Moss & Stone
As a relative newcomer to the business (4 years in weddings and 1.5 in retail), I don’t have the wisdom of some of you who’ve been in the business for 10, 20, even 30 years. But as a designer who’s grown a business from 15 weddings in year one to 90 in year four, I feel like our growth trajectory alone, gives a little credibility! That being said, I wanted to share some of the things that I contribute to our success as a wedding & event floral design studio (more on the retail side later!).
First– Make friends! The majority of our business comes from referrals and word of mouth. In general, I think we are nice people who get along well with others and the relationships we’ve built with other industry professionals like wedding planners, photographers, and venue owners has been the most valuable resource for booking brides. Our relationships with other florists in our area have also proven incredibly valuable. Have you heard the phrase, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’? In our local floral design community, we find this to be especially true! When one of us receives an inquiry for a weekend that we are already booked, it’s wonderful to have options of designers you trust to refer your brides to. If one of us has more inquiries than we can handle, then all of us are successful! To that end, it’s so important to have a community who knows what challenges you are facing and is there to celebrate your successes. Find people to help you process difficult brides and celebrate booking your biggest event yet! Doing it alone is not nearly as much fun!
Second– Consistency is key. This is true both in building a social media following and in maintaining a good reputation. Part one, we all know how important social media can be to a modern business. Especially in floral design where our product is incredibly visual, platforms like Facebook and Instagram act as a portfolio and keeping your images consistent, as well as consistently advertising the types of designs you want to sell is incredibly important. Part two, posting gorgeous photos is one thing, but the proof is in the pudding! If what you produce in real life isn’t the same as what you advertise on Instagram, your clientele will quickly figure it out!
Third– Find a good balance of confidence to humility. Be confident in the product and design you are selling. Your brides are coming to you for your artistic ability and your experience with weddings and events- sell that knowledge! Your confidence that you will be able to bring their vision to life and handle anything their wedding day might throw at you puts your clients at ease. At the same time, remember that no matter how long or short your career in flowers has been, there are always things to learn and improve. Never stop seeking educational opportunities and pushing yourself to expand your knowledge of the craft!
Lastly– The hustle is real! We as floral designers know how physically and emotionally demanding this job can be! Know that you will work long hours on your feet, occasionally in high pressure situations. Know this, and accept it! Power through and be intentional about time off and self-care. Schedule that massage, take a day sans consultations or emails, and treat yourself to that pair of slightly expensive but uber-supportive pair of shoes. Burnout is just as real as the hustle and balance is key!
Over the years I’ve tried to find a way to cater to brides who cannot meet my minimum. I only take a limited number of events each season but would like to fill in some of my open weekends with some smaller events that don’t require the amount of attention, prep, setup, installation work, and breakdown as my larger events. At the same time, I don’t want to lose the integrity of my style in the process. I notice that some floral studios have different offerings for the lower budget client, but I haven’t been able to master a plan that maintains my style and also doesn’t require too much of my time/energy to make it worthwhile. I was wondering if anyone on the panel had ideas! I should mention that I am a small studio and do the majority of the work myself with the addition of freelance designers on the days leading up to the wedding and for setup.
Several years ago we started a “From the Garden” offering. My husband had increased the amount of stems we were growing and we noticed the flowers were going unused in our higher end weddings. The point of creating this option was to give the stems a market and opportunity to be sold. Over time “From the Garden” has evolved into essentially a “Designer’s Choice” option. We explain to clients that we are not changing the quality of our designs or our stems, but we are willing to offer designs below our set minimum for full service weddings if the client is willing to go without a consult and willing to pick up their order or pay our minimum delivery and set up fee. Because we will not be spending hours consulting, sourcing, and writing recipes, this offering has a large reduction in labor which makes it easy for us to execute. Often the pieces we create for this offering are the same value as our full service designs, but we are willing to forgo our minimums if the client will work with us to reduce the overall labor associated with doing an event. I have always believed that offering bouquets/personal flowers only is a sound business model. After all, it’s the most enjoyable part and if you can remove the delivery and set up work, we are really talking about a fabulous time to create.
We offer the “From the Garden” option on our website and show images of past designs prepared for clients.
The prices are actually still standard industry pricing, which would be at least 3.5 times markup. The reason the “From the Garden” option is helpful is not because the flowers are less expensive, but because it allows people to use our services without paying minimums. We sell the package approximately 15 times per year. We tell the clients the garden is most glorious from mid-May to frost, but then we added in the “Designers Choice” component so that we could provide this service all year.
I provide a service to both types of wedding clients, but do so under different brands/companies. I have seen a number of florists around the world do it this way and I prefer it this way as it saves confusion to couples as to what level of service they can have from my main business Mood Flowers or from my other business/brand.
