A 19-year-old farmer is bringing the benefits of British-grown flowers to the fore in her local community as she turns her seedling of a business idea into a blossoming success.
Farmer-turned-florist, Ellen Firth, launched Firth Flock Flowers at the start of 2023 with the support of Big Ideas Wales, having spent two years gifting her sustainable home-grown flowers to friends, family and her local community.
Now, Ellen is announcing the expansion of her business after securing land which will blossom into a flower garden in May 2023. Ellen hopes the garden of chemical free, ethically grown flowers, can educate her community on the benefits of British grown flowers that account for 10% of the flower industry here in the UK.
In the months following the grand opening of Firth Flock Flower Farm, Ellen, who was diagnosed with autism in 2017, aspires to support other young people with autism and special needs by hosting immersive flower arranging and harvesting workshops which will enable them to experience the therapeutic benefits of flowers first-hand.
Ellen began farming when she was just seven years old, spending evenings and weekends lending a hand on local farms. In 2019, Ellen and her family moved to Denbighshire to a small eight-acre farm. It was here, at the foot of the Clwydian hills, that Ellen began planting and nurturing flowers.
Discussing the birth of her floristry passion, Ellen said: “I have always loved nurturing animals, so when I moved and began growing flowers too, it felt very natural to me. Watching something grow - whether that’s an animal or flower - fills you with this overwhelming sense of achievement.
“It also helped me to grow as a person living with autism. I was diagnosed aged 13 after two years of assessments and tests, it left me with a lot of lasting trauma. I’m incredibly lucky that I found my therapy in gardening. That’s why I’m so keen to share it with others who are living with autism or suffering with their mental health.”
When Ellen isn’t caring for her flock or tending to flower beds, she is working with hospitals and universities to raise awareness about autism and support with key research. Having been diagnosed later in childhood, Ellen believes her insight and experience can help young people receive a diagnosis earlier and access the support they need.
Ellen said: “I’m incredibly proud to be able to educate people as an autistic entrepreneur, that’s why I want to go one step further and share my knowledge on the British flower industry. For example, many people don’t know that while imported flowers have a carbon footprint significantly higher than British-grown flowers, they are also often dyed to maintain a highly pigmented colour and lifespan. Flowers grown here in Britain aren’t put under the strain of dyeing or importing, which means they last significantly longer and are much fresher and more fragrant.
Above all, British grown flowers encourage biodiversity and wildlife to thrive. At Firth Flock, Ellen has created a budding circular environment where animals work in unison with the flora. Ellen’s native Black Welsh Mountain sheep provide natural fertiliser for her flowers, while her flock of Welsh Harlequin ducks, a rare, protected breed, act as natural pest control. All play a part in making Firth Flock Flowers the sustainable, 100% eco-friendly floral business it is today.
All flowers ethically grown at Firth Flock Flowers will be used for Ellen’s commissioned arrangements for weddings and arrangements to local businesses. Ellen’s arrangements vary from £6 for small jar bouquets to £40 for larger, wilder arrangements, with prices for larger events agreed upon commission.
To launch her business, Ellen sought the support of Big Ideas Wales, part of Business Wales and funded by the Welsh Government to support entrepreneurship in Wales. The Big Ideas Wales service is aimed at anyone between the age of five and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of The Welsh Government’s commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Ellen heard about Big Ideas Wales through Careers Wales, after deciding to turn her hobby into a fruitful business. Quickly after reaching out for support, Ellen was put into contact with business advisor Niamh Ferron who has assisted Ellen with building a business plan and registering as a business.
Ellen said: “While I had two years’ worth of experience in growing and producing flowers, I had no idea how to run a business. I had so many questions, I didn’t know where to begin. My weekly, virtual meetings with Niamh were vital in helping me turn Firth Flock Flowers from a therapeutic hobby into a real business.”
Ellen was directed to Big Ideas Wales’ webinars, where she has learnt about everything from market research and accountancy to social media webinars which supported Ellen in building her thriving online community.
Ellen said: “Operating a successful business from a rural area can be hard, but the social media webinar opened my eyes to the importance of transparency and showing your face online. Being communicative with your audience – whether that’s by sharing behind the scenes of your day through short reels or letting people in on your golden nuggets of advice on social posts – truly is the key to success. It has helped people connect with my business while helping me to learn to communicate in a brand-new way.”
With the help of Big Ideas Wales, Ellen also applied for the Young Person’s Start-Up Grant and has since used it to invest in her website host subscription and eco-friendly, compostable business cards and packaging. Ellen also bought a new computer to maintain her online business and aims to spend her remaining grant on diversifying her garden by investing in more expensive crops such as dahlias, roses and perennials.
Discussing Ellen’s growth, Business Advisor Niamh Ferron said: “Ellen is incredibly inspiring and is a wonderful example of how embracing the support of Big Ideas Wales can help you level up in your business. Ellen has made the most of every piece of support, from our weekly meetings to the service’s endless webinars and the Young Person’s Start-Up Grant. I look forward to watching Ellen flourish as a young entrepreneur.”
Once lambing season is over this spring, Ellen hopes Firth Flock Flower blooms will be flourishing with fresh buds so she can invite her community into the self-built safe haven to learn about the endless therapeutic benefits of floristry and why we should all be buying local.