Saving Time Creating Proposals - Event-Driven Podcast

By Jason McIntosh

On this episode of the event driven podcast we discuss saving time creation proposals with Emily Dawson of All Grand Events + Floral. Emily is an expert in the floral design industry and shares her unique perspectives on the topic of creating design proposals.

Design proposals require a high level of customization for each client. Factors considered when creating a design proposal include seasonality, client preferences, budget, and the overall vision for the event.

Topics within this episode:

- How All Grand Events + Floral creates their proposals and client consultations
- The myth of detailed proposals
- Giving more attention to clients
- Why not to spend hours on proposals
- Creating a proposal while on a customer call
- Designing your plan around a wedding bouquet.
- The ultimate wedding plan dilemma.
- When to say “No” to a bride.

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Full Transcript Below

Ryan O'Neil: [00:00:00] This is Ryan with Curate. I'm super excited today. We've got an incredible episode. This is the event driven podcast. Our focus on this, it's really given information for event professionals to, to grow their companies, to look at different parts of their companies, ask really serious questions around those and ask how can I make those better?

We like to say so many times people will go to a conference or convention, and then they'd get all these different ideas around, you know, every single aspect of their business. And it's kind of hard to implement those. So we tackle one thing each week, one particular piece of companies each week, and we ask that question of, Hey, how can we improve?

How can we make this better? And so that's really huge for us to, to be able to, to, to have that. So. Today we've got some really exciting things before I introduce our guests, who I'm super excited about having on. I want to chat a little bit about our about, about the subject and that's the subject of that is the subject of time spent on proposals.

So many of us spend so much time and effort on [00:01:00] these proposals and it can become a headache and there's so much. So there's so many pieces for us when we're trying to ask that question. How do I optimize my, my sales process and create a great experience? So today we brought on an expert. I would definitely consider her one of our industry experts.

Emily Dawson is the owner of All Grand Events in floral. She I was chatting with her last week and we talked about having her come on. Emily, we're so excited to have you on, on the show.

Emily Dawson: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Ryan O'Neil: So I, I was really admiring last week when we were chatting, you had a lot of very unique perspectives on subjects that I think hang up a lot of people, especially when, when we're talking about design and we won't get too deep into this now, but there's kind of a, Could you give, like, what's the difference between maybe the design industry and someone who maybe has more standard offerings that they just kind of like that they have to spin out each time on a proposal?

Like, what are some of the intricacies and differences [00:02:00] between what you have to do when you're building a design proposal versus maybe someone without needing as deep of a creative flair?


Emily Dawson: Yeah, I mean, it's completely all wrapped up in the customization of everything. So, you know, there is not just a one size fits all bouquet.

There's not a one size fits all centerpiece or an arch or anything like that. Everybody is completely different. Somebody could come with the exact same budget, the exact same color palette, and we might use two different, two entirely different sets of florals in those. Those take, Time per recipe out, everything is very individualized, maybe somebody wants gold candlesticks, someone wants black candlesticks.

It's so custom that you end up spending a lot of time, as opposed to somebody who's just, you know, dragging and dropping into a proposal, you know, this size, this This item, this size, this item, this size, this item, and they just have a flat inventory and they're just dragging and dropping items in and have a multiplier of the quantity and that's it.

Everything is so customized on the back end from a design perspective that you're not only paying for the actual item in the [00:03:00] product, but you're also paying for the designer's knowledge and creative brain to put that all together in the way you want it to be put together.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

I remember my wife, people would come to, so my wife is a floral designer, just kind of this amazing designer I am, I'm not a floral designer, I I can put together a big bomb hydrangea arrangement at 12pm when it's needed to, or 12am, sorry, when it's needed to just wrap something up, but my wife, there would be times people would come to her with particular photos and say, hey, we want to do this, and so there's this aspect of, you're having like, Consider all these different pieces, right?

Like what, what is the seasonality of these items coming in? What's the look of them? There's times my wife would say that's beautiful. But and that's, I love that idea in this, this Pinterest board, but that's not my style, right? Like, so it's also weighing on like, What, how do, how do we work so like what would you say some of those factors are when you bring someone in, like what are those factors that you're thinking through just, you know, a million miles a second, when, when they're kind [00:04:00] of talking about their ideas, what, what, what are those factors you're considering as you're trying to figure out what to what to propose when you get to that point.


Emily Dawson: Yeah. I mean, first of all, you kind of have your like must have items. Like pretty much everybody who's coming to us with a wedding is like, they're watching a bouquet, they're watching centerpieces that sort of like absolute bare minimum, a lot of venues will offer linen chairs, but like absolute bare minimum, we kind of got to talk like bouquets, centerpieces, and then from there, it's really budget driven at that point.

Like, okay, after we've done this, even if we do a pretty minimal centerpiece or if we do something very luxurious, you know, what do we have left over after we do those things and what else can we do? And that. I always lean back on the client at that point. Like, what are your priorities? Do you want that really amazing picture with a giant arch at a ceremony?

Do you want, do you want to kind of leave your ceremony alone? Maybe it's in this very ornate church and flowers are just going to kind of not do anything there because it's big and there's lots of stained glass and that's already really beautiful and they don't need anything extra. And maybe you want to do something really amazing in the reception space.

