Good evening, dear friends and family. Welcome to the official launch of our Miei headquarters and the celebration of our third birthday.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share our story with you and answer the six questions we have been asked the most over the last three years.
- What is Miei and why does it exist?
- If you’re giving 100% of profits away, how do you live?
- Is the company profitable?
- Why children’s charities?
- What’s in it for us?
- How did you come up with this business model?
Both Rob and I come from immigrant families, immigrants seeking economic prosperity during the 60s and 80s. We didn’t come from money, and our parents worked extremely hard and long hours to provide for the family. Nothing was ever out of the question – even when they couldn’t afford something, our parents would make it work. We were both loved so unconditionally and encouraged to dream big, to know that anything is possible and to live each moment with complete integrity and humility.
Growing up, I was coached by my mother to be valuable, adaptable, resourceful and independent. This led to me getting my first job at McDonalds at age 14 and 9 months, the best career foundation I could have asked for. Within months I had studied the entire managers’ manual and learnt the ropes at each station during my free time. So when a promotion to Crew Trainer became available six months later, I was a great candidate.
My passion for knowledge, combined with my mission to be valuable and having hard work coded into my DNA, led to me buying my first property at 18. At 21 I’d accumulated a healthy property and share portfolio, and debt so big it was enough to turn most people green. I was also sponsoring six children through World Vision and studying economics and finance at RMIT, which incidentally is where I met Rob.
To succeed in everything I had taken on I had to learn incredible focus and discipline to ensure success. My incredible career journey has seen me be a financial planner and campaign manager at CBA, a trainer and change manager at Telstra, and a project and relationship manager at Pacific Brands. I was travelling the world, working with amazing clients like ANZ, Wesfarmers, Suncorp and Qantas. At 25 it would seem to most I had it all. But I quit my job and left the country in search of a higher purpose. On my return I reconnected with, and then went on to marry, my best friend and we started our first business, Vogue Weddings and Events.
The success of our first business was due to a time when qualified project managers and financial planners for weddings and events were scarce but would go on to become a growing trend. The success and learning from this first business gave us the clarity we needed for our next chapter. Combined with our collective experiences in the corporate world, our various talents, strengths and business knowledge, we were in a position to start Miei.
This began with writing our core values and principles, a process that would lead us to finding our great purpose and, in turn, inner peace.
We wanted to create a business that was purely for GOOD, to be a disrupter for social and environmental change. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with something new. We just wanted to challenge the status quo and to explore alternative options and write our own rules.
Writing these rules for this new company, we wrote down everything we needed this disruptor to be:
- a vehicle for social and environmental impact
- 100% owned and controlled by us
- a for-profit company with financial transparency
- supporting local businesses
- a family employment model
- a family customer model
- primarily a business-to-business market
Once we settled on the above we had to figure out the appropriate service and/or products to offer. We were on a hunt for luxury products and the research informed us that Australia spends upwards of $750 million on fresh flowers annually and twice that on general gifts. This was an industry we knew well from our first business.
After months of research, buying flowers and hampers from every business we could find and documenting the experience, we finally came up with our own Miei formula.
We then explored the various social, economical and environmental issues that were at the forefront at that time. Two in particular resonated with us both – poverty and children. Our belief is that every child deserves to be given the chance, the same encouragement as we were, and the resources to grow to become valuable citizens, to break the poverty cycle and close the poverty gap in this country.
To have a real impact, we decided on receiving a modest employee capped salary and donating 100% owners’ net profit to fund local charity programs that aligned with our vision. Choosing to be zero wastage, by not carrying stock, along with financial transparency, was both a risk-mitigation and a service strategy that would disrupt how florists run in today’s market. This also created our unique proposition that would make Miei Fiori truly us.
We started out with just the two of us, because we wanted the business to start day one being profitable for the charity. So we donated all the set-up costs and didn’t draw a salary on our first year in business. Year one we ended up donating $6,000 to our charities, dedicating our time to building our foundation so that we could handle an expansion. We became B-Corp certified, the first Australian florist to be audited and recognised by a global to have an ethical business.As business picked up we started to draw a modest salary and at the end of year two we donated over $10,000. We were comfortable servicing our two dozen clients and growing Miei Fiori at a manageable rate, while slowing down our first business and serving the prior commitments we had there.
Through our work, reputation, brand and company mission two people approached us, looking to join forces to help us make a difference. We didn’t at that time have the work to cover four team members; however, just like our parents never said no and always made it work, we did the same, expanding and doubling our resources within months.
This decision forced us to grow from a comfortable two to a serious four. Between the four of us we covered every department, from design through to client relationships, logistics, finance, HR, administration and IT.
Through this expansion we gained Collins Square as a client, to add to our growing list of blue-chip customers. When they offered us this space to call home, this time last year, we politely declined on the basis we didn’t want to become a retail store, as it didn’t align with our values and principles. When they approached us a second time, explaining we could turn the space into anything we wanted, it caught our attention.
Like planning a family, we knew we would one day have a bricks-and-mortar store; however, you’re not really ever ready for it and don’t know what you don’t know until it is happening. So we said yes.
Over the next few months we brainstormed how to bring our ideas to life and present them to Collins Square and Development Victoria for approval. This space will be our headquarters and our Miei Fiori home, where magic gets created. One side houses our open and interactive workshop, where the public can not only watch the team at their creative best but can also pop in anytime we’re open to get creative with the free flowers that have been either donated by our suppliers and growers or are week-old corporate arrangements that are still in great condition. They can practice their own floristry skills under the guidance and supervision of our talented team.
It is also a place where we will hold regular, free floristry workshops to support high-functioning disability groups and anyone wanting to learn a new skill. There will also be paid workshops on a variety of topics that are requested by our community.
On the other side of the space we have our concept store. Here we are stocking products that cover seven different categories, where you can see, touch, taste, try and buy. The products we have curated must meet our Miei Fiori criteria:
- local entrepreneur owned or curated
- design and high-quality focus
- has a sustainability ethos or solves a current challenge
- not available in the mass market
- evokes your senses or a sentiment.
Within both these spaces we will continue to donate 100% net profit to our charities.
We know life is not fair. We’re all dealt some great and some not-so-great cards. We can’t choose the weather, what country we are born in or even which family we are born into. Upon reflection, Rob and I were fortunate enough to have been dealt a pretty lucky hand. We have an amazing and loving family who supports us. We are healthy, we have two healthy and happy children. I’m blessed with an incredible husband who is my rock and happiness protector. We have generous friends and mentors who truly want us to succeed. That is why we have made it our mission to use our given talents and accumulated gifts to help provide an opportunity for those with less fortunate circumstances in any way we can.
Today Miei is four years old. We are a small team doing huge things and we exist solely to combat poverty by rallying like-minded individuals like you to come on this journey with us. We continuously ask ourselves, and you to continue to push us, to be better, to be greater.
We have come a long way in such a short time; now entering our third year, we are in a growth phase. To help us manage this exciting new chapter we have welcomed two new members to the Miei family.
Even with all our luck and successes the truth is none of this would exist without our clients, who believed in our mission and welcomed us as partners. Suppliers who share our ethos and value and help us not only meet expectations and demands but to surpass them. Family and friends who anchor us, support us and guide us. Without each and every one of you, our biggest and most loyal fans, this dream of ours would remain still a dream.