I peer down a cobbled bluestone lane and follow my nose to find a light-filled studio workspace bursting with an oasis of beautiful flowers, beautiful smiles, and the founder and CEO of The Beautiful Bunch, Jane, sitting at a round table chatting and laughing and conducting the business while immersed, literally, at the centre of it all.
It's ‘Melbourne-cold’ outside but when I walk in, the warmth throws its arms around me and I decide immediately that I’m going to need to find a way to work here, or just make excuses to drop by for coffee or, better still, buy flowers.
Nearly three years ago, Jane Marx was enjoying the rewards of building a successful non-profit hospitality business with young women from refugee backgrounds who were experiencing barriers to employment. The business was going from strength to strength and was ready to scale. They had just moved into the space at the front of the building where she now sits, ready to take on their next giant step. But, virtually overnight, the pandemic hit and the world shut down. A heavily pregnant Jane had to think quickly to make sure that the women who had been relying on her for their livelihoods would not be lost to this moment.
Some might call it a silver lining that The Beautiful Bunch was born out of a pandemic but, in reality, it was the grit, determination and skill of the ‘founder spirit’ that ensured its safe passage. Recognising that hospitality would not be a viable business for some time, Jane decided to focus on a smaller aspect of their business that had always resonated with the women who worked with them. Jane sat side by side in the co-design of The Beautiful Bunch with the women who had been her employees only days before and they taught themselves the finer art of floristry by watching youtube clips and reading everything they could get their hands on.
Like so many non-profit founders, there is an incredible drive, integrity and passion in Jane because the business is important on many levels. First and foremost, it seeks to address huge social inequity through the mentoring and support of women from refugee backgrounds to find ongoing and substantial employment; and secondly, it is a business that strives for success through quality and innovation.
The Beautiful Bunch emerged into the market during the time that online flower sales had grown by 512% in Victoria. That floral b(l)oom was of course limited to the darkness of the lockdowns in Melbourne, but that same grit, foresight, and determination has ensured that this floristry business with the hugest of hearts and most important of missions, has adapted and developed to keep the only not-for-profit floristry business in Victoria heading in the right direction.
When The Beautiful Bunch were selected to pitch as part of the Equity and Inclusion event at Evans & Partners in March 2023, Jane had the opportunity to share the ingenuity and plans for future growth beyond online sales and toward working in the event space. With the help of a passionate group of grassroots givers, the event raised over $37,000 to move toward that goal. This faith and the trust in their endeavours along with incredible supporters emerging beyond the event who have since invested money, time and insight will ensure that The Beautiful Bunch will continue to grow and scale for many more years.
“Pitching at the event in March made all the difference to us exceeding our social impact goals this year and thanks to the further funding we secured, has us well-positioned for 2024,” says Jane. “In addition to the support on the evening, the TFN team has kept in touch to offer further opportunities and help in this new, exciting period of growth for our team. Our year would look very different had we not taken part in this phenomenal opportunity, and we are very grateful for all the work TFN does in supporting early-stage organisations like ours to thrive.”
Written by Jacinta Parsons for The Funding Network