Maybe you want to do something strolling. It, I really lean on what the client wants the evening to look [00:05:00] like for them. When making those decisions and then obviously always budgets always going to come into place. When it comes to specific flowers, of course, seasonality is going to come into place and then thinking about how it works within, you know, if they want to keep relatively minimal centerpieces.

Certain flowers go great in bud vases, certain ones don't. So also thinking of the different types of containers and how those might go together in a way that fits the vision that they're going for, in addition to, can I even get those flowers that time of year, or I can get them, but they're not great, or I can get those locally and they're going to be amazing.

And I can count on them. So so many different factors, but. Client's vision, client's vision and budget is really the long and the short of everything.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah, I like that. I even again, I do this for a living thinking about proposing and proposals and like, how do we automate this? But there are those just those factors that I've always talked to my team about around.

You know, at some point we have to let our clients be the experts, right? Like we, we're providing the tool as a software company, you know, we're providing clients the [00:06:00] tools, but you know, there's always these random ideas of like, Oh, we can integrate some sort of AI tool and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, which is great.

Like, I think that's powerful, but at the same time, it's gonna be a long time before an AI knows that birds of paradise, isn't going to go in a small bud base, right? Like it doesn't matter what's on Pinterest. You like there's or what the client wants is like, okay, well, but let's talk about that. Like you, you have these, this random thing that you found and it's just not going to fit.

And I, what I found that that's really interesting. I like, like what you said about the budget and the vision. You all have a unique process. At all grand events about how you think about proposals when a proposal actually occurs in this process. Could you walk a walk me through what is that normal client flow look like when a client comes in or expresses interest to be to use y'all for their event?

Emily Dawson: Yeah, so initially we have them fill out an inquiry form. We actually have created it right in Curate and then we link it right on our website. So when someone goes to our website, they click on [00:07:00] floral questionnaire or floral and design question. Actually might just say wedding questionnaire now that I think about it.

They fill that out and it asks all the questions we would need to have answered in order for us to feel comfortable scheduling a meeting. So, you know, someone fills that out and they have a 400 person guest list and they want the sun the moon and the stars and they say that 7, 000 budget. I'm like, okay, we need to have A moment to even have a discussion like if we can't we literally can't do that So, you know, but if if we're looking at all their answers and we're like, okay They have a reasonable budget for their guest list for what they're asking for I schedule I send over my calendly link for them to schedule a meeting with me.

We do them all over google meet And then during that meeting, I am asking every question I would need to fully design a wedding for them. So I am operating under the assumption that they're going to book us. And I'm asking for their inspo photos. I'm asking shape, size of bouquet flowers. They like flowers.

They don't like I'm going through what their entire vision is for the day. So that if they were to, at the end of the meeting, say, yes, I want to book you. I'd be able to fully put together a design proposal. So ask all those questions at the end of that [00:08:00] meeting, what I sent out to them. It's I create it and curate.

And it is a sample design proposal. So it's got a very basic color palette of a mood board within that color palette. That's all just like green and green, white, black some topes. And then it's a full design proposal with pictures and everything on there. And then within each line item, it lists.

Average price ranges for everything. So some of those things for like a wedding bouquet, you know, that's going to be a tighter range. Like, you know, those are usually about three 50 to four 25. So, you know, that's a pretty easy one to do, but then some things like under our one that says like ceremony arch that says like ranges anywhere from like.

500 with just greenery to 10, 000. If you want like a full arch that's spent, you know, so some of the things have really small ranges. Some of the things have really big ranges. But it basically lists every possible thing that anybody has sort of ever asked us to do. And it's a very long proposal.

So people can go through and say, well, I know if I have this many people, this is about how many tables I have. I like these two couple of this type of centerpiece. I know this is about the range. They [00:09:00] can do the math and say, wow, at very minimum with these You know, I do all this math. This is about how much it's going to cost.

I really liked her and I liked her ideas on the call. I want to go ahead and book her. Also within that sample design proposal is how we calculate out our labor. So how we calculate out our, like the installation, the setup, how we calculate out our strike or tear out if they want us to stay to move something from the ceremony of the reception.

And then basically the fact that if you have any additional rental items that are coming from a rental company, that that price would just be based on whatever they charge for their labor. So I send that every single person that has a consult with me gets that exact same document. So I've, I spent one day making that whole document and that has just, I just, that just lives in curate.

You know, the data set for sometime in 2027, just so it doesn't get confusing on our calendar or anything. We just keep bumping that date out. But that lives in curate that same document goes to every single person as soon as I have a meeting with them. And then if they decide they want to book us, then we take a deposit at that time it gets [00:10:00] applied in full to their order.

And then at that point is when I do a customized proposal for them. And I've already had their meeting. I've already had their design meeting. So I know exactly how to make, how to make that proposal. And I, you know, sometimes I'll ask the question, like, do you want me to include everything we talked about?

Do you want to see the sun, moon, and the stars and you tell me what to cut? Or do you want me to tell? To make a proposal based on, I know what your likes and dislikes are. I know we're going to have some budget concerns. So do you want me to only show you what I think will best optimize your budget and what I think kind of gives you the most bang for your buck amongst the things you said you wanted.

So I think basically I'm not doing any work aside from essentially a one hour meeting and then. I mean, I'm not even having any email back and forth because they're using my Calendly link to schedule a meeting. I do like a one hour consultation meeting. And that's the only amount of work I do without being paid.

