The startup journey is famously bumpy. For every win, there’s a corresponding flurry of obstacles and problems. When we also have setbacks in our personal lives, it makes things even harder. Alexandria Kelly hasn’t just built a thriving business from scratch; she has done so while navigating tumultuous personal health challenges.
The tale of this founder demonstrates the power of grit, determination, and positivity. In a candid conversation, Alexandria unpacks her journey, the inspiration behind her unique products, and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Join us as we delve into the heart of Flower Child and the indomitable spirit of its founder.
Scarlet: Alexandria, your journey with Flower Child began as a blog in 2021 and has since transformed into a thriving business. How did this evolution occur in the midst of your personal health challenges?
Alexandria: Yes, it started off as a personal project back in 2021. As I shared my gardening passion and other experiences on my blog, a community began to build around it. I was enrolled at SETU – Carlow Campus, studying for my BSc in Business with Marketing at the time. During a period of poor mental health, I was given a set of aromatherapy essential oils. The impact the products had on me was profound, and I started to experiment with the different fragrances and applications like candles. People I knew started asking me to make them, and before I knew it, I was developing a product range. It wasn’t planned as such, it all just happened quite organically.
By the end of 2022, I had graduated and found a full-time job in SETU Carlow’s Marketing Department. I worked on Flower Child in my spare time and the business was really beginning to pick up speed. But just as things were looking up, a severe seizure landed me in hospital with a brain injury. That was in January this year. I have been in and out of hospital, constantly grappling with my health. But I’ve always believed in focusing on what’s within my control. Instead of getting consumed by my health problems, I poured my energy into building the company.
Scarlet: Delving a bit deeper into your health journey, how has your illness impacted your career choices?
Alexandria: Epilepsy has been a part of my life since I was 11. I was misdiagnosed at first, but at 13 I received my diagnosis of frontal lobe Cortical dysplasia. Back then, I was experiencing up to 40 seizures a day. At 13, I underwent life-changing brain surgery. That operation brought some normality back into my life. I was still experiencing seizures – partial seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, and absent seizures – but it’s a world of difference from before the surgery. As we speak now, I am currently in hospital preparing for further brain surgery that will hopefully get rid of the seizures completely, but for now I am living with a daily mixture of seizure activity.
The flexibility of my job has always been crucial for me, considering my health. If I get sick or my health takes a downturn, I can’t keep to a regular work routine. I had to leave my position at SETU after my injury in January. I’ve always leaned towards entrepreneurship, partly due to my health pushing me in that direction. In the past, I’ve launched businesses centred around my hobbies and interests. It’s definitely the flexibility that drew me to entrepreneurship, and the possibility of setting my own pace and boundaries.
I know many people in similar health situations who feel that entrepreneurship is off-limits for them. But I’ve always seen it differently. I believe being an entrepreneur allows you to shape a livelihood that fits your unique needs and lifestyle. When I had my injury, I realised that Flower Child could cater to my health needs and provide employment for myself and others.
Scarlet: Your products carry a unique inspiration. Could you share a bit about that?
Alexandria: Absolutely. My family home, Turra Lodge Farm, has a beautiful garden which my Mum and Nana designed and planted when I was younger. It is a cornerstone of my mental health. Luckily, my family has indulged my passion, or obsession, with gardening for years now and given me lots of creative freedom to develop different parts of it. That’s what my blog initially revolved around.
When my mental health was low, I began practices of mindfulness, meditation, and breath work. So, each fragrance in my product range is not only a nod to my lifestyle but also designed to offer the medicinal benefits of aromatherapy. By using them, you tap into the natural essence of life.
In our family, we say that entrepreneurship is “in our blood”. We all, including my siblings and parents, run businesses. And when it came to Flower Child, the nurturing from programmes like New Frontiers and guidance from the Local Enterprise Office have also played pivotal roles. Joining the New Frontiers programme was pure chance. I just happened to be having a chat with someone on campus one day, and they suggested I apply. My lecturers were incredible too, always nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit.
Scarlet: What’s the best advice you’ve been given, and what advice do you give to others?
Alexandria: The best advice I have been given is, “Don’t trust the first answer you’re given.” That has helped me navigate many situations. The advice I give to other people is, “You are not your circumstances.” In life and business, you’re in control of how you play the hand you’ve been dealt, and you can overcome whatever life throws at you.
I’ve been given bad advice, too. I was told to scale before I was ready for it. The startup world often promotes a “go big or go home” mindset, but scaling too quickly in the past set me back rather than helped me forward.
My guiding principle is to never quit on a bad day. Being a founder is tough, and there are days you contemplate a regular nine-to-five. But for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, the highs of being your own boss make it all worthwhile. When it comes to resilience, bad days are inevitable. They come and go, much like the waves in an ocean. The peaks make the troughs worth enduring. I suppose I’ve built up my resilience because I simply didn’t have a choice. Enduring my epilepsy has been a blessing. I don’t think “poor me”, I’m thankful for the challenges my health has thrown at me because it has made me who I am today.
Scarlet: Lastly, how do you balance work and personal wellbeing, and what’s next for Flower Child?
Alexandria: Taking care of my wellbeing is vital. One strict rule I adhere to is keeping my bedroom a no-work zone. Mornings are my own; I give myself the first hour of the day to properly wake up before diving into work. Ensuring downtime away from the business keeps my mental load balanced. Being part of a close-knit family, we often spend evenings together, even if it’s busy season and I’m in the workshop.
Looking ahead, the next twelve months are set to be exciting. We’re renovating a workshop, and I’m preparing to hire my first employees. From there, I’m keen to explore exporting and continue scaling Flower Child, but always organically!
Discover Alexandria’s world of inspired aromatherapy candles, melts, and sprays in her online shop at flower-child.ie, where you can also read more about her epilepsy or simply pick up some cool gardening tips!
About the author
Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.