Alyson Mowat trained as a graphic designer and worked in the fashion and jewellery business for many years before turning her hand to creating living artworks in the form of terrariums. She launched her company Botanique Boutique, selling terrariums, creating installations and teaching workshops. There’s even a Botanique suite you can stay in at the exclusive Hospital Club in London.
We spoke to Alyson about the ups and downs of running your own business.
OM:Can you describe an average day at Botanique?
AM: It is very hard to describe an average day as every day is different. I may be making up terrarium orders, designing a new installation or collection or running around town picking up plants and props.
OM: Have you always wanted to run your own business?
AM: Always. I grew up in South Africa and started selling avocados that fell from the tree in our garden when I was six. I got a job working at a burger bar in the school holidays when I was a little older and used to spend the quieter times sketching out plans for a poets’ café, which I planned to set up when I finished school. It never happened, but may do one day, with a Botanique twist of course.
OM: What was the hardest part about becoming a business owner?
AM: Running your own business is always hard in the beginning. Staying on top of cash flow and always thinking months ahead is crucial.
OM: And what’s the best part of the job?
AM: The freedom it allows me, and the constant surprises it brings.
OM: Do you feel you’re treated differently in your industry because you’re a woman?
AM: Not in my industry, but I know plenty who feel that they are.
OM: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And what other advice would you give to anyone looking to become an X ? What qualifications and experience do you need?
AM: Always leave them wanting more.
I’ve been very lucky to have strong female mentors and role models throughout my career. Being able to observe their mistakes and victories has perhaps been the greatest experience gained.
OM: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the workplace or in your career?
AM: Staying in a job that I was unhappy in for too long.
OM: What does success mean to you?
AM: Happiness. For me, this equates to doing something creative that I love and having a positive impact on the people around me. I would also like to leave the world a little prettier than how I found it.
OM: What’s your feminist wish for the future?
AM: My wish would be for women to mentor other women more. In industry and in life, the skills that we can learn from one another are invaluable. The Sisterhood is unfaltering when we choose to nurture rather than criticise one another. I look forward to the new system where working parents will have the right to divide the statutory 50 weeks of parental leave between them. This is great for woman and families alike and will hopefully stamp out discrimination in the workplace.
Take part in Alyson’s Terrarium making workshops at The Indytute.