ve ever used and its pretty much cured my terribly dry hands. A Hibi incense match gets lit everyday here, so the shop always smells amazing. For Carolyn, it is a good ceramic mug, something lovely to hold each day. We do drink a lot of tea here. Sally can’t be without her threadmaker silk hair bow and I have a stash of Scribble and Daub cards, which are on another level.
What do you enjoy most about running Hedge?
Curating the store, meeting so many lovely people, being with my team and bringing something so different to Birmingham. I worked in financial services for a long time before, so quite different to this. I love being a shop keeper and really missed it during lockdown.
What has been your career highlight (so far!)?
I decorated one of the Victorian shopping arcades in Birmingham for Christmas two years in a row (before the pandemic). It was somewhere I’d been shopping all my life so it was a real highlight and validation of my floristry practice. However, I think managing to start again and rebuilding the business after the pandemic has been the biggest highlight. I feel so lucky to still be here after such a hard few years and so proud of what we have achieved.
What is the neighbourhood like around the store?
We are in the heart of Stirchley, a raffish but charming superb of Birmingham, right by the Cadbury Factory. It is a hip part of town and is on the up. It is really friendly and has a wonderful community. Stirchley is best known for its incredible eateries and bars, some of which have won awards. It is an exciting part of the city to be in. We are the only store like ours around, but hopefully more independents shops a bit like ours will open up.
What do you wish you’d known before opening the store? Any advice for those thinking about opening their own stores?
Oh gosh so many things, that it can be a real drain financially and it’s a lot of hard work. I try to see each day as part of a jigsaw. Not everyday is going to be as you’d hope, some days the shop can be very quiet but if you look at the bigger picture you can see it is worth it and that we are flourishing.
Build a team around you, you can’t do everything and you have to delegate. My team is amazing, and each person brings something quite different with them, so together, we are so much more than the sum of our parts.
I’d also say really try to hone in on what you are offering, who you are and who your customer is. You won’t be for everyone, but that’s absolutely fine. Work with what you are good at and get better at that.
1419a Pershore Rd, Stirchley, Birmingham