The Best Bunch is a company that creates and delivers fresh floral arrangements all over Melbourne. In the three months since it was founded, the business has expanded rapidly. But The Best Bunch is more than a flower delivery service.
All of the organisation’s profits go to a Melbourne-based respite-care group, Camp Sababa (Hebrew for “cool”), which runs camps for people with disabilities under the age of 18, giving families a break and creating an environment that fosters independence among the campers. Their regular daily routine is thrown out the window and replaced with good-old-fashioned camp fun (think obstacle courses and flying foxes).
As well as donating its profits, The Best Bunch employs people with disabilities. Michelle Feiglin’s son, Zalman, is a deliveryman for The Best Bunch, and will attend camp this year. “We don’t get a proper break. Just to go out to the movies or to dinner will really mean a lot to us,” she says.
The late disability advocate Stella Young said, “My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” Feiglin feels this is one of the most difficult issues faced by people with disabilities – understanding and acceptance from the wider community. This in turn affects hiring policies and the capacity for organisations to provide for and engage people with special needs. “They should just be included in society and accepted for who they are,” says Feiglin. “[And feel] that people want to be friends with them for who they are, not because they want to do a good thing. It’s about equal relationships.”
While job opportunities do exist through disability employment service providers, for many it is still difficult to transition into work environments, or hold down jobs. Zalman has tried for countless jobs with no success. Unlike other employers, however, The Best Bunch is a social enterprise. Its sole purpose is to create a more inclusive work environment. “The Best Bunch is willing and open. The attitude there is, ‘How can we support Zalman’, over him fitting into the job,” Feiglin says.
It’s a Friday morning and when Zalman walks in the room before the deliveries begin – it brightens up. The Best Bunch runs from an old Jewish scout hall in Elwood, with pinewood walls full of commemorative plaques and photos of old scout members. Zalman makes the rounds across the room (already filled with flowers from the morning delivery) saying hi to all the volunteers – there are hugs aplenty. With a smile, and a mochaccino in one hand, Zalman explains how The Best Bunch has helped him. “It involves independence. It's increased my confidence.”
The Best Bunch’s founder Dean Cohen says the idea of the business came from the lack of work options available for those with special needs. In Australia, according to ABS statistics in 2012, only 52.8 per cent of people with disabilities were in the workforce. It’s a sobering statistic that highlights the need to find new avenues of employment. Cohen, who is also the chairperson for Camp Sababa, decided that The Best Bunch would be his solution. “[It] provides this opportunity in a supportive space,” he says.
Aside from the paid employees, the team at The Best Bunch is run by a group of volunteers working alongside professional florists to help employees create a different floral bouquet for delivery each week. The flowers range from natives and lilies to birds of paradise.
Cohen hopes The Best Bunch will encourage other businesses and organisations to find ways to create inclusive work environments. “Our goal is to become the benchmark for the employment of people with a disability.”
But despite these lofty goals, he believes the best thing to come out of the project is the connections being forged through the delivery service. “Everyone loves flowers. We are using flowers to provide an opportunity for people with special needs to deliver a beautiful bunch – that can put a smile on anyone's faces.”
Each bunch is $25 and delivered on Friday. To subscribe for a weekly or a one-off delivery, visit the Best Bunch website.