As I pass the first 12 months of running my floristry business, I've reflected on the unexpected things I've learnt over the past year. Being a florist isn't just playing around with flowers; running the actual business itself, not just creating, has been a huge learning curve (which I'm definitely still on!). Here's my top 10 list of things I've learnt in my first year as a florist, in no particular order:
Wholesaler pricing methods are not straightforward! It took me a while to get to grips with this and sometimes different wholesalers apply different methods too, just to make it even harder. Generally wholesalers will advertise a price per stem, which then has to be multiplied by the minimum number of stems you can order. Some varieties, particularly foliage, are sold by the bunch rather than the stem which can further confuse how much you're getting for the price. I thought I had the system cracked until I placed an order which included a box of phalaenopsis orchids. I was amazed at how cheap they were at £1.20 per stem for a flower which is notoriously expensive, and proceeded to order 24 stems. It turned out the price of £1.20 was per flower and the 24 represented each one - orchids have several flowers blooming on one stem - so I actually paid about £30 for just 3 stems.
Flowers are very expensive. At cost price alone, orchids can come in at £8 to £10 per stem; hydrangeas £3 to £6 per stem; garden roses £2.50 to £3.50 per stem. If for example you wanted a wedding bouquet of garden roses and hydrangeas, your florist could have paid upwards of £50 cost price for the flowers alone - before you factor in any design, labour or profit. I think often clients will be comparing the cost of flowers from an independent florist to the cost they see in supermarkets but the quality & variety of flowers used is completely different and this is very much reflected in the pricing.
The issue of minimum quantities. This was something I never considered when I first set out. You can't just buy one stem as a florist ordering from a wholesaler. Most varieties are sold at a minimum of at least 10 stems but some start at 25 or even 50. Not only is there a minimum stem quantity, there's also a minimum spend for delivery - and this is usually hundreds of pounds. When you're starting out and your order numbers are quite small, this can make things really difficult.
Delivering flowers is the best. One of the nicest things about being a florist is seeing people's reactions when they receive an unexpected delivery of fresh blooms from a loved one.
Don't go out on a summer wedding install unprepared. On one of my first big wedding installations that I worked as a freelancer, I ended the day stuck in bed with a migraine after 2 hours of projectile vomiting. Don't underestimate how much time you spend on your feet doing physical work in the heat. Lots of water, snacks & paracetamol are a must!
RSI (repetitive strain injury!) from wiring is a real thing. Definitely the fiddliest part of floristry, wiring is a necessary skill to learn if you want to make wreaths, flower crowns, buttonholes etc etc. I've ended up with very stiff & painful thumbs from days spent making crown after crown for summer weddings, or weeks of Christmas wreathing.
It's messy & unglamorous. Floristry is a physical job and although the finished product is beautiful, the process is very messy. Some of my least favourite jobs are cleaning buckets, stripping thorns off roses and the studio clear up after a big job.
The hours are unsociable. If you're very much not a morning person like me, you might struggle with the unsociable hours being a florist entails. Some fresh flower deliveries from the wholesaler will arrive early (like really early, I'm talking 4am) and they can't be left for long without conditioning them and getting them into water.
If you don't live in a city, supply can be tricky. My nearest wholesaler is over an hour drive away so generally I rely on deliveries, which is fine but not quite as convenient or fun as going to see the stock in person. I'm very jealous of London florists who have access to the New Covent Garden Flower Market. I've been once and it's amazing!
You need to expand your vocabulary a LOT. When I first started training, I thought I would never remember all the flower variety names I needed to. Once I finally thought I'd got to grips with enough of them, it was further complicated by discovering that for lots of varieties you need to know the name of the genus (biological classification) to order them from a wholesaler. For example if you're looking for carnations, you have to search for dianthus. For stocks you need to search matthiola. If you want sweet peas, you need to search for lathyrus. You get the picture.
I could go on and on but I hope that's given an insight into how much there is to learn when you venture into the world of floristry. It's exciting, messy, beautiful, tiring, fulfilling, stressful - all at the same time - but it really is the best and I'm very glad I ended up here. Floristry has allowed me to step away from a corporate career and given me an avenue to explore creativity, but I'll write more about that another day. Thanks for reading! x