By Fleur Chapman
The iconic Australian native everlasting flower is sight to behold. With its uncomplicated yet spectacularly bold petals, these beauties make an impact wherever they pop up. As a plant, they are hardy and waterwise, with exceptional germination rates. Everlastings readily self-seed, making for a guaranteed display year-in-year-out with little effort. Despite these qualities, everlastings were once inaccessible to the home gardener in any decent quantities. In 2004, Kojonup farmer Jen Warburton and her husband Rob were given a packet of seed by a co-worker which the couple hand-sowed over an acre. The result was such an incredible display, that Jen set forth to commercialise everlasting seed production to finally give the flower the attention it deserved. Lucinda’s Everlastings was born, named after their baby daughter, and has since become the trusted name in premium quality everlasting seeds Australia-wide. The hot pink and white varieties have become a firm favourite of many loyal customers and Lucinda’s has amassed a firm following over the past 16 years through consistent, quality seed supplied to small garden centres.
Building the business has had its challenges, not least Jen’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. While she has escaped physical disability so far, she remains acutely aware of her limitations and is smart about how she works. Much of the seed sowing process has been mechanised now with the help of Jen’s father. The nature of the everlasting seed made it a little tricky to mechanise due to a fluffy coating, but over time, Jen’s father has cleverly worked out a way to get the flow and mix just right. Harvest is also labour-intensive, but this has also been mechanised to make the job a little easier. Jen readily employs other people to help and is quite happy to outsource anything that is too taxing on her body or simply too time-consuming for the family to do themselves.
When their second daughter Zara was born four years after Lucinda, they began cultivating a golden everlasting flower at the farm. Unfortunately, this variety proved much more difficult to manage. While they do still stock some of Zara’s, Lucinda’s Everlastings remain their focus.
Lucinda and Zara attend boarding school but have become valuable members of the farming team when they are home. Lucinda, now 16, has shown interest in the business and is studying accounting and finance as one of her school subjects. She has just started learning to drive the header to assist with harvest and is open-minded about her future and the opportunities that await. The ultimate goal of Jen’s is for Lucinda to take over the everlasting business when she is ready, but the priority right now is school.
By being involved in farm life, the girls have learned so much about the business world, the value of hard work, and positive customer interaction. One of Jen’s keys to success has been her innate ability to nurture relationships and operate through generosity and respect to everyone around her. For example, she will give free packets of seed to customers, offer friendly follow-up calls and go out of her way to keep costs down. Her strength is marketing and business relationships, firmly believing that happy customers make for a happier, more successful business. This is a valuable lesson her girls can embrace no matter where their own lives take them.
The Warburton’s also run sheep and canola crops on their farm which are primarily under Rob’s care. As an agronomist in a past life, Jen helps where she can but much of the work is too physically demanding. She will often drive the chaser bin and is able to stand and assist with sheep work for short periods of time. Jen never makes a big deal about living with MS; she maintains a positive outlook and just gets on with whatever needs to be done. Walking long distances is problematic due to fatigue in her legs but she has learnt to listen to her body and manage her symptoms effectively. She will break up longer walks, take time out with a cup of tea when the fatigue sets in, or find ways to stay active and efficient while not overdoing it. Undue stress can make her symptoms worse, so Jen has been smart about what she takes on and pulled back on things that stress her out.
The everlastings don’t stress her out – she loves them and her passion shows. Her wonderfully successful fundraising luncheon this past October showed just how much she adores the flowers and is thriving in the business. Initially reluctant to fundraise for ‘her own cause’ –MSWA – Jen ended up raising $7000 and all 120 of her guests were treated to an unbelievable night. Since the event, she has been constantly asked when the next one is. While the initial plan was to dine amongst the flowers in the field, inclement weather forced a change of plan and the shed was decked out in beautiful adornments instead. The tables set with quality glassware, napkins and crockery, with Jen’s attention to detail ensuring a splendid, successful and sophisticated event.
Jen was overwhelmed by the support she received on the day to pull off the fundraiser – friends and family rallied around to help and ensure the evening went smoothly, and it did. Many guests were from the local area, but others travelled from as far as Perth to see the flowers and support the cause. Jen hopes she can organise a similar event next year but hasn’t made any promises just yet.
What’s next for Lucinda’s Everlastings? Jen’s passion and enthusiasm are as bold and bright as her product, with several exciting ideas in development right now. Her business will continue to grow in coming years and do an exceptional job at showcasing this beautiful flower across the country and beyond.
Follow Jen’s journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lucindaseverlastings or Twitter: https://twitter.com/everlastingsfun or visit their website for more information: http://www.everlastings.com.au/
MSWA supports people living with neurological conditions in Western Australia. To find out more, visit: https://mswa.org.au/