Many of us dream of ditching the rat race to pursue a more creative career, but not so many have the courage to actually go ahead and do it. Back in October we heard from Laura Gilmour who moved from a job in marketing to become a full time farmer, and today we’re sharing the story of the lovely Joanne Truby who left her job in E commerce to set up her own floristry business.
What did you do before you became a florist?
I have always been quite a creative person but hadn’t found my art form or medium (until I discovered flowers!). Before I became a florist I used to work in retail. I worked for River Island and Heal’s as an E commerce content co-ordinator. My role was varied, which I loved, and included gathering information from the buying teams, compiling copy for the website, helping with the design and layout of web pages and assisting the photographer with the product shoots for the website, which included prop styling too.
Although I liked my job, it wasn’t fulfilling me creatively. So I decided to leave and do a bit of travelling. It was whilst away in Central America that I had an epiphany that I wanted to do a degree in something creative! When I returned home I enrolled to do an FDA in Visual Display, as I thought this linked nicely to my previous retail experience, but fate stepped in as the course was discontinued. I thought to myself, “What shall I do now?” I looked down the list and there I saw it… Floral Design and Events Management and I thought, “That sounds interesting!”.
After just a few weeks into my course I had fallen hook, line and sinker for the flowers! I went on to study my third year with the Covent Garden Academy of Flowers who had partnered with Greenwich University and achieved a 1st class BA Hons degree, something I’m very proud of.
Did you decide to test the water or did you go straight in and set up your own business? (Anything you’d advise doing differently around this approach?)
Whilst studying for my degree I was very lucky as I got lots of hands on experience. This was because for all of the jobs that the Academy got, all the students were involved with creating the arrangements. We were lucky enough to create flowers for events at the Royal Banqueting House, amongst many others. In my final year I also got a job in a flower shop at a busy shopping centre which was really good experience, especially during the busy Christmas period … it was eye opening!
Once I had graduated I felt ready to set up my business, due to the experience I had gained and the fact I was also a bit older too (I didn’t do my degree until my mid twenties) so felt like it was now or never! My dad is an entrepreneur too and always owned his own businesses so has had quite a big influence on me. In my case ignorance was bliss and had I discovered some of the downsides early on (like the early morning starts for example!) then I may never have set up on my own quite so quickly. My advice would be to maybe do a few taster courses, and or work experience days with floral companies, to test the waters and decide if this is something you want to pursue further.
What steps did you take to set up your own business? What did you have to consider?
Well, one of the first things was to work out where my workshop would be, we didn’t really have anywhere suitable at home for me to work from (I’m still working towards my dream studio!). So when I first set up my business I was working in my Nan’s garden room! You also need to consider your business name, logo and branding, as it’s so important that you set the right tone for your business, and what you would like to be known for, and that the message is clear throughout your branding and communications.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?!
Where do I start!?! With floral design and owning a business for that matter, you are constantly learning as you go along and a lot of what you know comes from experience. The saying “You learn from your mistakes” is so true! So don’t be too hard on yourself, out of every scenario you learn a lesson.
When did you start teaching?
I started running floral masterclasses last year. After four years of having my own business it felt like the right time. I completely surprised myself as I found a real love for teaching, something that I have since become quite passionate about.
Why did you decide to start teaching and what sorts of classes do you teach?
I love being creative and working on weddings and events, but I felt like I wanted to give something back and pass on my knowledge to other florists and flower enthusiasts. I get so much joy and satisfaction from seeing students who are ecstatic with their creations. We teach a range of group masterclasses that are based around the seasons (for example we have an upcoming Christmas wreath class) and anyone can come along to these, including non florists and complete beginners. We also offer mobile classes where we will come with all our flora and fauna and teach you in the comfort of your own home or venue of your choice, which is perfect for a hen party of baby shower.
We also teach one to one classes for florists who may already be established but are looking to learn a new technique or a more relaxed garden style to their designs, or for newbie florists who are just starting out and want an introduction to the world of floral design. The classes are completely tailor-made to whatever it is the person would like to learn, which is what is great about them. Not only do we teach the practical side of creating floral arrangements, but we also offer business mentoring.
Could you tell me more about mentoring? What are the benefits and can anyone be mentored?
As part of our mentoring service, we offer hourly sessions and cover a range of topics from marketing your business, to building up the profile of your business, to social media, to how to get your business ‘out there’. One thing I have found difficult at times is not having a ‘boss’ to run anything by, sometimes you are so busy being ‘in’ your business that you can’t see the wood for the trees and it can be hard to make decisions. It’s good to take a step back and get advice from somebody else who has been there and has the experience and knowledge to offer you advice and suggestions on what you could do. A mentor can be a support and help you to work through the challenges you have, to help break them down and set clear goals, so you can push forward with clarity. We specialise in florist businesses, however our services are available for any small creative businesses.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I always remember my Nan saying to me that nothing you do in life is a waste and this is something I truly believe. All job roles have transferable skills and so many careers interlink and overlap. Whilst working in retail I picked up knowledge of marketing and PR, along with website maintenance and Photoshop ,which have all been really helpful to me with my business. No matter what you do, you are gaining experience which you may not feel is relevant for where you want to be at the time, but a little further down the line it may come in handy!
What does a typical week look like for you? How many hours a week do you work?
This really depends on what jobs we have going on that week, so it can be really varied, which I love (variety is the spice of life as they say!).
If we have a wedding on a Saturday then my week will look a bit like this: Monday is spent working on that week’s flower order, deciding on varieties, creating my flower recipes and working out stem counts (which, depending on the size of the wedding, can take rather a long time)! Tuesday will usually be an admin day where we work on quotes and put together design proposals for upcoming events, send out final invoices, emails etc. Wednesday will be a marketing day where we schedule our social media for the week, write a blog post, respond to any press enquiries etc. Thursday is when I will collect all the flowers I have previously ordered for Saturday’s wedding from Covent Garden Flower Market, where they are then conditioned, and myself and the team will begin prepping all the arrangements. Friday is another flower filled day where we continue to work on all the flowers ready for the following day. Saturday is the day of set up and install which can often mean a very early start!
During the week, if I’m having an office day, then I tend to work from 9am until 5pm. It can be tempting to work into the evenings and check emails when I work from home, but I’m quite strict with myself as I think it’s important to get down time and rest. On the days when I’m working on the flowers I can sometimes work up to 12 hours a day, depending on how much there is to be done.
Are you busy at this time of year?
Things tend to slow down with weddings at this time of year (although saying that we had two in November and one this week!). We are also busy creating made-to-order festive designs for our clients (these can be anything from centre pieces to staircase garlands), and teaching our Christmas wreath master classes – we have one coming up on the 17th December. There’s also lots going on behind the scenes in the office with admin and marketing, planning ahead for next year’s projects and working on design proposals and quotes.
Do you have dreams of ditching the 9-5 in pursuit of a different career? Maybe you’ve got plans to do so, or you’ve already taken the plunge?
Images by Claire Graham