What started as a humble home-schooling project has blossomed into a full-blown business venture for three budding entrepreneurs in the Far North.
With guidance from their mum Jennifer Ives, sisters Milly, 10, Gracie-Mae, 8 and Lexi-Rose, 6, have established a family business growing and selling dahlias from their lifestyle block on the outskirts of Kaikohe.
It all began when Gracie was gifted $100 to learn about money and entrepreneurial skills as part of her home-schooling in 2019.
She discovered the colourful plants while peering over her mum’s shoulder as she searched the internet, falling in love instantly and spending her entire budget buying 10 potted cuttings from an advertisement on social media.
Three months later, Gracie walked out of the Kaikohe A & P show with three first prizes; one for each of her entries.
Now the whole family are involved in a plan to create a dahlia farm on their property called Green Footed Kiwi, where they will grow, sell and deliver dahlia tubers and cut flowers.
The sisters are proud as punch.
“I like the colours and their shapes,” Gracie said.
“Some of them look so perfect, especially the balls and pompoms. They’re so different to other flowers.”
Gracie’s favourites are Sweet Love, Lexi likes Eveline and Milly thinks Encore are the bees’ knees.
National Dahlia Society of New Zealand president Dennis Rodgers, who started growing dahlias when he was their age, is mightily impressed.
“Gracie is an inspiration and us older generation need to get behind kids like this and help them keep these things alive.”
Rodgers also supported the girls when they attended the North Island National Dahlia Show in Hamilton in February armed with two buckets full of their handpicked flowers.
Their confidence blossomed further with their success in the “first-time exhibitors class”.
Back home, their friend Simon helped dig up a paddock for their new flower farm, and the family has set up a greenhouse which is now chocka with tubers and seedlings.
Come December, the Dahlia kids will have around 4000 dahlias growing.
Half of these will be seeds collected, grown in trays and planted out themselves.
Over the next three years, their stock of international dahlias will be sold off and replaced by more seedlings, promoting New Zealand grown.
“The idea is anyone can grow a dahlia from seed,” Ives said.
“We want to show New Zealand is capable of doing things as well as what we can buy from overseas.
“People go crazy for Café au lait on TradeMe, they’re $50 a tuber or more.”
Gracie said she loves her original winning dahlias but some of the seeds she planted last year are now her favourites.
“It’s really exciting. We plant a seed and don’t know what it will look like.”
Rodgers, from Fielding, is hosting three workshops at Green Footed Kiwi from August 14-22.
The dahlia masterclasses will demonstrate how to look after dahlia tubers throughout the year, how to divide them at the end of the season to give you more plants and how to plant seeds to grow your own seedlings.
There will also be home-cooked goodies made by the girls.
In the future, the sisters plan to sell their flowers at local markets, deliver bouquets to retirement villages and hospitals, and lead tours of their flower farm.
They also want to hold “pick your own days” and host workshops.
Email ia[email protected] for information about the upcoming workshops.