Ryan O'Neil: And so when they, if they say, Hey, I want to book you, what do they do? If you could go into that a little bit.

Emily Dawson: So, yep. So if they say, I want to book you, then I I guess to back up a little bit when I'm having my [00:11:00] consultation with them, I have created a file in curate. So as I'm asking them, Design detail questions.

I'm taking the notes for what they want right into the each line item because I have a template We're taking those notes. So i'm taking those notes right in curate under each of those line items So when I actually go to do a proposal All I got to do is like zhuzh up how the sentence structure is and change it from notes to like an actual proposal verbiage but so if they so I have I have a file so to speak already open for them So if they want to book us what I do is I go through and I draft all of those line items So you can't see them And so then the only thing that's showing up on there is like a line item for the deposit and the contract.

So then they, they sign the contract, they pay the deposit. I can apply it to the order. And then once I actually go to put the proposal together, I basically just delete that retainer line item. And then they've already got all this other stuff that that money's applying to. And then, then I, then they get that proposal still within the same curate proposal link.

Ryan O'Neil: Right. That makes sense. Okay. And then I really like that, that flow. [00:12:00] So what's so interesting about this is, I know we did this when, when we owned our, our when we owned Twisted Willow was we would always put together a super important to get a proposal out to people quickly. We'd get it to sometimes the same day.

Sometimes, you know, we'd always within 24 hours, but sometimes the same day, but we would be building out a proposal for every single client that comes in. And if I hear what you're saying. You've kind of flipped that script a little, script a little bit. Instead, building a proposal for every single client.

You're basically just giving them an example proposal. What, what went into that? Have you always done this? Like what, what led to that? So it was, the idea was originally given to me actually by my mentor. She is the owner of Modern Day Collective. They're about an hour West of us. So she originally started this process.


Emily Dawson: She did it a little bit differently than I do in terms of number of meetings and order of events. But basically. The idea was [00:13:00] doing the proposal after somebody booked and giving them enough information upfront that they could feel like they're making a very well educated decision and there weren't going to be any surprises later.

So that's basically what, so we didn't always do that. You know, I started out in the industry. I didn't have any actual experience. So of course I did what everybody else does. And I sat and did these hours upon hours upon hours long proposal, because I thought that doing a very detailed proposal was what was the determining factor in somebody booking us.

I had just the mindset that I think probably most people do that like, well, nobody would ever give you money to do something if they don't know exactly how much it's going to cost them. And my argument is that, at least with our clientele, I don't want to say like the budgets are super fluid, but I feel really confident in understanding how our pricing works, that when somebody sends me their guest list, their wants and needs some inspo photos and what their general budget is.

I can, in my mind say, yeah, we can do that. No, we can't do that. Or [00:14:00] we can do that. You might have to pick a couple of things you can get rid of, but for the most part, you'll get most of the things you want. And what I found is that. As long as you have a very good product, people are generally buying for people.

So they like us, they like the service we're providing. It's very clear amongst our socials and our website and our reviews and all the, all the information that's available out in the world that they can access that we're very good at what we do. So the line item pricing to the penny upfront is not necessary for people to book us.

Ryan O'Neil: I guess the question, so the question that I, I hear just here in my mind and I hear so many other designers saying I've got this person coming to me, they've got three other people that are giving them actual line item proposals, like how do you get, how do you educate that client? Because, because what you're saying is you're really establishing and building that trust up front and you're giving that client this ability to, to, to ask that question earlier rather than later of like, Hey, do I trust them?

Just do I trust this company? Like, is this the [00:15:00] direction that I want to go? But how do you do that? When, how do you educate a client on that? When, when you know that there's five other people that are, that they're talking to that, that are willing to give them kind of this line item proposal, like what does that flow and process look like for you?

Emily Dawson: So we, for one thing we do have, so we have a blog on our website and it lays out exactly what our process is. And, and every time someone even inquires with us, I always send a link to that blog and just say, Hey, here's our booking process. That's awesome. So in theory, assuming they're reading it, that it really shouldn't be a surprise to them.

We also underwrite, operate under the assumption that nobody's reading that we're very clear, that like nobody's probably reading the information we're giving them, and so we. We just tell them, we say, you know, we, we allocate a lot of time into our design proposals. We want this to be exactly right for you.

And I promise that you don't want us to be. The type of company that is so bogged down trying to get business that we can't allocate any time to the people that have actually already hired us. [00:16:00] And that is really what we, that's where people, that's a selling point for us. A selling point for us is that like you will get a lot more attention because we are not divided in a thousand directions.

And ultimately I would say that The bulk of the people that are hiring us aren't even necessarily interviewing anybody else. We are sort of the first place that they stopped. They liked us. They're like, yeah, I trust them. We're good. There's also the reality that there are realistically some people that absolutely will not book you if they don't have a line item proposal.

And I am of the philosophy that that is just not our client. Like, you know, the people that, because. Realistically, somebody who needs everything very much priced out for them is going to make every single design decision completely 100 percent based on budget. And we want people who are more likely to be booking based on the style they want.

You know, maybe they have a slight bit of wiggle room within their budget. We're of course going to always respect what somebody wants to spend and never push anybody to spend more than what they're comfortable with. But [00:17:00] ultimately, People are generally just not hiring us because we are the absolute cheapest price point and we're gonna have that hard and fast budget we're gonna stay under.

