Today, we are thrilled to sit down with Nadine Brown of The Ivy Institute. With over 30 years in the Industry, Nadine has created an online platform offering premium floral design education, business mentoring, and a supportive community to florists of all stages of business. It is a space to be able to share, encourage, inspire & empower florists to build foundations to create sustainable & profitable businesses.
When we first chatted to Nadine about this article, we knew we were aligned in our vision of creating more inclusion and community within floristry, so we are very excited to learn more and find out exactly what she has on offer at The Ivy Institute.
Cheeky tip…there are some generous discount codes waiting for our readers at the end of the article!
FQ: Hello Nadine, thanks for joining us! Please tell us about yourself and The Ivy Institute…
Hello! A little bit about me personally, I am Mum to two incredible and adventurous, travelling young adults and have been married for 30 years to the most supportive man who also happens to be very handy. We live on (and cherish) our rural property in the Southern Highlands, Dharawal land, that we feel incredibly connected to and consider ourselves the caretakers of.
I can honestly say that I find myself fascinated by nature in some capacity every day, even as a young girl, sitting in my grandmother’s glasshouse full of orchids in her tiny suburban back yard, I realised just how special these flowers must be to have their very own house made of glass.
A 4-year stint straight out of high school found me working in a garden nursery before the flowers and design captured my creative heart. At 19, the floristry path began whilst working for a wonderfully eccentric floral artist with a crazy wedding schedule – and I was hooked! After studying floristry, I opened my own retail shop at 23 and loved it! 10 years later with 2 babies, a farm, and a new teaching career – I sold the shop to focus on being a mum but continued my love of weddings with a home-based studio doing approximately 60 events a year, and then I embarked on a 17-year teaching career with TAFE.
In 2019, I knew it was time for a change and returned to being my own boss again with a focus on offering education and workshops in a more sustainably focused way, as well as my soul’s mission of mentoring and guiding other florists on their own pathway.
The vision and mission behind The Ivy Institute is to support, guide and educate florists, both emerging and established, along with floral based businesses such as growers and artists to grow a sustainable, profitable business that reflects themselves and their own unique creative voice.
In creating Ivy, I’ve essentially encapsulated everything I have learned and experienced within my own 30 + year journey as a florist, educator, mentor, and business owner, along with gathering the knowledge of Industry experts, so that this space becomes one of shared wisdoms.
The Ivy Institute has allowed me to build a community of support, creativity and innovation that has a strong respect for the nature we all love and allowed me to create an online hub of learning, face to face events, and a community I know I would have loved to be a part of during many different times in my own career.
All images by Flore Vallery-Radot
FQ: We love to hear the life experiences that brought you to this moment in time, what led you to create this specific platform for your members?
I had been brainstorming ideas around offering online education 15 or so years ago, when I would have been burning content onto a disc, printing labels, and posting them out! Thank goodness I waited till now hehehe.
When the world changed really in 2020. I had made the huge decision to leave the security of my TAFE job to build something new, only to have that growing calendar wiped out instantly. So, with the encouragement of my husband, we felt the time was right for me to create that online offering but in a membership format rather than stand-alone courses. There really wasn’t anything that offered inspiring and earth conscious design, mentoring sessions both recorded and Live, resources and a private group for members to connect directly with each other.
The whole idea of creating a thriving community with access to this ever-growing library of content that grew with the members was really appealing to me. I engaged a professional film maker, the incredibly talented Flore Vallery-Radot, to help me create my vision of highly educational tutorials that were also incredibly beautiful and cinematic to watch, all filmed in my 100-year-old Ivy covered Greenhouse and surrounding garden. Members often tell me they feel like they are in the studio with me having their own personal class, with the stories shared, gorgeous table full of flowers and the odd visit from my furry ones (cat, dogs and chickens).
FQ: Sounds fantastic, and we have major love heart eyes for your studio space as well! What specific services do you offer?
Within The Ivy Institute, I offer online Floral Education via mini courses or ‘Collections’ as I call them and downloadable resources. Bespoke 1:1 Mentoring Packages along with a 3-month Group Mentoring Program that I offer twice a year. In person workshops, events, and a larger Retreat once a year, October dates to be released very soon. And of course, The Greenhouse – our membership and mentoring community.
