Tina Heffer is the fabulous power-house behind Te Awamutu local florist and giftware store The Birdcage. Beyond the blooms, her store offers a highly curated edit of swoon-worthy homewares, accessories and jewellery: Saben sits pretty in store among brands like Zoe & Morgan, La Tribe and Beau Coops.
As one of our fastest growing retailers, it is such a treat to connect with Tina on the Primavera spring image project during which we also snapped her portrait (all be it reluctantly, though we aren’t sure why – she is SUCH a babe!!!) for the Women in Business series. We chat about all things style, flowers, business and her move to online.
What drew you to the Mae handbag?
I love the texture of Mae, and I am obsessed with cross-body handbags. Being hands free is so important to me, I'm always on the run and I'm always trying to carry too many things, so having a bag that goes on and doesn't slide off is key. Also, Mae is the perfect size for just what you need, and the compartments make it easy to pop things into and to find them later.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is whatever I love and what’s comfortable - most of the time ;) I live in leather pants, ripped denim & quite a bit of lace. I like mixing really dressy pieces with casual.
On your summer wish-list?
On my summer wish list is another pair of beaten up denim ksubi shorts, a killer pair of sunnies & at least a day or two at the beach! I don't get there as often as I'd like to.
Does your personal style overflow into your edit for the store, or do you have much broader way of selecting your pieces?
Absolutely, I'm a bit eclectic. I love styling, and mixing different pieces, whether that be for jewellery, bags, or for home. When choosing pieces for the store, I know if I love it, I can sell it, but I always have in mind someone who I know would also love it too. When you are buying, we see so much, you need to have a very selective eye, not everything is suitable.
It was so much fun to work together on our spring image project. What does the move into spring season mean for you and your business?
Spring for us in the Waikato means calving season! So the farmers are always pretty busy, but it’s also a season that everyone is ready for. We've all had enough of winter and I love seeing all the spring flowers come through, a bit of colour and fragrance, and then we start getting geared up for the Christmas trade.
Your Primavera arrangement was inspired by new style, Cami in the dreamiest shade of linen. The colours fit so perfectly, tell us more:
Cami in linen is all about toning it down, I wanted to use a colour palette that was complimentary, this shade of linen, to me is for the women who like to dress easy and breezy, loose layers, soft colours, open button shirts and flowing fabrics. The quick sand roses I used, I just love how they open and their shade is to die for, one of my favs.
“I am a bit of a whatever-takes-me-at-the-time kind of girl, the tones were perfect to pair with Cami and the succulents & gum add unexpected interest and texture."
When working with customers on floral styling do you prefer a tight brief or to be given free-reign?
I totally prefer free-reign, I think telling your florist exactly what you want is like telling an artist how you want your piece of art to look. When doing a wedding, I like to meet the bride, find out who she is, what her style and personality are, then go from there. A colour palette is a start and then just let me go. The flower market is a fickle place, sometimes you just can't get what you had hoped for so you need to think on the spot and have your eyes open to something else equally, or even better.
Wedding season is upon us, any advice you could give brides-to-be about their flowers?
Leave it to the experts, choose a florist you like, and get along with. Don't be disappointed if you couldn't get something, trust what we think would look sensational. And embrace what’s in season, it's in season for a reason!! And stop looking at bloody Pinterest!!!! Look at what your locals do, we can't replicate something from America, we are in NZ.
Tell us a bit about The Birdcage, how did you start, what led you to grow from flowers into gift, fashion and homewares?
The Birdcage came from me not always being able to get what I needed or wanted locally and wanting to do my own thing. I couldn't decide on one thing so I did them all, minus clothing (which I also love but we already have amazing clothing stores in town). I also wanted to be able to make flowers available for everyone, amazing quality, and fresh. Not always made up, but ready for your home, flowers has been a huge part of my business and grew so quickly, more than I ever thought or hoped. Gifts gradually grew, along with our jewellery, bags & footwear. Our little space is well used!
Congratulations on the opening of you online store! We bet your out-of-town customers are stoked to be able to see your curation of goodies. What has been the hardest part of this journey to date?
Finally online wohoo!!! The hardest part of this is managing stock levels, and for me ensuring that people get a similar experience online as they do instore. eg. receiving a beautifully wrapped parcel, just like we do in-store.
And what part is the most exciting / rewarding?
Getting a sale! We aren't massive online yet, but I know that will just keep growing for sure. Online is the new way people are shopping, gotta keep moving with the times. I also hope that bricks and mortar will still reign though, there is nothing like shopping in an actual shop.
‘Busy’ has become such a standardised part of society… BUT we are seeing such a conscious shift to switch off, re-connect, implement mindfulness strategies into everyday life. Where do you sit on this journey?
Still in the busy lane ha ha. Yes, life is so so busy now, but little by little I'm learning to try and pull back, we can't keep this pace up forever. Also, I think your mind needs time to zone out, and actually be in the now, not in a million other places. I think 'busy' is becoming the reason why so many of us ( and I say us as in me) are putting off having children too, 'there's no time, I'm so busy', but shit, there is never a good or better time. You just have to live it.
Any mantras you live by in business or at home?
In business, try not to take things too personal. This is super hard for me because when you put everything into your business, it is personal. I aim to 'shake it off', move on, usually say a few curse words then get on with it. Dwelling on things only holds you back, I choose to learn from it instead and better myself. At home, I try and take a bit more time to chill out, like on Sundays, doing as little as possible and eating better & exercising. The last 6 months have been that and I am so much better for it both mentally & physically.
How do you unwind?
I run, get outside, and blob on the couch with MNM's and Netflix, I watch a lot of Netflix ha ha :)
Tina wears and loves Mae handbag in black embossed python. Shop Tina's full edit on our collection below.
Tina also wears - Top from BLAK, Jeans KSUBI (SUPERETTE), heels LATRIBE, earrings ZOE & MORGAN (earrings and heels in store) which can be purchased at The Birdcage Te Awamutu or online.