AWNY Startup Stories: Leah Bannister from L.J. Bannister (Flower dealers)

Growing up surrounded by the natural beauty of Australia in her grandparents’ gardens, it was inevitable that Leah’s love of flowers would one day translate into her own business. L.J. Bannister (Flower dealers) brings the gift of beautiful, bespoke bouquets to clients all across Manhattan, featuring a unique Australian touch combined with locally-sourced seasonal blooms. Read on for the story of Leah’s success and an exclusive discount code for AWNY readers.

Tell us about your business and what inspired you to begin.

We make and deliver beautiful, bespoke bouquets throughout Manhattan, NYC —lush, considered combinations of color and texture that have a loose and natural Australian feel to them, even though we’re working with New York blooms. We also offer services including events, weddings and regular client accounts.
I’ve always had a love for flowers. Both sets of grandparents had verdant gardens, and I have fond memories of one nan digging around in flower beds, and the other tending to an enormous magnolia tree. I studied floristry in Australia, and have worked with flowers since 2011, in a number of Sydney-based florists, and later, consulting on my own. After moving here, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to start a New York-based business.
A bouquet from L.J. Bannister

What has been your ‘Ah Ha’/ ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’?

It sounds like such a small thing, but the first repeat customer I received was exciting. The city holds so much opportunity—though, of course, it can be intimidating at times—so just launching the business felt like an achievement.

What have been the hardest lessons in starting a business?

Perseverance and sticking to your guns.

Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?

We’ve been quite discreet so far—we’re growing through social media and word of mouth. Flowers are such a personal thing so when someone receives something that speaks to them, they’re more likely to then order themselves.

Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?

I’ve been lucky to spend time working with great florists in New York who I’ve learnt a lot from. I don’t have a mentor per se, but my husband is always a great sounding board—he’s a creative director with a good eye for detail, so I’ll often bounce ideas off him.
Leah arranging a bouquet for L.J. Bannister

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

If you’re passionate enough, get started, stick with it and don’t give up. Surround yourself with other creative people who’ll be critical, honest and supportive.

Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?

We are really spoilt in Sydney with the variety and quality of flowers available. That’s been a good building block to develop my aesthetic. I’ll hunt out one marvelous flower—it’s usually a field rose—and build around it with interesting textural elements. I’ll then add something that you’d not quite expect, like a too-tall, grape-colored anthurium, or I’ll tie a cluster of pomegranates to the outside. Then it’s always grey paper, and thick ribbon in a rich electric blue. They’re both signatures of the business.

What is next for your business?

More of the same. We’re happy growing our clientele and building relationships in New York. At the moment we send flowers all over Manhattan—I’d love to add another borough or two to the list.
An L.J. Bannister bouquet

Support & connect with L.J. Bannister

Visit and use code AWNY for 20% off all orders until 31 January 2018.

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Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York after meeting her husband in a typical New York chance encounter. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

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