Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: Session 7

Montgomery crop

The Question:

What is your best piece of advice for a designer just starting out in the flower business?

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The Answers:

Find a MENTOR.  Or two.  When first starting out, I thought I was the only person on the planet facing the issues I was facing... dreaming the dreams I was dreaming... But you're not alone!  There are some AMAZING people out there who are willing to answer questions, listen to you vent, and who can relate to you!  Floral designers who cater exclusively to the bridal market are a special breed of people :)  And there are so many of us!  Don't be afraid to send an e-mail to a designer that you admire, whose blog you read daily, and whose business model you think is similar to what you want to do!  That's how I found the wonderful Amy, and Holly Chapple - my Flower Momma's! :)  They have shared their experiences with me, and I have found so much comfort and strength through hearing their experience growing their businesses - especially because they did it while raising children!”

-Liz Rusnac (Fleur:ology)

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“I would encourage anyone interested in this business to start small, invest as little as possible, and grow very slowly. There are many blessings and curses with this selected craft. One of the blessings is that to begin designing you only have to have buckets, cutting tools, flowers, water, and vases. It was many years before I invested in coolers, fancy websites, and serious inventory. Word of mouth is strong enough to carry a small business for many years. Do not take on more than you can handle successfully, grow slowly, remembering that word of mouth is strong enough to carry you. Make each and every little client count and let them be your messengers!!”

--Holly Chapple (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers)

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“It's important to study your market and understand where there may be a niche waiting to be filled, and what business structure would support that. Are you going to become a home or studio based designer focused exclusively on weddings? Are you going to open a retail location in your city's fashion district? Take some time to understand the market, then think very carefully about who your ideal client is. When I started, I thought about doing a subscription program, getting some contract work with hotels, selling terrariums online, plus wedding and event design work. When I really crunched the numbers and thought about my ideal client, it became clear to me that JUST focusing on weddings and related events would bring me the most focus and success. Everything, from business structure to branding, was informed by that exploration, and at that point my business really took off.”

-Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

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“There are so many things I could say to this, it’s really hard to pick the “best” one piece of advice.  I can’t speak for starting out as a flower business with an actual shop, that is a completely different kettle of fish.  But as for an events focused flower business, what I would have valued personally was to be told to follow my own style.  Find out what you do best and do that.  Whether that means classic and romantic flowers or bright and colorful wildflower arrangements.  I think all floral designers weave their own little magic and things just fall into place when they follow their hearts when creating their designs.  I love pastel colors, so it is always hard for me to try to create a very brightly colored arrangement.  I find that means that when I am in the studio creating, I am happier personally when I am “playing” with the flowers I love and everything just works perfectly.  If I am doing an arrangement that doesn’t come naturally I end up frustrated and never happy with the end result.  That doesn’t mean you can’t play with trends but don’t try to be too much to everybody.  Find your niche.”

-Kristy Marek (Imbue Weddings)

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“Take photos of everything for your portfolio, try to incorporate your own unique floral style into your designs to set yourself apart from others and be patient, business will come! Be prepared for it to be a 7 day a week job-- not only are you prepping, designing, setting up and breaking down events there is so much client correspondence, meetings, social media, blogging, updating websites and just getting your name out there that takes up lots of time. Reach out to other wedding vendors that you admire or would like to work with to help get your business name circulating. I also like to create a business plan for the year ahead and at the end of the year I check off what I have accomplished and then make new goals for the year ahead or see where I need to make improvements. After working hard all year it's rewarding to see the goals I've met and what I can strive for the following year. It's also gratifying to look back and see how far you've come from that first year of goals! But remember to have fun, I feel lucky to say that my business never truly feels like work because I love it so much (except when washing buckets!). Good luck!”

-Elisabeth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

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“Quality! Make sure everything that leaves your studio is 100% the best.

Don't be afraid to say no, if it's not beneficial for you it's better to say no. If it's not your style, too small budget, if you think the bride is rude or so on. Then you're able to concentrate on the right things.

Don't be afraid to give your clients advices and make suggestions! That way you make sure everything is up to your standards.”

-Emelie Ekborg (Svenska Blomsterbloggar)

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“The flower business is special since you basically create with natural and ephemeral material, but it remains a creative business. So I'd recommend you read "Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business" by Iliasco and Cho. I discovered it last year and it's been a real eye opener to me... From naming your business, to pricing, networking and communicating. Again, finding suppliers for flowers is very important, but making sure you have a good story to tell about your business is the very beginning, I think.”

-Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

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Thanks for the insight, you guys! I wish I had known designers like each of you when I was getting started…probably could have avoided a lot of the mistakes you mentioned in your answers. I especially love what Kristy had to say about being true to yourself and your personal style…it’s always easier and more fulfilling to create from the heart than try to create a style you’re not comfortable with…in my opinion.

And, finally, a few flowers to end the day…from Flora Bella

19037_247141785956_1119473_n flora bella

19037_247144080956_3755705_n flora bella

19037_272029105956_2910757_n flora bella

Hope your Wednesday is wonderful…

8 comments:

Heiress Emma said...

Once again, priceless info for someone starting out like me! Thank you so much to all the designers who shared their stories and wise advice. This is the only blog I know of that so generously shares knowledge and makes us newbies feel a whole lot less alone. Thankyou.

Katie Pollard said...

Wow. So much wonderful advice! Thank you to all the designers who are taking the time to invest in newbies like me! Your wisdom is invaluable. And thanks, Amy, for making this happen!

The Eleventh Flower said...

Thanks very much everyone for your wisdom! I will definitely take your advice on board (especially the one about not taking on a bride that's rude!).

Trees & Petals said...

Thank you for posting all these great advices! This has been a wonderful read for me at work this morning. I, too, am a newbie in the floral industry and I do have a mentor. The thing is, I feel scared to bother her with my questions and ideas because I don't want her to think that I am going to take her ideas or even her clients! How do I go about bugging my mentor without making her feel that I might be her competition (which I am FAR from, trust me)? Thoughts?
P.S. I love this blog!

Alicia said...

Thank you for all those advices. I find difficult to find a mentor in my city, here people is not that kind and it is not normal they share with you their experiece, so everything you tell us is very important to me. However, I am going to still looking!
Congratulations for your fantastic blog.

Kate (Floret Cadet) said...

Loved what everyone said, and particularly Holly - I need to paste that quote on my fridge! I obsess over acquiring a full rental inventory, tons of marketing collateral, a cooler, a studio space, and a delivery system ASAP - when really I probably just need to keep my nose to the grindstone, do my weddings, and get those things when I really can't function without them anymore, instead of before I really need them. Thanks Holly : )

Lesa Atteo said...

This was, once again, priceless information. Thank you,Amy, for this beautiful blog with such intelligent information. Thank you to everyone who gave their advice.

It's so appreciated.................

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

What a host of great advice.