So, I think having just a really large amount of confidence in the service and the product you're able to provide, we just tell people straight up, like, we just do not provide proposals up front. That is just not part of our business structure. And you probably don't want us to do that because that would take a lot of time away from then you, if you do book us.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah, well, and I love, I love how you said it earlier where it's almost like they're, we're saying, well, we could go really fast and build this thing out, but that's not going to catch your vision, right? Like, we aren't spending the time to build the vision that you're wanting in the first place. So that makes a lot of sense for, for creating the education.

I love what you said. Number one, we're going to educate people. And then we're number two, we're going to assume they aren't educated. I was an eighth grade math teacher in a previous life. And I had, as a math teacher, I literally had to say, I have to assume that none of these [00:18:00] kids, none of these eighth graders have graduated kindergarten and some of them, it was debatable, right?

But I just had to walk in with this assumption of like, okay, I can't just assume that it's got to, I've got to help them through this. I've got to work because some of them are super advanced. Some of them just were missing, maybe a basic thing they had never picked up over the years. And I love that perspective of always giving your clients that respect of saying you're busy.

I understand it Maybe you didn't you know see that so we're going to continue this education process So I think that's that's a really powerful attribute and an approach I hear so many event professionals and it's not just event pros or florists. It's it's just humans We're just humans and it's easy to complain and to be like, oh man I got another one of these people that they da da da da da And I, I've always been an advocate and I think you, you exemplify this very well of saying, well, if I get frustrated about something, I'm the business owner, I'm the entrepreneur, I'm the person that needs to take the step back and ask, how do I solve that?

And it sounds like this was, this is part of that [00:19:00] approach. It's like, I'm, I'm, I'm wasting. You're, if I'm hearing what you said, you're, you previously did this, you're wasting just hours and hours and hours building proposals that weren't even going to go anywhere. The people weren't even motivated enough to kind of move forward, but it's like, well, this is what we just have to do as a business owner.

And, and you just flip the script on that and said, Hey, was there a particular client or a particular moment where you said, all right, I'm done, we, we, we have to shift. Is it that mentor call that you talked about? When was that moment? And you're like, you know what? I'm leaning more toward, let's start doing it this new way.


Emily Dawson: Yeah. I mean, definitely when I first had like that mentor call, I mean, I don't even think it was on my radar that, that it was a problem that needed to be fixed necessarily. It just, there, there's definitely like instances where I know people like kind of took our proposal to somebody else who were, who just was like,

Ryan O'Neil: we can

Emily Dawson: do this for less.

And I'm like, you know, I can put all the disclaimers and all the like verbiage on our proposals that say like, you know, you cannot take, you cannot take this and duplicate it without our [00:20:00] written consent. You know, like. I always think of like of the like national football league. Like, that's what I hear when I, when I hear that term.

But you know, you can't take this. You can't copy it. Can't share it with anybody. All it takes is one other company who has no business ethics to just say like, yeah, I can do that, but I can do it for 500 less. And someone goes with them. So I knew I had a sense that like, that was an issue. I had this kind of no idea that it.

Was even an option to do it this way and what that looked like and how, how, how people could have enough information to make a decision and make a well educated decision without feeling like they, you know, we're just like taking a stab in the dark and making a leap of faith. Cause we also don't have clients with like unlimited budgets either.

You know, we need to be respectful of that as well. So, I think that mentor call really like kicked it off. And then pretty much every decision since then, I feel like has definitely been made with the mindset of like, You don't have to follow these like unwritten rules. It's your business. You are an entrepreneur for a [00:21:00] reason and that's so that you can make the decisions that and you can shape your business to function the way it is just because every other person in the world is doing a proposal before booking doesn't mean that you have to do that if that just feels like not the right process for you.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah, well, and to your point, you found a particular group of customers. That's a perfect fit for you. And I think that is so, so hard for people that they're, they're looking at their 20, you know, that, that they're 2024. I've, I've I've, Talked with some people and they're 24, 24 is killing it, right?

Like they're doing the best they've ever done. And I'm talking to other people and they're really having a tough year this year. And it's like hearing that, like finding that person, that, that client, that's a perfect fit for you. And that, that matches you. And it sounds like from what you're saying, that not only, not only are you looking for that type of client, but the, the, these decisions are helping you filter out to find that type of client.

Who's going to trust you. Who's, who's more interested in the vision. Right. Cause I think I, you know, I like to say [00:22:00] most people getting married. It's their first, it's their first time getting married. Right. A lot, nobody knows anything. Yes, exactly. So it's like, it's almost like we create the expectation in these clients for what the flow is supposed to be.

You know, this is like, we're creating this and you know, I see all kinds of times. I don't see this in the floral industry as much, but I see this in other parts of the wedding industry where they have these random fees. And I've never heard of them. But they're just normal. They're just a part of that.

And it's because that particular culture, when somebody gets in to using that particular type of vendor, they see, they just get educated and say, Oh, okay, this, this type of fee is associated with it. And so it makes sense that, that you're almost creating the education because there, there could be that client.

And I'm, I'm, I mean, have you had a situation where, like had that same Do you feel like had you had maybe this incredible client, but had they went another route first, they would have totally been that, that almost that line item pricing type person. [00:23:00] But when you educated them this direction, they became the perfect client that really was inherently a fit for who, who you love to help.

