Since founding socially sustainable florist GG’s Flowers with stepmum Geetha and sister Gayana earlier this year, Nip Wijewickrema has made it her mission to promote local businesses that employ people with special needs.
“My sister Gayana is 15 and has Down Syndrome. We see that it can be hard and that businesses are less likely to take people with special needs on, and so we created GG’s Flowers as an opportunity for her to find meaningful work,” Nip says.
“GG’s Flowers was my stepmum’s idea. She’s a trained florist, so she looks after the flowers and Gayana makes the deliveries. Every delivery comes with a big hug from Gayana too.”
While Gayana is currently GG’s Flowers’ only paid employee, Nip says that the dream is to eventually hire a team of young people with special needs.
“We want to pay our staff well and give them good conditions, and hopefully one day when we can bring on a team we’ll be in a position where we can give them training and send them to CIT.”
She also hopes that Gayana will work in the business full time when she finishes school.
“Gayana is only in Year 10, but when she’s in Year 12 we’d love to send her to do a floristry course. My goal is to have her answering the phones, taking orders and having other team members who she can look after and who also can look after her.
“You know, in ten years she might be the boss. She might be the director. She can do whatever she wants.”
Nip, who was also recently awarded Canberra Young Citizen of the Year for 2014 and won the Emerging Young Leader Award at the 2014 Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards last week, says that businesses and government can do more to support initiatives like GG’s Flowers.
“There are so many socially sustainable businesses in Canberra. When you look at how many government events are run each year that need flowers or wreaths, for example, it makes sense to send the flower orders our way. Wouldn’t it be great to support not just local businesses, but also socially sustainable businesses,” she says.
“My friends joke that I have a bit of a problem, because when I go to a shop, or I go to a café, I’ll touch the flowers to see if they’re real or if they’re fake. And if they’re fake, we can’t compete on price, but I do send the cafe an email that says ‘I noticed you had flowers, would you consider getting fresh flowers? We’d love to have you support us, here’s what we do and why we do it.’”
GG’s Flowers has several corporate customers that recognise the importance of supporting socially sustainable businesses. National Capital Diagnostic Imaging, Audi Canberra and Rolfe Mazda all receive regular (weekly or monthly) deliveries from Gayana. A weekly flower delivery starts from around $65 per week.
GG’s Flowers deliver to all suburbs and can cater for small deliveries as well as large scale events, and Nip, Geetha and Gayana are working right through the Christmas and New Year period. To place an order, Nip recommends getting in touch on Facebook or by calling 0402 370 097.