At Mood Flowers we offer full service wedding flower design which includes two consultations, a full written proposal, a named lead designer, 30% retainer and final balance payment options, agreement of specified flower varieties and colours, delivery of up to four locations on the day of the wedding, transfer of ceremony arrangements after the service if required, collection of hired items the day after the wedding. For this service we have a minimum spend required in order to discuss and take on the wedding. However, this means that we turn away almost 70% of our enquiries, so now we offer wedding packages through another brand/company, MUD Urban Flowers which offers a completely different service: online ordering only, no consultation, colours can be specified but not specific flowers, full payment must be made on booking, only one delivery address on the wedding day, no named lead designer.
Both of these work well and each brand/company actually refers clients to the other when they either don’t meet the minimum spend requirement or if they require a full service design package. Another way to look at your situation is to build up your business so that you have the desired number of larger weddings so that you can have your other weekends off. I like to be busy so this is not an option for me!
Images courtesy of Visual Aspect
It is definitely possible to offer a lower price point for events without compromising your style. We do this at Love ‘n Fresh Flowers by using a much more streamlined approach to an event that greatly reduces the amount of time we have to spend with the client and the amount of stress the event will ultimately cause. Let’s face it: wedding flowers cost so much because of the time and stress on us, not just simply the cost of the flowers. So rather than reducing your flower costs for weddings/events, focus on reducing the time and stress you put into them leading up to game day.
For our streamlined approach, we send the client an online menu from which to select the items they want us to design. These items are all “standardized” on our end, meaning we have 3 or 4 simple vases they can choose from at any given time. We update the vase selection each season so choices are current with trends. With this approach, we can buy containers in larger quantities at one time and save on shipping. Same with ribbon choices, etc.
Love ‘n Fresh Flowers | M2 Photography
Additionally, the client picks from 3 or 4 “standardized” color palettes we put together for each season. They do not get the opportunity to give any input into what specific flowers will be used, just colors.. So that means we can also keep flower costs and stress down the week of their event by just using what is most beautiful at our farm within their selected color palette, rather than freaking out that we don’t have mauve-but-not-purple lisianthus to match the bridesmaid dress swatch.
Love ‘n Fresh Flowers | Emily Wren Photography
While this sounds a little limiting for the client, we tell them this system really actually gives us a lot of flexibility as designers to create something more beautiful and yet less expensive. And it’s really worked well for both us and clients over the past two seasons. I think clients are actually appreciating not having to make so many decisions. Wedding planning gets out of control sometimes so some clients just want an easy, quick process that doesn’t require hours of meetings and phone calls.
Love ‘n Fresh Flowers | Maria Mack Photography
Regarding quoting/pricing: There is no consultation for this service option. We generate a quote based on what they choose from the online menu. Everything happens online. Pricing is listed per item in the online menu so they know costs up front as they are making their selections.
It’s worth noting that we do still offer full service, hyper-detailed design work for clients who are willing to pay for it.
Jennie Love / Love ‘n Fresh Flowers
The time changes this weekend and that means longer days for working in the garden! It’s my favorite time of year and we start preparing for it in the fall as we clean up, sow seed, and put the BB Garden to bed for the winter (winter: my least favorite time of year!). Last November a few of my local flower friends stopped by and made the workday a lot more fun!
This is Gabe – the life of every party. He kept us laughing and eye rolling all day. He’s a PhD student, as well as a shop owner in our downtown.
And this is the man who has supported me for 30 years, my husband – Joel. I can assure you there would be no BB without his support. Notice Gabe in the background…
We planted 5 new roses that day including ‘Heritage’ (David Austin). Can’t wait to see it bloom again this spring.
We always plant plenty of pansies and ornamental kale for the winter months. I have to have something pretty to look at from the kitchen window when everything else is brown and bare!
Oh look, he’s finished checking his phone and back to working/entertaining.
We cleared out the zinnias and celosia, added some new soil to the raised beds, and prepared to plant sweet peas.
Of course, no garden day would be complete without an injury! Amelia, owner of Tersilla & Co, mistook her finger for a stem while cutting down the stems on a hand-tied bouquet she was making with materials foraged from the garden. No worries. I’ve always got butterfly band-aids on hand. (You might also notice a little poison ivy rash – Amelia did not get that gift from the BB Garden!)
And, of course, no garden is complete without a few beds of sweet peas! We planted ‘Molly Rilstone’ from Floret, as well as ‘Elegance Lavender’ & ‘Spencer Ripple’ from Johnny’s. I’m looking forward to them blooming in the next couple of weeks right outside my office window.
Amelia designed a bouquet of Benary’s Giant white zinnias, basil, Sylphid celosia, elaeagnus, fountain grass, and variegated Chinese privet – the little bits left in the garden in November. And that’s our friend Erin, a Texas A&M horticulture/floral design student for a few more months (!), hiding behind the bouquet below.