Emily Dawson: Yeah. I mean, I guess I, not that I can like explicitly say, like, I know that that was their thought process, but it seems impossible that we haven't had somebody that probably came in expecting a proposal then ultimately was like, Oh yeah, this is fine. This is plenty of information. We definitely had the other way around.

And I don't, cause I don't want to say like, this is like the holy grail of all proposal processes, even though I really do believe that, but this isn't going to give you like a hundred percent conversion rate. You're still going to, there's still like, Right clients and wrong clients for you and there's people who are going to pick other people over you for whatever reason and that's just the reality of life.


But we've definitely had people that actually we've done the other way around where there was just so many specific questions in so many emails after a consultation that already had answered all the questions that there were to possibly answer. And we just eventually had to say, I think we're probably not the best fit for you [00:24:00] because I don't think that there's going to be any amount of information that we can give you that's going to make you feel comfortable without actually seeing a line item proposal pricing.

And here are some, some of our very favorite florists that will provide that for you. And I think that you'd be more comfortable going in that direction because it just was abundantly clear that no matter how many questions we answered, no matter how much information we gave, unless we were going to give like, this is exactly how much This is going to cost and this is exactly the flowers we're going to use in each of your designs, which we also don't do because we're selling pallets and concepts and not right, right recipes.

You know that it just that was not going to ever be a good fit for us. So that's, that is also the reality of there are going to be people that really need that and they're just not our clients and that's okay.

Ryan O'Neil: Right. I think that's so powerful because again, you've thought this through to that point of We're not just going to tell you hey, no, we're not a fit We're going to say we are going to say it but in a very polite way.

Hey, you know, we've got this other this other How do you? I was like, I, I remember we had this list when we realized like, Hey, we were out of date or whatever. We had [00:25:00] kind of this list of clients. Like, so if I'm the florist out there and I want to be on that list for, for Emily or for whoever my local, you know, other partners in crime are, or not crime, but in floral climb, our partners in floral crime are, how does someone get on that list?

I, it's kind of a, it's the weirdest question, but I think it'd be fun to have in the episode.

Emily Dawson: Yeah, I mean, some, some of it is that it's regional. So we know their wedding is in the city and we have worked with these people before we've seen their work. You know, we have a pretty vast range of freelancers that have worked various events for us, but then also have their own business on those weekends where they're not working for us.

So we know that they do a great job. So we're going to refer people to the people that have worked for us and we know do a good job. And then some other people, you know, Because of the structure of our business, Lynette does all planning. And before we merged, she has worked directly with tons of florists around the whole state.

So she has a lot of good input to, you know, these people are really easy to work with, you know, they have, and it's also a style thing, like, you know, somebody's [00:26:00] just wanting something pretty basic. I don't have to think as hard about. You know stylistically who I might recommend. Oh, that's a great somebody wants something that's really similar to what we create I'm, of course going to try to send them to somebody who's freelanced for us before and I can say, you know They have they've executed helped execute some of these events for us so they're gonna you're gonna be in great hands if you like our style.

Here's a good person to go with so That for the most part that's how you know, there's not and there's really not like an actual list. It's a It's a mental list in our brain of who we would recommend based on where they're at. You know, and some people too, it's, you know, we're recommending them regionally because there's, maybe it's a budget concern and we don't want them to have travel costs either.

Ryan O'Neil: That makes sense. Yeah, when we were in St. Louis, so we're in St. Louis and the way that St. Louis is geographically, most any florist in the St. Louis area could be accessible. So we, we did kind of have the static list of like, hey, here's these five companies, awesome companies, you should go chat with them.

Right. And part of that process was for us was like the minimum budget. You know, we had a minimum [00:27:00] budget of 4K If someone came in and they really were just looking for personals, we realized, hey, we aren't a fit. Tell me a little bit about your minimum budget. I, I, I would say like, you know, as you're getting a lot of people that are coming in expressing interest, there's people that are clearly a fit.

There's people that you clearly can't help at the level that they like. What does that look like for you all? How'd you get there?

Emily Dawson: So our current budget minimum is 7, 000. So over the years, that's changed for, I want to say it was back in about 2016. We realized that we needed to have some sort of budget because the way we don't have a retail shop.

So we don't have something where, you know, we can use some of these flowers to make bouquets and then everything else we can sell in a store. Like everything that we order is for a specific event. So we started with a 3, 000 minimum saying, you know, that's really what we need to make in order to, you know, Get a flower delivery, have the markups there, and that's basically to do, like, very minimal centerpieces, bouquets, and our labor, and that's what I need to take time away from my family on the weekends.

Pretty quickly after they're almost All of our weddings were [00:28:00] right around the 5, 000 mark. So I was like, well, we're just going to bump it up to 5, 000 because that's what people are spending. And very quickly we stopped getting inquiries because apparently, even though everybody wants to spend 5, 000, if we list 5, 000, that was going to be too much, so we bumped it back down to three, then we kept getting weddings.

And then we were able to eventually bump it back up to five. And then COVID hit and then pricing on everything like doubled. So then we have since bumped it up to seven, seven is our little sweet spot where we feel like. Even if you're just still doing centerpieces, bouquets maybe some sort of something at the ceremony, some sort of smaller installation piece, plus our labor, and that's all assuming, you know, about 150 guests count and somewhat local.

