How to Start a Floral Shop From Scratch: Deciding When to Make the Jump

By Ryan ONeil
In our last blog post, we talked about the keys of how to start a floral shop from scratch and shared some things we had to decide in becoming entrepreneurs. But it all started with us deciding to make the jump to being wedding florists. There were a few key elements that helped us make the decision and while your decision may have different specifics, these key elements will be the same. 
Begin with the end in mind
At what point are you going to step back and say, "I'm where I want to be?" There are so many out there who are entreprenuers in their own right who advocate that you need to be "always grinding." It's very true that starting a business is a LOT of work. But your goal should not be W4W (work for work's sake). You need to define up front what your end goal is. Are you wanting to build a multi-million dollar business then sell it? Great. You'll do a lot more grinding than others but that's really what you want.

What did we want? My wife had a dream since she was a teen to own her own flower shop. That was a big deal. However, having time for family was a big deal as well. When the opportunity came to start our own business, we determined that our goal was to start a profitable company where my wife could do what she was passionate about and still have control of her own schedule. We also wanted a good number of weekends off so we could travel out of the country. As well as avoid certain holidays. Bye-bye Valentine's Day. 

That was us. Will that fit everyone? Not at all. And it's incredibly important for you to outline specifically what you want. How much do you want to make each year? How much do you want to work? Do you want employees? 

If you leave it vague, you'll find yourself in W4W sake. You'll start advertising with a magazine because you're trying to "support the local wedding industry." They aren't going to send you a check each month to support you starting up. Yet, if you don't have your goals defined, you'll end up making decisions based on what other people are pressuring you to do. Which leads to our next point.
Emotionally Prepared
If you're starting a company, you WILL be frustrated at times. You've got to be ready for that. You've got to be at a point where you can honestly look at numbers and recognize if you're not hitting your goals. We'll talk about Key Perfomance Indicators (KPIs) later, but you need to decide SPECIFIC goals you are going to hit and be emotionally honest enough to recognize that you didn't hit them. If you give into your temptation, you'll redefine these goals every single week to fit what you did good instead of being honest about what happened. That's not only dangerous for your company, but that's dangerous for you. You NEED times when things are going great and when you can openly recognize it.
There's a phrase I've told my team at Curate before: "Respect the curvy ascent." It's a mountain you're climbing. You WILL have down times. But you've got to realize that overall, you're going in the right direction.
Are your numbers down? Are you low on new clients? Be frustrated. There's a verse in the Bible that says, "Be angry and sin not." In other words, you're a human... you're going to be emotional... just be emotionally mature enough that you recognize the frustration and STILL make the right choices in spite of emotions.
Financial Stability/Flexibility
Our philosophy of starting a business is Start from scratch. No debt. Maximize all your skills. Build KPIs. We had a heavy emphasis on the NO DEBTHere's the thing: what we want driving us is a desire to make our dream happen. We DIDN'T want a fear of debt collectors driving us. The worst thing you can do is be in a valley on your climb to the top and have to claw your way out because of debt you have. 
There's no one-size fits all solution out there. But we know that it is absolutely possible to start a company without debt. Some of the tricks in our blogs show how we did it and we honestly think the wedding and event industry is one of the easiest to start.
When Rachael quit her job as a lead designer at a shop, we did take a hit on our income. She quit her job in May and we only did two weddings that year. We had enough income from my job to generally provide for us but Rachael needed to take on freelance jobs to help make ends meet given our start-up costs. 

If your situation is different, think about how to maximize your skills. Can you work freelance jobs? Can you continue your other job? We have many, many Stemcounter users who work full-time jobs and still do weddings and events on their weekends. We know teachers who had summers off so they used it to their advantage. Whatever your position is, you CAN do it. Don't take no for an answer. It may even require downgrading your lifestyle and giving up on your morning Starbucks. But if you really want it, you can do it. 

Write out a personal budget of what you need coming in and shoot for that goal. With Stemcounter, I knew that I needed 100 users if I wanted to go full time on the software. So I had a full-time job but I also worked night and day (still to get myself to 100 users so I could go full-time. Look at what you need and shoot for that goal!
Design Experience
Rachael had been a florist for 9 years when we started. She worked her way from a teenage grocery store florist to a team member of the largest floral company in our town to the lead designer of a shop in the St. Louis area when we decided to make the jump and start our own shop. Her experience was definitely extensive and provided her the ability to shape and define Twisted Willow's style. 
However, there are many entrepreneur who are realtively new to the industry when they decide to start their own floral shop from scratch. They may have an idea of what they want their style to be but still need to learn the logistics of it. That unique style will only come from experience.
If you don't have that experience, the best way to get it is through freelancing with experienced wedding florists. Search area florists on The Knot, Wedding Wire, or the other 100 sites that advertise vendors for weddings. Professional florists are looking in these same places for freelance floral designers. Make calls to the shop owners and managers to find out who needs help on the weekends. Once you find a florist who will hire you as a freelancer, stick with them. Be sure to let them know your goals up front and that you're looking for experience designing. 

Note: You WILL be washing buckets. You will be sweeping floors. You will be driving a delivery truck and picking up vases at 1am. You will be having to tell friends who have a last minute trip planned that you can't make it... because you've already told your floraboss you can work. And if you are hoping to own you own business someday, you'll be doing with a smile because you know you're growing.

Help with as many jobs as you possibly can, work with them full time for a little while if they will let you. Once you have solid experience, you'll be able to move towards starting your own shop with significantly greater ease.

There are also a ton of great certifications and workshops out there geared towards helping growing entrepreneur.
Business Experience
You're going to be learning the hard knocks of business. If you come from a business background, it may be easier on you. If you don't, you'll have to be willing to learn. If you're going to make the jump, you have to know how to put a budget together. You may not like numbers but you need them. You'll want to know what your cash flow looks like for events coming up. If your passion is just designing flowers but you don't like numbers or business, you need to find a shop where you can work full-time and be an awesome design star. Get ready though to make some KPIs. These are hard, ugly numbers that show how well your company is doing. These will change as you grow, but for us, we had three KPIs starting out: 1. We wanted to book 3 new brides within the past month, 2. We wanted to have had at least one consultation in the past week, and 3. We wanted to have personally met two NEW vendors in the wedding industry.
Are you ready for to make the jump yet? Keep an eye out for our next blog post on choosing a floral focus that will drive you and your business.

When we were first getting started with our St. Louis floral shop, back in the days before Stemcounter was even an idea, we set up an advanced Excel Recipe Spreadsheet that was a good stopgap measure until we needed a professional tool. We know that not every florist is in a place where they need the super powers of Stemcounter so we're sharing an updated version of that Excel Recipe Spreadsheet with you to help you until you're ready for a tool made for professional florists.

Download the Excel Recipe Spreadsheet

Tags: The Business of Flowers, Tips, Small Business Sally, Curate


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