In 2007, Paul Hyland was a country rose grower with a dream to own a city plant nursery when he stumbled upon the site that would become the first Glasshaus store.
“I was on my way to my girlfriend’s place in Richmond and took a side street, and there was a ‘For Lease’ sign on this space,” he says. “I rang the number and the son of the guy who owned spoke to me. I [immediately] wrote him a cheque for three months’ rent.”
The perfect storm
Despite his enthusiasm, it was not plain sailing at the start. Glasshaus opened in 2008, just as the global financial crisis hit. The next year, Hyland had to contend with the double blow of drought and bushfire.
At the rose farm, “we lost all our greenhouse covers and all of our production prior to Valentine’s Day,” he says. “That particular time was really difficult and didn’t really get better. By 2012, I was really struggling.”
Throughout his travails, Hyland had faith that Glasshaus would succeed, even selling his house to keep the business afloat.
“I was always optimistic that what I was doing was going to work, and I work pretty hard.”
Changing the game plan
In 2013, Hyland decided to expand. His vision was an indoor-plant nursery that transformed into an events space at night.
“I walked around the streets of Richmond looking for sites – I didn’t care whether they were up for lease or not,” he says. “I earmarked about five sites that fit my requirements.”
At the top of his list was an empty warehouse in Cremorne that would become Glasshaus Inside. This time, luck was on his side. Hyland asked a mate, a photographer and longtime Richmond local, about the space. “He said, ‘It’s the old industrial laundries – my mate Sam owns that,’” Hyland says. “He gave me the number for Sam, I rang him, and again the deal was done over the phone in a couple of conversations.”
It turned out to be an auspicious move. “Glasshaus Inside rode the indoor plant craze,” says Hyland. “We did really well out of that. We do more than 100 events a year in that space. It worked out well, which was lucky because I’d almost gone broke.”
Glasshaus Florist on Swan Street followed in 2016. Today, Hyland runs the three city Glasshaus stores as well as a plant-growing farm at Warrenheip.
Flexibility and resilience
Running a small business is a high stakes endeavour. “You have all your capital tied up. You’ve put everything on the line, so you can’t afford for it not to work,” says Hyland, who believes resilience is the critical ingredient to success. “It’s a quality that I admire,” he says.
It’s resilience that helped him weather the storm wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic – an ability to adapt to new circumstances, which was fortunately available to his type of business.
The day after the prime minister announced restrictions to slow the virus’s spread, Hyland went into work as usual. “We lost all of our events business,” he says. “The whiteboard was full of external events work, and by Wednesday the whole whiteboard was blank. It was carnage. We had client after client ringing up saying this has been cancelled, that’s been cancelled.”
Hyland decided to stay open until authorities instructed him to close, which turned out to be a sound business decision. “By the first week in April, we saw a steady increase in sales in the flower store,” he says. “Most of our core staff had to come back to work because it was so busy.” A hastily constructed online store, which launched on April 6, delivered yet more sales. “[It] was a godsend. It’s been amazing how much extra business that’s generated.”
In his case, Hyland suggests the key to success was breaking obstacles down into pieces and systematically tackling each element. “Sometimes people get bogged down with the totality of a situation,” he says. Instead, focus on the outcome you want and adapt as you go. “Sometimes there are things you can discard – sometimes you have to.”
Taking time out
It’s clear Hyland thrives off hard work. “If things are tough, I just work harder,” he says. “Tomorrow, I start at three in the morning, and I probably won’t finish until four in the afternoon. That has been a way of life for me for a long time, so I’m used to it.”
But there are days when the pressure of running a business becomes overwhelming. It’s then Hyland retreats to his shed, where he finds “a task that doesn’t require much thinking”, like organising his tools or tidying up. Engaging in this type of quiet task allows him to tune out and de-stress. He recognises that finding a moment to himself can help restore his mental wellbeing. And get him back to doing what he loves.
“ I’m doing something I really enjoy,” he says. “So most of the time it doesn’t feel like work.”
To learn more about building resilience to help you navigate the challenges of running your own business, try the Small Business Program in the Smiling Mind app.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with MYOB and Smiling Mind, together bringing you the Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, the program is designed to help business owners thrive. So let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the “At Work” section in the Smiling Mind app today.