That we can produce a wedding that is representative of everything you see on our website and our social media. So we do have like a certain level that people are coming to us. You know, they're generally not coming to us for like a hydrangea ball and a vase. That you can go anywhere for that. I get that pretty cheap, but people are seeing these like very elaborate recipes, these [00:29:00] pretty rich color palettes.

They're coming to us for these like really specific types of designs. And so we don't feel comfortable advertising anything less than that 7, 000 minimum because the X. Then it's kind of putting out like a false expectation that you can get everything you see on our social media, but within that budget.

So 7, 000 is our happy spot where I can afford to pay our freelancers, what they are charging. I can staff it, I can make profit. And again, Being compensated for being away from my family. Ultimately it's a business and I am contributing to half of our household income, so that also needs to be taken into account and anything less than that is just not realistic with the caveat.

We will sometimes do corporate events that are under that 7, 000. Cause a lot of times that's like, Hey, we need 18 centerpieces. And you don't even need to come pick them up at the end of the night. Like, that's something we can do. We can meet our minimum wholesale order, we can still meet our margins, and a lot of times they're on a random Tuesday, and not taking away from a prime Saturday in August or something.

So you know, there are exceptions where we go lower than that, but [00:30:00] it would never be for a wedding.

Ryan O'Neil: Right. Yeah, and, and typically on corporate events, I was just chatting with another Florida Chief today about this, where, when, A lot of times there's, there's not as much emotion involved in those, right?

No. Of people wanting to see various specifics and nuances. You're, you're fearful. They're also not usually

Emily Dawson: spending their own money.

Ryan O'Neil: Touche. That's exactly right. Yes. So it makes it a lot, there's a budget somewhere for it versus I'm creating the budget for this. So that makes a lot of sense So and I and I think something to really point out is that phrase that you said It's it's hard to be able to hit and we we can't hit you know beneath seven thousand dollars To get the experience that you see on our website and our socials and I think that's really A great way to frame it because for everyone that amount is a different amount, right?

For some people, it still is that 3000 for some people, it's that 20, 000, but that's the way, you know, if you love what you saw on our website, if you love the experiences you're seeing on our socials, then here's what it costs. This [00:31:00] is just the, the investment that has to be made. And you, you were able to rattle off several other pieces, freelancers, wholesale, minimum order costs, things like that.

But I think that's a really succinct way. And so any, anyone out there in the design world, that's like trying to think of ways, how do I in a positive way, cause it's so easy to get so negative in this industry. It's so easy to be like, Oh, I can't do that. And that's not possible. How do we positively phrase that?

And I love how you phrase that because I think it, it frames it in a way that. Everybody's excited about that. Makes sense. Even if I, even if I can't get it, then you're leaving, they're leaving you, even if they realize that they can't use you, they're leaving you with a better expectation as they walk into that next florist to, to understand what am I going to get out of this?

Emily Dawson: And I think too, like, I'm very comfortable telling people our process and our pricing and you know, that just comes with personality plus just years of experience. And I'm okay. Just. Giving up that information, even if it might be something people don't want to hear in a nice way, but you know, there's other things that we do, you know, when somebody [00:32:00] inquires, we have, we have a pricing guide we've created, and it's more of a services guide.

It's sort of like, here's all the things we offer, but it's got some just like basic price ranges, like usually people who have this many gas. And want centerpieces, bouquets, installation. This is about what they usually spend. If you want to add more like rental pieces, chairs, linens, things like that to your order, you're like, this is kind of usually what people spend.

You know, we have like kind of four different, you know, if you want to add on planning, okay, now we're jumping into another price tier. So no matter what people are just not absolutely shocked by these prices. And usually the people who have checked that very minimum box. Have a really huge guest list and have a big laundry list of all the things they want.

As soon as they get that, they might not even schedule a meeting because they're like, Oh, wow, this is, I didn't, you know, again, you don't know what you don't know. First time planning a wedding, people don't know what things cost. But for other people, that was just a really helpful piece of information that, you know, and we also have that listed on our website.

We have investment started at 7, 000. Most people spend between like 10 and 15, 000, [00:33:00] and then it goes up from there. So, There's very polite ways to say, I have a minimum spend. And if anybody asks why I can very, very succinctly list off the different reasons why we have to have that minimum.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah. And I think it's just going through those conversations over and over gets you better and better at that.

And I know for us, when we started implementing the minimum initially, it was just so hard to have those conversations, especially at people watching this, maybe at different stages of business, it's so hard to have those conversations. But truth be told, if you see that it needs to happen, you will get better at it.

If it sounds like you're just going to, you're going to get the practice and familiarity with how do I frame this in a way that again, it's a positive way that, that reflects the kind of brand that you're building.

Emily Dawson: Yeah, and I think if you come from that, especially that conversation from a place of like, we want you to have the best wedding you can have.

And truth be told, hiring us is going to eat up such a big chunk of your budget that it's going to have to have you cut in so many different places that [00:34:00] I don't think that's going to feel worth it to you. So coming from it, from a place of like, you want every person who inquires with you, whether they end up ultimately being your client or not, you want them to have like the wedding they want.