This picture says it all. Working and minding my own business…while Gabe …does what Gabe does best. Seriously, one of the biggest blessings of the last year has been getting to know and love Gabe and Robby (who you’ll meet shortly).
I bet you’ve been wondering who the ball of fur is – because we never go anywhere that every passerby doesn’t stop and ask! This is Ponderosa, Amelia’s best bud. He kept the day fun and was right there waiting when we needed a break from work!
And, here’s Robby, Gabe’s partner in life and business. Together they own Market 1023 and Robby is the man behind the camera at Ten 23 Photography. He’s steady, hardworking, and kind – and together, he and Gabe make a great team.
In the afternoon, we decided to take a break from working and have fun putting together a tablescape. Amelia ran to her car and came back with dishes, candles, hand-dyed silk and pods from a Golden Rain Tree she passed on her way to Garden Day. The bouquet morphed into a centerpiece and she added the grapes we were snacking on to the tablescape.
Robby and Gabe brought goodies from their shop – macrame wall hangings and lanterns. And, of course, we had to drag the table, chairs, and duvet cover out of the house. I’m sure the neighbors thought we were crazy. I know you can relate. You’ve done the same thing, haven’t you?
China berries were hanging over the back patio area, so they became part of a separate tablescape as did some of the potted ornamental kale.
So grateful for community. We might just make this a seasonal get together. I remember a plaque my husband’s grandfather (who was an avid gardener) had in his garden:
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth.
I couldn’t agree more.
Photography: Ten 23 Photography
Poem: “God’s Garden”, Poems, by Dorothy Frances Gurney
I’ll leave you with this…
If you happened to listen to the latest Botanical Brouhaha podcast episode, you’ll already know a little of our backstory. I, Maggie Bailey, started Bramble & Bee in January of 2014 as a way to try and contribute to our family income while also gaining a little more flexibility in my schedule to dedicate to travel and holidays (working full-time retail is not super conducive to normal hours or holidays off!). Four short years later, my husband Mick has now left his job in the oil & gas industry to join the Bramble & Bee team full-time! We thought we’d share a little about what we’ve learned from working together as a married couple! I think whether your debating teaming up with a spouse, a good friend, or a more strategic business partner, all of these insights still definitely apply!
Floral design, especially for studio-based wedding and event designers, can be a lonely life, so don’t hesitate to start building your community. Sometimes this means hiring staff or bringing on a partner or spouse, but sometimes it’s just making sure you have people in your life who understand what you’re doing and are there to support you! Let community be the place that you start and the rest will fall into place!
If you are ready to grow your team, hire or partner with people who compliment you. Getting along is certainly the most important aspect of building your team, but also be aware of your strengths and short comings and hire people who fill the voids or accentuate the strengths. I am a stereotypical creative- I’m great at big picture and over all vision and I love getting my hands dirty and making art with flowers, but I’m not awesome at staying on top of correspondence, keeping my work space organized, or accounting. Not that I’m not capable of doing these things, I just don’t like to. Part of the reason that we knew Mick coming on full-time would be a good strategic move, is that his background in the oil industry is as a mechanical engineer and operations manager. He’s good at all the organization and details which means those things get done more accurately and effectively and it frees me up for more of what I like to do!
It’s also completely ok (actually better than ok) to set clear boundaries and expectations. This is true for almost any relationship and especially one involving business. No matter how well you think you know and like the person, be sure to sit down and write out roles and responsibilities. Identify workplace expectations, set business goals together, and have a game plan for how you will communicate unmet expectations or issues that arise. This will not prevent miscommunications, but will help you be able to clearly address problems as they happen and help you to be equally invested in a common goal!
I am a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs personality inventory for helping a manager understand his or her staff, a spouse understand a spouse, or parents understand their children (so pretty much helping us all understand everyone else!!). Knowing other people’s decision-making style, the ways they process information, and the ways they like to order their lives is super helpful in making sure that you’re setting that person up for success! For example- I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale (see below or google it if you’re bored!). The most common thing I come up against as an entrepreneur and retail shop owner is how extroverted I have to be during the day- talking to brides, talking to customers, networking with other professionals, and leading a small staff. I’m a pretty hardcore introvert by nature so at the end of the day, I really like to be silent for a little while. I can’t come home and dive straight into verbally processing the day and planning for tomorrow with Mick- it makes me really cranky! Thankfully, he knows this and gives me my space so I can come back to the conversation fresh and ready to game plan!
It’s such a gift to have someone else around to celebrate success and process challenges with. Always remember that you are not alone in this crazy business! Build your community and team with intention and you can only move forward!