Florists cultivate their international following with online classes
From a festive tradition to embracing the digital age, a pair of crafty teachers have Christmas all wrapped up.
When the coronavirus effectively closed their business, Kay’s Flower School last March, sisters Janette O’Rourke and Deirdre Sullivan decided to move online “for something to do”.
They started to broadcast educational modules to students and, after offering free classes every Friday morning, they have seen the school’s monthly Facebook reach grow from 20,000 to 450,000.
With newly acquired digital skills, the sisters now have crafted their own success story and are sending the material needed to make DIY Christmas wreaths to homes as far away as Croatia and Turkey.
It’s the floristry equivalent of the restaurant boxes that caught the zeitgeist during lockdown.
But the tenacious sisters, who have been running local wreath-making classes for 15 years, didn’t lick it off the stones.
Their mother, Kay, started her eponymous floristry school in Dublin’s Rialto 34 years ago and the sisters have used 2020 to grow the business in a digital direction.
“Last year we were part of the entertainment at Google’s staff party and we did Christmas wreaths with them," says Deirdre. “But this year, with their staff working from home, we sent the makings for the wreaths to staff in Turkey, Croatia, France and London.”
There are all sorts of Irish touches in the boxes, with wreaths made with sprigs of noble fir grown in Co Kerry and pine cones that come from Co Wicklow.
Sprightly at 74, Kay O’Rourke is still very much part of the operation and she has been cutting up one-metre strips of ribbon (to make bows) to put in the boxes while her husband, John, who turns 76 today has helped with the bundles of wire.
Reflecting on their newly minted online success, Deirdre said: “At the beginning of the lockdown, we had no business, we just kept putting courses back. And then we decided we would do a few live classes, to give us something to do and to post on our social media. So every Friday morning, we started to do a free live class.
"Every week the reach was bigger. And the more we were giving out for nothing, the more people were coming back enquiring about courses.
“It all started very organically, just wanting to share."Our monthly reach on Facebook is about 450,000 now and back before Covid-19, it was about 20,000. That is phenomenal and we are still in shock,” said Deirdre who, after training up in the spring, now edits their videos.“On our last commercial course, we had students from Australia, Canada, Italy and Scotland, so we are hitting a market that we never hit before. They used to come here to Rialto for four days and now they are with us online for four weeks."We have a ‘Bloom Room’ where students in that private group can get to know each other and post photos of what they have done and everyone receives a flower delivery directly from Holland for their certificate work.”Irish Independent