That's right. And the best way they can do that. And if that doesn't involve you, that's fine. It's, you know, you gotta look for the people that want you. I wish I could cross stitch what you just said on a pillow. Like that's such an incredible quote, because so many times it's easy for us to be like, well, they're just, they're just not willing to invest money.

Ryan O'Neil: Well, maybe they don't have the money. My wife and I, we had a minimum budget of 4, 000 our entire wedding. We paid, we didn't have rich parents. We we were paying for our entire wedding. Our entire wedding was under 3, 000. So we were already like, when we had it,

Emily Dawson: I always joke that like, I couldn't afford me.

We say that all the time. Like I couldn't afford to hire me. And you know, I, my entire wedding 15 years ago was basically completely DIY. And that's, that was fine for me. I wouldn't have hired me either, but there are people [00:35:00] who want everything taken off their plate, want this gorgeous design and they're, that's who we are here to serve ultimately.

Ryan O'Neil: Right. Well, and to your point, it's, it's a powerful thing to be able to care about that person enough that you're able to give them just an honest recommendation. But you're saying it from a really, from that point of like, I want you to have a great wedding. I want you to have this incredible event. And that tone and that perspective change, I think it changes everything.

It does. To that point. As you're, as you're working through this, you're trying to ask that question. You know, the, the overall purpose of a minimum budget is to be able to say, what is it, what is it gonna cost for me to have to, you know, again, take time away from my family, open up this proposal software and start building out this stuff.

What have you done to really, let's say that, you know, you've got someone through, you found 'em, they're fit, they, they love what you've proposed. They, they signed that agreement. I thought it was really. Interesting how you use kind of draft line items to automate some of this process. You're still taking all the notes.

You still got all the [00:36:00] templates, but you start out with everything in draft mode effectively, and, but you've got all the notes and then you, you, you put that line item for the retainer on there initially. What does it look like? So it sounds like even before you're even before you've met the people, you've already started that process of automating and optimizing that proposal flow to make sure it goes very quickly.

What does that look for you? How do you reduce when you're doing so much creative work and very creative, thoughtful work on this? What does that look like? That flow look like to reduce the amount of time you're having to spend on those?


Emily Dawson: Yeah. So a lot of this is with kind of built in systems that curate has already.

So you know, we have like a master wedding and design template. So as soon as we get that inquiry, you know, that's in the form section. And then I can take that form and turn it into an event and ask me, which template do I want to use? So if it's for a wedding, I pick our wedding one. If it's corporate, you know, we have a corporate one.

Social, you know, those basically just don't have bouquets on them, but. For a corporate event, they could have all the other things [00:37:00] possibly. So everything's templated out there. So it'll have a line for like bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, bouquets, corsages, hair, floral. I mean, all the things. And then actually within each of those line items too, I already have like different recipe sections broken out.

So under like the bouquet section, I got a recipe for like the flowers. And then I have like a hard goods and rentals. And then I, you know, I have these art there, so that's already, that is in the template. And so as I'm taking the notes. You know, and even if I'm talking to them, you know, actively on the call and they're like, this bouquet on my Pinterest board, I love, I'll drag and drop that over right when I'm on the call to them, right onto that line item.


So that when I go back to do the proposal, I'm like, that's the bouquet they liked. Like that was the one or, you know, I'll drag two in and I'll just. Type myself a quick note like first image they like the shape and size second image is the color palette so it's just it's there if I use it as like a note taking system Basically, and then I can go back and make all the wording and add the mood board and color palette make that all look nicer but you like really leaning into [00:38:00] and really really utilizing all the possible features of that template makes everything really fast then once they've actually booked us because the recipe Sections are already there.

I'm not having to like freshly create that I'm really just having to, I always start, you know, the wedding bouquet in a wedding is usually my first step that has all the really premium blooms and everything is sort of based on that. That's the wedding bouquet is the one that I really don't sacrifice a whole lot on.

That's the one that's got all the. All the really expensive stuff, all the delicate stuff. And then I use like the cop, like the copy and paste sort of function within the recipe. So I will like copy and paste that and do like centerpieces. Then I'm like, okay. So they're obviously not going to spend 450 on a centerpiece.

Cause once we add, okay, put it in a vase and then add candles and a vessel and all of that, you know, they're not going to spend that much. So what can I pull out of that bridal bouquet? What can I maybe sub in? What can I like add maybe as a little bit of filler? You know, if we have this really beautiful peonies and guard roses, maybe I can like sub a couple of [00:39:00] carnations just for some bulk.

That'll be sort of buried deep in there. And I start just kind of like modifying the recipes, but once I have the one bouquet recipe done, the rest of it's a lot of copy and pasting because I've got my complete color palette established from that bouquet, and then I can sub out stuff from there. And a lot of that, I'm just using the functionality that's already in curate.

Ryan O'Neil: Right. That makes sense. And so, so I love your use of the copy and paste tool where you just, you know, paste it, then figure out, hey, what is the new dynamics of whatever this piece is that I have and, you know, As a way. So you've got, so you use the multiple recipes feature and you, you basically okay.

Emily Dawson: Yes, because yeah, very much. So, so especially when you get into like those bud vase centerpieces, I'll have like bud vase one, bud vase two, bud vase three, bud vase four, and then it's really helpful for my team to not put like. All the different candle types together. So sometimes if it's like a candle centerpiece, one of my different recipes will be like votive collection, taper collection, cylinder collection, because I need my team to know like [00:40:00] these vases are for the cylinders, these chimneys go with the tapers, these, you know, these little tea lights go with these votives.

