A young woman trying to change the world “one flower at a time”, Nipuni Wijewickrema runs a floristry business designed to create employment opportunities for people with special needs. Nip, as she is affectionately known, first established GG’s Florist with her family to ensure her 16 year old younger sister Gayana would have fulfilling work after graduating from high school. Gayana, who has was born with Down syndrome, is now famous around Canberra for her floral deliveries that always come with a big hug. From a backyard garden shed, Nip has shown other local organisations how to create safe working environments for people with disabilities. As well as working full-time and managing the family floristry business, Nip is a volunteer counsellor with Lifeline and contributes regularly to community initiatives, assisting many young people through her work with the ACT Youth Advisory Council. Passionate, dedicated, driven and incredibly sleep deprived, Nip has developed a socially sustainable business model which is changing the way Canberrans think about inclusion.
“I just want to leverage the cause,” Ms Wijewickrema said.“There are so many messages about social enterprises and employing people with special needs that I need to spread. “But also, I’m trying to run a florist. That’s hard, too. We’ve got business coming left, right and centre. “It’s been a whirlwind.”
Ms Wijewickrema’s parents moved from Sri Lanka 35 years ago. “I sometimes forget I have brown skin,” she said. “My parents have been active in the Sri Lankan community, and they’ve given so much, but also for the Australian community. “My dad’s a businessman. First and foremost, Canberra is our home.”