I hear talk about things “never being the same again” and how we have to get used to the “new normal,” and I had to think about what “normal” has become for us in a very short time.
Many of us have evolved from a simpler way of doing business to an, oftentimes, more complicated and less-trusting business mode. Now, as we settle back into our lives after we all were sent to our rooms, we get to reassess where we go from here to continue our floral lives.
I know that many lost their livelihoods during the pandemic. We had to let our staff go because of the size of our shop, and my husband lost his job as a hairdresser (I know – we just hadto fit a stereotype, right?)
Luckily, he could come work with me, and because we live above the shop, there was no worry about isolation and all that. We have been blessed to help people share love through the beauty of flowers throughout this mess and have seen firsthand the power these precious offerings hold.
When I started our shop almost 30 years ago, I decided I didn’t want to do a lot of funeral work, so although we did the odd piece, we usually suggested that we create a lovely design that doesn’t look like a traditional funeral arrangement.
Now, back then, this sent shock waves through the floral industry, and I was told I was an idiot, a bad businessperson and all sorts of other expletives that need not be repeated. Well, my darlings, it didn’t seem to hurt our business, and when someone wanted a “Gates Ajar” or some other tribute, we would gladly send them to the florist in town who was known to do this work.
As time passed and we saw more and more DIY weddings and nonflorists doing wedding work, I decided to scale back on that part of our business, too, and focus on flowers for every other reason. I mean, flowers celebrate life from the womb to the tomb, whether you’re hatched, matched or dispatched, right?
Our transition to a neighborhood florist was so easy because we became even more of a specialty wedding and funeral florist than ever, simply because we choose to do fewer. A great way to get well known (and highly regarded) is to be unique and, of course, provide exceptional product and service.
We cannot and should not compete with big-box and other stores that sell flowers; instead, we should become more concerned with what we’re doing. I have no problem with non-floral businesses selling flowers because if they do a crappy job, so be it.
I do, however, get very cross when I hear of a proper florist doing a poor job because that bad reputation can spread throughout our industry like pee in a pool. This is why magazines, online forums, design shows and workshops are important, so we can all grow, learn and teach each other, for the good and strength of us all.
And I don’t want to hear any of you say, “We’re in a small town, so we can’t do anything too wild” because you are wrong. I am in a city of less than a half million and do some way-out-there designs to great applause.
Look, if you want to blend in with the lumberjacks, wear plaid and jeans, and if not, throw on the tiara, darlings, and show what you can do! People in the pokiest of hamlets travel, watch TV and dream of wonderful things, so why not be their genie who can conjure up their floral fantasies? Many of the top designers in the world come from and live in small towns, and they seem to be doing OK.
Not everyone will appreciate your artful talents, but remember it’s good to have folks talking, and the ones who do love what you do are the clients you want. I put a purple Christmas tree in our window years ago with Barbie dolls all over it just for fun. I got calls of laughter, ones that said it was silly, and even media attention, as well as folks who had to come see that ugly tree – but they came, and they came back to see what we were doing next.
For every 100 wonderful responses any of us get for our work, there’s always one stinker of a complaint (and, more often than not, it’s about something stupid). Hard we try, we remember it, and we wear those words like a brooch. I still laugh (now) when I think of the lady who thought a man shouldn’t touch flowers and said I looked like a biker and not a florist. Little did she know that what she thought was an insult was actually quite flattering! (And true – well, maybe back in the day!)
Always do the best you can; folks will love you for your efforts. And for goodness sake, find a parade and get in front of it whenever you can! Stay well, happy and unique.