Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 58

The Question:

I’m new to the industry and would one day love to make floral design my full-time career. I have 4 weddings under my belt as well as a baby shower and a couple of random events. I’d like to start my own business but I am at an utter loss as to where to start from the business perspective. What should be my first step (besides taking classes or interning)? Should I focus on a portfolio/website, should I obtain a sole proprietorship, or something totally different?

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The Answers:

Creating a portfolio and website with professional images as well as a presence on social media are all important steps to take from the start: they all are indispensable to get the word out about your work. Connect with those of us in the industry who like to share information as there is no need to reinvent the wheel all over again.  Be prepared to put in very long hours – your passion will drive you. Believe in yourself and if you have the opportunity to work with a mentor, go for it, one step at the time…
I first obtained a sole proprietorship – but you may find out information about an LLC also; many small businesses choose to go that route.

Francoise Weeks (Francoise Weeks)

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I started my business after working in a florist shop for a short while..Growing lots of flowers myself and ‘practicing’ and building up a portfolio on the way, of which I recommend.

Jo Rodwell (Jo Flowers)

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It’s great that you’re asking this question and trying to go about starting in a smart way! It’s just such a broad question, it’s a little tough to answer it simply and succinctly here. There’s so much to launching a small business that’s important. On the “formalities” side of things, you need to make sure you get the proper paperwork filled out to have a business license and make sure your business name is registered so no one else has it or could take it from you. This paperwork varies from state to state and country to country so you’ll have to do some homework on that. And you should set up a business bank account. I also found that getting an accountant right from the start was very helpful for me so I knew my books were set up properly and tax filing was easy (relatively) once I got going. But perhaps you have a better head for numbers than I do. You’ll also need a website for sure and should budget some money to have a nice one built or take classes to learn how to build it yourself. A portfolio is very important to have once you are at the point where you are meeting with potential clients so you have something to show them. You’ll need nice pictures for your website too! You also want to start considering networking with other vendors if you want to get into weddings and have a basic marketing plan in place to help you attract customers. If you are feeling quite lost about all of this, it may help to take some business classes at your local community college or such. I teach a business class at my farm in Philadelphia that is geared specifically towards flower professionals.

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)

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The first thing you need to do is decide to go for it and then really do it! A nice website with a nice portfolio is the first thing. The portfolio doesn’t have to be that big, but at least a few good photos. Then start to get contacts in the business. Team up with photographers, vendors and bloggers for collaboration and inspiration shoots. Get the wheel spinning and images of your work out there on Pinterest and other social media.

Emelie Ekborg (Svenska Blomsterbloggar and Flora Inspiro)

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Once you have obtained your business license and have decided on what type of business you intend to be, move forward with that website. The website and the brand you create will beckon clients to you. If your portfolio is lacking, styled shoots will help you not only practice your craft but enrich your portfolio and website. The shoots can be done simply with the sole purpose of enhancing your portfolio or you could work on fully developed shoots and submit those for publication. Note a shoot styled with the intent of publication is considerably more difficult and costly to do and requires A LOT of details. Your website will be king as far as new business. Blogging will increase your SEO and hopefully drive traffic to you. I consider all of the shoots I work on a fabulous opportunity to study my craft. I always try new techniques and color combinations when I am working on a shoot. It makes the financial investment even easier to bear.

Holly Chapple (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers)

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There are many different routes so it is important to choose the one that best suits your lifestyle, budget and aspirations. The quickest way is to buy an existing business – this way you will have a customer base from day one as well as a book of future weddings. This however is the most expensive and most difficult to establish your own identity/brand. You should however be able to take a real salary from day one.

Another way is to start a storefront from scratch. This is what I did 12 years ago. After 5 years we closed the store and moved to a studio space. This allowed us to build our business slowly but surely with a visible presence so that customers could find us. I stopped doing retail in summer 2014 and now focus on weddings, events and weeklies for hotels and restaurants only.

The third option and cheapest set up is to open a studio space (at home or in business premises). This will require you to spend time and money making sure people know about you e.g. advertising, styled shoots and other forms of marketing.

Whichever you choose it is also important to have a website from day one, use all forms of social media and start to build a portfolio of images.

Nick Priestly (Mood Flowers)

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On the business end I started by getting a tax i.d. number for wholesale purchases and set up a bank account in the business name. I would continue to build your portfolio as much as possible as well as start a website, blog or Facebook/Instagram account to showcase your work and let potential clients know about you. It is also great to introduce yourself to other industry vendors (photographers, bridal shops, venues, caterers, etc.) by sending them an introduction letter and some business cards to create some buzz about your new business.  Good luck!

Elisabeth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

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