Every now and then, we hear the phrase ‘stop and smell the roses’ which literally means to relax; to take time out of one's busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

This phrase rings true in every sense for 47-year-old Yogeeta Mala Singh of Salusalu Road, Wairuku in Rakiraki as she is fully engaged in the flower business.

Not only has she come to appreciate flowers, but it has been a very therapeutic journey for her as she has been able to earn money through flowers.

To her family, she is a true example of a woman who truly makes a difference in their lives by doing what she does best- and of course teaching her family members to appreciate flowers and its beauty.

How she started in the floriculture business

She started her flower garden 18 years ago which consisted mainly of phobia plants, which was a new variety planted by flower lovers back then.

Yogeeta, or Mala as she is commonly known, enjoyed tending to her flower garden and eventually transformed it into a business.

Once she started earning income from flowers that she sold, she started expanding her collection.

“As soon as I started earning money, I decided to introduce more flowers into my flower garden,” said Yogeeta.

“I realized that instead of working for an employer, I can earn money from the flowers that I plant right here at home and being my own boss,” she smiled.

Yogeeta showed commitment and worked actively on her flower business by adding new varieties of flowers, nurturing them and selling them to her neighbours and in the Rakiraki market.

She now specializes in pot plants, cut flowers and floral arrangements and has even ventured into value-adding activities and sells homemade pickles from her home.

Mala’s Nursery

With her growing business, Yogeeta finally opened her nursery which is widely known in the vicinity as Mala’s Nursery.

Yogeeta's Facebook account, 'Mala's Nursery', serves as a successful marketing tool for her produce, attracting customers to her home and enabling deliveries up to Suva, Ba, and Lautoka. 

On average, she sells flowers worth $700 - $1000 a week and makes up to $200 - $300 on her ‘not-so-busy days.’

“On Saturdays, I sell flowers worth $100-$200 in the markets and also receive orders from customers at the market to deliver flowers to their homes.”

“I take pride in the success I've achieved through my flower business. I have invested in my house, built flower nurseries, supported my two children's education, catered for my family's needs, and also saved money for future use," Yogeeta explained.

The cost of running a business includes expenses for materials like pot planters, fertiliser, and soil and she can spend around $500-$600 per month on these items for her flowers. The hardworking entrepreneur also employs labourers four times per week to help with planting and weeding her flower garden.

Yogeeta is a firm believer in helping others and has encouraged women in the area to take up floriculture as a business.

“I had sold flowers to my neighbours and advised them to trim the grown plants and sell the trimmed ones to me in pots. My neighbours often sell me flowers, and I typically spend $300 - $400 buying potted flowers from them.”

"It makes me happy to know that they used the money from selling flowers to purchase food items as well as luxury items for themselves and their families," Yogeeta said.

Expanding into other income generating businesses

Starting from just a flower garden, Yogeeta has maximised a quarter acre of land to grow flowers and raise around 300 chickens and ducks as well.

She has also started another successful business making sweets, chutneys, pickles, and customised food orders. Her customers can either pick up their orders from her home or have them delivered to as far as Suva, Ba, and Lautoka.

“After working on my flowers and feeding my ducks and chicken, I found that I had a lot of free time so instead of wasting it, I started making sweets, tamarind and mango chutney, mango and lime pickles, and even started taking food orders,” she said.

News spread like wildfire about her booming business and she even got orders from customers living overseas. She had to obtain a license to sell food items and foods with registered labelling now known as Mala’s Nursery and Mala’s Production.

She also secured a market for flowers, sweets, pickles, and chutneys at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva and had received more than $1000 worth of orders from the hotel alone during Diwali last year.

Yogeeta is supported by her husband, Narayan Singh who is always helping her in the garden and delivers flowers, sweets, pickles and chutneys to her customers.

“We are a family of four and living a happy and healthy life. My children are now working in Suva and would often visit us during the holidays to help out on our integrated farm.”

Yogeeta is also a member of the Home of Flowers women’s group comprising five women in the area who all share the same passion for flowers.

Agriculture Technical Officer, Veniana Nabitu, says the group has been progressing in leaps and bounds and hopes that more women will feel encouraged to take up floriculture.

“The members of the Home of Flowers group are now well established and share a platform where they are always updating each other on flower varieties and sales. They are even prompt on sending monthly reports to our office and just updating us of their progress,” explained Ms Nabitu.

Recognised for her hard work

Yogeeta’s efforts did not go unnoticed as she was awarded the Floriculture Farmer of the Year award during the 2023 National Agriculture Show held in Suva.

 “I thank the Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways for assisting me in my growth, especially in mentoring and monitoring my growth in the floriculture business,” said Yogeeta.

“This award acknowledges the hard work and dedication of our team, and I am grateful for the support shown by my family, friends and of course my customers. Our success wouldn’t have been possible without your essential support. Whether you have purchased plants from us, volunteered your time, or simply spread the word about our nursery, we are grateful for your friendship and support.”

“We are part of a community of people who are passionate about plants and flowers and committed to making the world a more beautiful place. I am truly honoured to receive this award, and I look forward to continuing to serve our community for many years to come.”

Yogeeta is also calling on other women to explore floriculture and to practice integrated farming so that there is always a steady source of income for the family.

“Floriculture is a booming industry and once you start reaping benefits, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment. I hope more women can invest in floriculture so that they too can experience a steady source of income for their families,” she said.