So I, you know. The multi recipe tool is, like, hands down, like, for me, the number one feature in Curate.

Ryan O'Neil: That's cool. That's really cool. I love hearing that. And, and there's not a lot of people who have built it, so I don't know why, like, because it's, we got this very early on, we used to only have one recipe built into there, and it was we'd have people say, hey, I got this king table, I'm going to shove everything into one recipe, and it just doesn't, it's, it's, that's not, it doesn't

Emily Dawson: work,

Ryan O'Neil: you know,

Emily Dawson: How do you know what goes in like the main tray?

How do you know what goes in the bun vases? How do you know what goes in like the pin frog bowls? How do you know what goes in all these things? If it's all just like blobbed under one recipe.

Ryan O'Neil: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, that's an important thing for us. And there's some, some unique dynamics there is, but that question of like, Hey, how do we access that?

What else? Anything else you do to automate your proposal process as you're, as you're building this up? Because again, if I'm, if I'm mapping this right, there's this whole argument, not [00:41:00] argument, whole philosophy interchanged. Some people are huge about putting in the recipes before they hand over the proposal.

Some people are huge on being like, hey, we're going to build our recipes in two weeks out when it's time to order the flowers and we build up the budget. And what's so unique about this conversation is that. If the answer is no to both of those, right? Like it's like, actually, no, as soon as this person books with me, then I add the flowers and the recipes.

But like it takes on this conversation I've had with so many people for so many years, it just takes kind of that third door option of like but if I understand what you're saying, you do build in. And from the point that they book you, then you, you, you hit the ground running on building all of the components.

Emily Dawson: Yeah. Foley recipe to the penny. And, you know, within usually within a month of that, like official booking, they will get a, to the penny design proposal that has all the, you know, I know the seasonality of flowers, I know what's going to be available, what's generally going [00:42:00] to be available at least. And so I can give them that price point.

You know, sometimes I like to say like, it might take me up to two months. It depends on how much outside rental items they have on there, how many linens chairs, you know, if they want a big dance floor, I like to build in some time for rental companies to get back to me because they're not always as speedy speediest responders.

But you know, I. That, that's where not doing proposals ahead of time has really worked well for me because I can, I don't mind spending time to recipe everything to the penny because somebody has, I know I am actively executing that event. And I think even just my personality type, before we decided to do proposals after booking, it was really hard for me to figure out what Really a ton of effort for somebody that I didn't even know if I was going to execute the wedding, like something was really took a lot of brainpower to like figure out the mechanics of it and figure out how, how we were even going to make this happen.

It was really hard for me to like put in all that time and effort to be like, I don't even know if they're going to hire us and I'm going to spend [00:43:00] five hours, like basically being an engineer. To figure out how to do this and if I know I have to do it because they've actively booked us that I'm So happy to sit and figure all the things out because I ultimately want it to be easy for myself and so I did have a point I was gonna make here, but you know, I think I think just like It's much easier to like put in effort if you know that You are going to be the one to have to have to do it.


And, oh, I know the point I was going to make it was that, you know, where we live in Michigan, we have like a true on season and off season. So, you know, our events run usually from April to early November, you know, we'll get a couple of Christmas, new year's stuff for the most part, it's April to November.

So we have a true off season and I would much rather be in doing recipes and doing proposals in the middle of February than I would two weeks before a wedding in July when I'm already. Out of my mind busy, you know, if I were doing that, I would have to. It would cost me more [00:44:00] money because I'd be having to pay a lot more freelancers to cover the part of the job that I can do because I'm not sitting at a computer doing recipes in the middle of summer.

I'm doing them in the winter and we're getting everything basically finalized then. And by having that all done, you know, I do a quick glance over before I run the game plan and send it over to my wholesaler. I'm like, is there anything new that's popped up that I want to like put in here instead?

You know, I'm not just like blindly trusting my recipe from six months Prior, I throw some eyes on it and say, yeah, this still looks good. But my, my brain was in a good spot when I did all this reciping, but what's nice about it is then when my wholesaler comes back and say, Hey, this came in the wrong color, this doesn't look good.

I'm just like, yeah, this send this sub instead. This is great. So it's, it's, I'm not like stressing energy. If you do something two weeks out, you just have, it's so much easier to just like overspend because you're like, Oh, like you can, Get kind of distracted by the bright new shiny thing like, Oh, I really want to use that.

Oh, you know, and I think that it's, it's just It's too hard to keep your margins where you need them to be to make a [00:45:00] profitable business if you're running everything at the last minute.

Ryan O'Neil: Right, right. Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry. It's exactly the same

Emily Dawson: concept. You have

Ryan O'Neil: the list already and you stick to the list.

I love it. This has been great, Emily. I think there's so much in here for for both new and established designers alike and, and floral leads. There's so much power in I think some of my big takeaways are kind of the way we think about clients and how we frame, even, even if it means we have a, our minimum budget is maybe higher than where they're at.

But it's asking that I haven't asked those tough questions around, is my business model running me or am I running my business model? And I think it's been very great. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your insights. Of course. Thank you so much for having me. Okay. Talk to you later. Thanks, Ryan.


Tags: proposals, event planning

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