FQ: Tell us more about what members can expect from their Greenhouse Membership?
They can expect to find an online “greenhouse’ that will allow their creative self and business to thrive. With access to an extensive library of 60 + professionally filmed design tutorials showcasing a wide range of commercial and artistic designs and techniques that are all completely foam free using locally grown and seasonal flowers. Over 25 in-depth coaching sessions, interviews with Industry experts, a resource hub, monthly live sessions, and access to our online group where they can connect directly with myself and their fellow members. Within the online group, I also felt it could be really helpful to offer a design review section, allowing me to pop my teachers hat back on and offer valuable feedback along with a monthly cultivation task area if members needed that sense of accountability on certain areas of their business that needed growth.
FQ: We know that you also have a focus on a sustainable practice, where did this passion begin for you?
I guess way back in the beginning, my shop Wildflower was very organic using brown paper that I bought from the butchers [as the sundry suppliers didn’t sell it back then], twine from the hardware and foraged vine as our ‘ribbon’. Initially around 90% of my flowers on offer were Aus and SA wildflowers only, of course we expanded as the shop became busier. We even bought a mulcher from the op shop so I could take home all my green waste for the garden.
Of course, things change I slipped into the busy of retail shop and was using all the cello and foam for many years, just as I, and everyone of that time had been taught. It wasn’t until during my later teaching years that I became curious and started questioning my/our practices and realised with horror the negative impact that I was having on myself, my clients, and the very nature I loved.
I started experimenting and investing in my own ‘un-learning‘, as I call it, and soon had removed foam and plastics from own wedding and event designs. In 2019 I was invited to be an ambassador of the SFN, Sustainable Floristry Network, joining some incredible designers worldwide that have the same ‘educate without judgement’ ethos. After all, I was that florist for many years, designing on default and not aware of the impact my choices were making. I’m now completely dedicated to helping others explore new mechanics and consequently opening a whole new realm of creative freedom by designing in a way that is in partnership with nature and not against it. Bringing floristry back to nature.
FQ: Yes! We know a lot of people are currently on this journey of ‘unlearning’. Do you find that the majority of your students are coming to you to learn a more sustainable practice?
Yes, they are. Often leaving formal training searching for a more ethical and earth conscious way of design. It’s when they start exploring for themselves that they can then see all the other areas of our business that we can make small but impactful decisions and just how freeing it can be to design in this way. You really do become a floral engineer, much more connected to your medium [nature] and that’s incredibly rewarding.
FQ: We can see that you are still so passionate about floristry after 30 years in the industry, what keeps your passion and drive going?
On reflection, there’s a few reasons. The way the industry has changed so much over the years, the opportunities, and diverse ways we can now work as designers and of course the blooms. Nothing quite buzzes me up like seeing my clients grow their own wings and fly, from struggling at a market stall to being nominated for ABIA awards for their wedding work, buying their first shop or expanding their business in a new direction. I guess you just know when you’ve found your thing!
FQ: Ok, we love to ask this one…where do you see yourself and The Ivy Institute in the next 5 years?
Phew, big question! I’d love to see our membership grown to the point where we have members from all over the world, sharing their wisdoms, supporting, and inspiring each other with their own growth and enthusiasm. A beautiful twining network of Ivy’s that are dedicated to their own sustainability and sharing that with others. Running retreats worldwide each year and gathering with other like-minded creatives to learn from and grow. I believe we can never stop learning as designers and the best part of that is sharing it with others.
FQ: We love your vision and the sense of community you are fostering. We can’t wait to see The Ivy Institute continue to go from strength to strength, thank you so much for your time, Nadine!
Nadine has very kindly offered discount codes to our readers who are interested in signing up to The Ivy Institute for the lifetime of their memberships:
• Use code FQGHM – at checkout to receive $8 off monthly payment option saving $96 per year OR
• Use code FQGHY – at checkout to receive $100 off yearly payment option, gaining over 4 months free
You can find out more or contact Nadine directly through the channels provided:
The FQ xx