Diane Nittke is a florist and business women who have found her calling. She started Ellermann Flower Boutique & Event Atelier in 2010 when she found a beautiful shop space in Sheung Wan. She decided to offer a whole new floral experience that was unique in Hong Kong: personalised service, tailor-made creations, inspirational , European-style arrangements with an elegant yet quirky design. Having stayed true to these principles she has grown the business significantly today with a retail boutique in The Landmark, Hong Kong’s most premium shopping mall and a loft-style studio atelier in up-and coming Wong Chuk Hang.
Tell us about yourself, where do you live and what do you love about your city?
I was born in Germany and came to Hong Kong after stints in Salzburg, Paris and New York. I have been in Hong Kong for 20 years now, my two children were born here and my business is based here. Hong Kong is home and I love living here. Hong Kong is a vibrant melting pot of a multitude of cultures and different design influences. It is incredibly dynamic, efficient and has a great can-do attitude. I also love Hong Kong for its location within Asia – you can hop on a plane and have the most stunning beaches or great world-cities, such as Tokyo, Bangkok, Beijing within easy reach – the proximity of beautiful country parks and beaches is also welcome escape from the bustle of the city.
When did you start? How did it start? how it has evolved today?
I had the idea of starting a floral business in my head for quiet some time, but it kick-started when I came across a beautiful shop space in Sheung Wan and started Ellermann Flower Boutique & Event Atelier in 2010. I fell in love with the neighbourhood and signed the lease before actually having a proper business plan. With Ellermann we offered a whole new experience unique in Hong Kong. We will open an additional retail location featuring an exciting new boutique concept in the late spring this year. We also have an online business offering our creations at the tip of your fingers.
How is Ellermann different from other designer florists apart from they are set-up by established international designer florist?
What makes Ellermann unique is our approach to each project, offering completely customised designs and a truly personalised and individual service. A lot of our wedding clients have not only become loyal customers but friends. We deeply care about each project – no matter how big or small – and handle each affair with the utmost attention to detail. Our floral creations always have an element of surprise which makes them unique. We have seasonal collection rather than year-round standard designs and they are often inspired by themes such as poetry, art or fashion. We observe global & local trends but don’t follow them religiously making each creation and event our very own.
How big is the designer floral market in Hong Kong? How did you first get your first luxury brand clients?
I have observed a very young, vibrant floral industry in Hong Kong with many new florists coming into the market. I think this actually helps to establish flowers as an integral part of our lifestyle and create awareness to flowers – which often times were undervalued before in regards to the impact they could have on an event or a living space.
In regards to our first luxury brand client I have to say that we started doing great work right from the beginning and word spread. I am a very convincing ambassador talking very passionately about flowers – I am sure that helped. We got a lot of PR and soon were regarded as the “go-to florist”.
Our corporate clients are looking for innovative and unique designs but also reliable partners. With big projects for luxury brands you have to deliver top quality products within the given timeline. So quality ingredients and handling the flowers in the right way together with an organised approach have always been our strength and our brand partners have always appreciated that.
Describe your typical work day from when you get to office till when you leave? What do you spend the most amount of time on?
There really isn’t a typical day for me. When I spend a day in the studio I often work on creative floral proposals for events or weekly flowers. Or we might be doing mock-ups for big affairs or creating a new seasonal collection. Or I might be working on new marketing ideas together with the team. I am also travelling a lot since we work together with luxury hotels throughout Asia creating floral concepts for them.
On top of that I have founded a second company called Ellermann Interiors, which offers styling and accessorising services to mostly large luxury hotels and residential developments. Quite a lot of my time is spent working on this either by working on concepts from my office or being on site somewhere in Asia.
3 biggest trends in your area that you have seen and will impact your business in 2017 and beyond?
Flower arranging classes have become very popular. This has to do with people being more aware of floral design through Pinterest and Instagram and also because “creating” has become “hip” and is seen as part of our lifestyle, just like cooking or crafts. We are offering workshops for corporate clients who offer these to their VIPs or media partners. We also run our own classes.
Another trend are residential flowers as part of a general “home decorating” movement. People are spending money on flowers for themselves as part of their interior decor rather than solely gifting flowers to other people. We offer residential packages delivering fresh flowers to your home on a weekly basis. We take a truly custom approach here, most of the time doing an initial site visit to our client’s home to get a sense of the space and interior design and to be able to create arrangement that compliment the decor.
What is your most worthwhile investment you’ve made to your business?
Investing in physical spaces, like our first boutique in Sheung Wan or our boutique now in Landmark. I believe that our industry is very tactile and dependant on a personal contact with our customers. So rather than working solely out of a cheap industrial space or only being present online, I always created spaces that are visible, serve as billboards for the brand and are welcoming and inspiring environments for our clients.
What are top qualities you look for when hiring besides technical skills?
A passion for flowers. A positive, can-do attitude and personality. Team spirit. Talent.
Best advise you ever got?
“Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don’t if you don’t want to be. Just be natural and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylized and wild and daring and conservative, and learn and learn and learn. Open your mind to every form of beauty.”
Constance Spry, a British floral designer in the mid-20th century.
What do you belief is true about money/success?
Success is doing what you love surrounded by people you love creating value rather than money.
If you can change 1 thing in the world today in a instance, what would it be?