The Lime Tree Bower Story... So Far!

Photo by  Captured Frames

I love reading about how people started their businesses.

Everyone’s journey is so unique and it’s fascinating to read about how someone's navigated their path to get to where they are today. It’s always so inspiring to hear someone’s story.

I feel like I’ve shared my story many times, but I’ve come to realise that it’s only been in-person verbally, for example during workshops, events etc, when people ask me in conversation.

I’ve never written about it in depth, so I’m excited to share it with you now!

When I was a child, I loved to draw, paint and make things. Watching Art Attack was a twice-daily religion - how amazing were Neils’ large artworks? They were the ones that always inspired me the most. I remember thinking that I wanted to grow up one day and do something at such scale! During high school, I eventually settled my sights on wanting to be a fashion designer. Fashion combined my love for colour, textures, fabric, design and creativity. I was pretty set on my path of applying to various fashion courses, when last minute, I took my dad’s wise words to heart and pivoted to a more generalist degree in business.

Over five years from 2007-2011, I studied a double degree in Commerce and Arts at the University of NSW, with majors in Accounting, Finance and French. I spent a year overseas in the middle of it, studying in Paris on a university exchange program. That was a pivotal year for me.

Before that overseas adventure, I had been working in corporate accounting roles, starting my ‘corporate ladder climb’, which was the natural thing to do being a commerce student! I really enjoyed it in the beginning - it was all shiny and new! After a couple of years, I realised that it wasn’t for me - I discovered that I didn’t enjoy being in a role where I’m working in Microsoft Excel all day, where I didn’t have a deep connection and impact with clients directly. Also large enterprises, the corporate ladder, getting suited up everyday…. all that wore off and it didn’t feel right. Luckily, this coincided with my overseas exchange program starting, so I headed to Paris!

Paris was the catalyst for me to reconnect with my inner creative self. The art galleries, museums and all the culture that I was soaking in… this inspired me to start blogging again, drawing and crafting. I also rediscovered my interest in technology, which eventually led me down to a fortuitous discovery of a summer internship program back home in Sydney.

I was successful in scoring a spot in this internship program once I returned home, and got matched with a small start up that no one knew about at the time: Atlassian. I found myself in the deep end - software product management, agile methodologies and working on software tools that I’d never come across before. It was a whole new, exciting world and I loved the challenge. After my internship wrapped up, I went back to complete my final year of studies and upon nearing graduation, I reached out to Atlassian and asked for a graduate job.

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They said yes! I ended up working at Atlassian for nearly five years and absolutely loved it. Working so closely with customers, solving their problems, having the opportunity to drive and shape change in products that they were using... This gave me so much deep joy. It was equal parts technical, creative and interpersonal. Whilst working, I continued the blog I had started back in Paris as a hobby in my spare time. I crafted, dabbled in different creative projects - from knitting to baking, gardening, making terrariums and eventually flowers…

One Saturday morning, I went to check out the Sydney Flower Markets at 5.00am. Not a morning person at the time, I wasn’t that excited, until I arrived… This was paradise.

I started with buying flowers for fun, going home and just creating with it week after week. I shared photos of my stuff online and eventually two friends of mine asked me to do their wedding flowers. I agreed and noticed that I enjoyed this hobby above and beyond all the other things I’d previously dabbled in. So I bought a domain, set up a website, paid for a Facebook ad, kept sharing photos on Instagram and decided to give it a red hot go in December 2014!

After a few months, I started receiving enquiries from people that I didn’t personally know - that was exciting! Slowly, this started to grow and I built my experience with each wedding and event, learning so much along the way. I’d get up early, go to the flower markets before work, then go to my day job in the city, come back and work some more. Weekends regularly consisted of more hustling, photo shoots, experimenting and collaborations. Eventually, I stopped my original blog and other creative pursuits, and poured all my energy outside of work into Lime Tree Bower.

Come mid-2016, I realised that my time at Atlassian was coming to an end. The company had grown much larger, and I no longer felt as passionate about what I was working on. Lime Tree Bower had been steadily growing and I wanted to put more energy into this too. I decided to pursue a part-time job so that I could have the best of both worlds, because you know - girl’s gotta pay bills! :)

The next six months, I took a mini sabbatical, tried out a couple of different part-time stints and come new year’s 2017, I knew. It was time to jump into the business full-time. It was scary as shit, but it was now or never. I knew I had to back myself and I was in a good place and time to do so.

Ultimately, you own your life and it becomes what you make of it. Not everyone has the same opportunities to make something out of nothing, or embark on a riskier career path. I knew that this was an ideal time and an amazing opportunity. What was the worst case scenario? Things don’t pan out and I go back to a job in my previous industry. I knew deep down that if I didn’t at least give it a chance, I would forever be asking ‘what if…?’ and I didn’t want to be doing that for the rest of my life…

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In February 2017, I plunged into Lime Tree Bower full-time. I was working out of a home studio space and using my trusty Ford Fiesta hatchback to do market runs and event set ups. Over the course of the year, I upgraded to a Volkswagen caddy van and trialled some part-time and casual employees here and there to help me with admin and all the behind the scenes stuff.

The following year, two big milestones occurred: I moved into a commercial studio space in Roseville and Brenna joined the team! Starting as a casual at the start of the year, she turned full-time and proper employee #1 in September 2018.

It’s now nearly halfway through 2019 and I’ve been working on LTB full-time for just over two years.

It’s been an incredible journey so far. I feel like with every few months, there are new challenges, milestones and lessons learned along the way. Design-wise, I’ve also developed a more consistent and stronger signature style, and continue to experiment with different techniques and creative boundaries.

I personally don’t think there’s ever one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of doing something. I love being open minded to new techniques, and this is something that I encourage us to challenge regularly - the status quo. I truly believe that you can never stop learning. I’m equally excited about growing the business, but I want to do it in a conscious way that isn’t mindlessly growing for growth’s sake. I’ve started reading Paul Jarvis’ book Company of One and love it so far - highly recommend it!

Whilst I don’t know what the future holds, I’m excited to be able to share it along with you. I hope you enjoyed my story so far. Feel free to reach out via Instagram or email (hel [at] limetreebower [dot] com) if you have any questions or just want to say hi, it’s always nice to receive a real email :)

- Helen