Treudie Kaehler of Flowers in Paradise Ballina marks 40 years in business.
Treudie Kaehler of Flowers in Paradise Ballina marks 40 years in business. Doug Eaton

After 40 years, she's blossoming

SHE'S been on the retail front line for 40 years - and has not only survived but thrived.

It's no mean achievement, and good reason for florist Treudie Kaehler to pop the champagne corks in her Flowers in Paradise shop, in River St, Ballina.

Maintaining the passion for your business and its products is also remarkable - and Ms Kaehler is happily looking forward to many more years providing bouquets, homewares and bridal guidance to her customers.

Ms Kaehler was an inexperienced teenager when she and her mother, Grace Cruise, bought Summerland Florists in 1971.

They co-managed the business, which meant young Treudie had to negotiate with bank managers and suppliers.

Her gender and youth made this "extremely difficult" at times, she said.

"One bank manager couldn't believe I was even there in front of him and was pretty rude to me.

"It's a different story now," she said, partly because the times have changed, but also because she has proved herself to be a canny and resilient business operator.

She was left to run the shop on her own at the age of 20 when her mum remarried and went to live in Brisbane.

But Ms Cruise continued to own and manage florist shops in Queensland and was always there in the background as her daughter's mentor.

However, Ms Kaehler's main piece of advice to someone starting out as she did is "get a business coach". She employed one when she moved her business from the Wigmore Arcade to River St and said it proved invaluable.

"He taught me how to get my customers to return, how to advertise and how to increase my profit margin, among a whole lot of other things," Ms Kaehler said.

"So many young people start up today with a passion - perhaps hairdressing or beauty therapy - but when it comes to running a business they don't know what they're doing."

Constant re-invention has been the key to her own business success, she said.

"I like to change what I do every four or five years. I get to a point where I think 'OK, I've done this; it's getting a bit tired'.

"It may just be applying a fresh coat of paint, or it may be a complete change of stock.

"People are looking for something different."

The most recent shift she has undergone is a change in stock from modern magazine-style homeware back to the cottage look.

"Baby boomers and the grey nomads love the more traditional look," she said. "I think it's because they are looking back to our childhood - what we had when we were kids, seeing the value in it."

Despite that nostalgia, the business world is continually changing, and not getting any easier.

"In the '70s people came in and threw money at you; in the '90s you had to go out and drag them off the street; now you have to do everything, including entertain them.

"People know what they want now. They are very clear about it. Retail is getting tougher and tougher."

But as her survival proves, when the going gets tough, Ms Kaehler has demonstrated she is tough enough to keep going.