Q&A Part 1

One day it randomly hit me that I didn't want to have my blog just be a showcase of my work. Weird, right? I have sort of always struggled with updating my blog and sharing full weddings and projects in detail. I guess its because I'm really not a blogger! What I want this blog to look like is a resource to people...other florists, beginners, curious minds, people lost on the internet, that sort of thing. So I thought why don't I just put it out there and see if people have any questions for me that I can answer. This was one days worth of questions, which will be the first installment in what I hope to be an ongoing series. As long as people have questions for me, I'm always here to answer. I'm forever flattered that anyone wants to know anything I have to say. So here we go!


Q: How did you get started? 

A: Prior to being a floral designer, I went to cosmetology school. I was never a great student and always knew that college wasn't for me. I attended a Paul Mitchell school in Sacramento and went on to work at several salons after graduation. I didn't enroll in cosmetology school because of a lifelong dream to do hair, but rather as a move to try to do something viable with my creativity. I remember working at a salon and always picking up Brides Magazine and fawning over the flowers. I was truly enamored with the flowers I would see and would look forward to each new issue arriving at the salon. Long story short, a hairstylist should spend their free time looking at hair styles and scrolling through Pinterest looking at hair trends. But me? I was doing that for floral design. I knew it was a passion I had to pursue. I had followed Ashley of Tinge Floral for a long time and decided to reach out to her and ask for her advice on how to enter into the floral industry. I am forever grateful for the time she took to offer me advice and guidance, her kindness only made me want to be a florist that much more. Under her guidance I landed a job at a local flower shop in Sacramento and made some pretty awful floral arrangements (no thanks to TeleFlora) and made deliveries all over Sacramento in a van. The next step for me was to work for another freelance floral designer here in town called Flourish. From there I went on to start Thistle and Honey and I guess you could say the rest is history.

Q: Tips for new entrepreneurs?

A: Fake it 'til you make it. It might seem simple, or even odd, but it's some of the best advice I've ever received. In the beginning NO ONE know what they are doing. You think Steve Jobs new what he was doing when he first started Apple? Probably not. So don't be too hard on yourself (another important tip). However, there will be a lot of instances in which you have to fake it and put on a brave face. Your first meeting with an actual client? A presentation to a potential investor? Your first website? Now I don't mean be fake. I mean sometimes you have to just take a leap of faith and have some confidence in yourself. Fake it 'til you make, to me, means take those first uncomfortable steps towards entrepreneurship until you are comfortable. 

Q: How do you value what you do and charge accordingly?

A: I value what I do because it is work from my heart. It is art and expression in it's truest form which also happens to provide a service which can thankfully be charged for and help me earn a living. This is another blogpost in it's own right, but florists do so much work behind the scenes that most clients never see. The 2am wakeup calls and drives to SF Flower Mart, the scrubbing of nasty stinky buckets, the hours of floral processing, the never ending emails, marketing a business on social media, all while trying to be a decent human being and not eat in-n-out for every meal (goals). So if someone doesn't see the value in what I do - that's okay. Those aren't my people. I see the value in myself, I know the hours I spend at the flower market finding the perfect shade of blush, I know the lengths I've driven to find strange and unique foliages for a design, and the hours upon hours I have spent honing my skill set. I charge what I need to charge to make a viable profit for myself, and what my local market demands. If you are lost on pricing, I suggest reaching out to a few local florists and be transparent about why you want to know their pricing. Do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, do this to undercut them. I want my clients to hire me because they like my work, not because I'm a bit less than someone else. A rising tide lifts all boats - charge what your local market demands (or maybe a little bit more ;) )...it will benefit your entire community.

Q: How to write proposals and be clear about expectations?

A: I use FreshBooks to write my proposals. It's simple to use and edit, and allows me to have a clean, professional estimate/proposal to send to my clients. Everything is itemized by price and quantity with a brief description of the item, which will usually correlate with a mood board that I send along with the proposal. This ensures that we are on the same page design wise. I never guarantee any specific flower or particular shade of whatever color. Clients are hiring me for a look and feel, and I do my very best to get them their favorite flowers, but I am clear that can't always be the case. Under promise and over deliver! 

Q: Tips for small businesses starting on social media? I.E. What types of posts do you find most valuable to your audience, and do your posts link to your website most of the time?

A: I am going to tailor this question specifically to Instagram since that's where this came from. My first tip would be, don't mix your business and personal account. It's okay to share personal details maybe 25% of the time but the other 75% should be your work or work related. I do think it's good for your audience to know you and who you are, but they don't need to see your kids (SORRY) or pets or food or whatever - and they especially don't need to hear you complain. I would strongly suggest taking good, clear photos in natural light. Don't use filters on your photos. Post consistently, at least every other day or so. People want to know what you are doing and want to see that you are busy and creating things. I only link posts to my website for specific things like...this blog post! Social media is a topic that I could easily write a blog post about too, if you are interested.

Q: How long did it take you to get comfortable with your own design sense?

A: I can't say that I have a definite period of time to answer this question with, but I can say it took me a while. The first thing I started doing years ago was buying flowers at the grocery store and just practicing arranging. I would say it probably took me a good solid year of just working on my own designing, rather than designing under someone else. I would also say that my design sense is ever changing. I look back on work from years ago and sometimes cringe, it's hard to say what trends and things will continue to change over the years. It is important to work hard to develop a design sense that is your own.

Q: What are your favorite flower arranging resources? Other florists? Instagram? Books? Magazines?

A: As archaic as it may sound, Pinterest is a big one for me. I get inspired by everything from other floral designers to wallpaper to color swatches. Instagram without a doubt is a great resource...the most valuable is probably other florists though. Having a few florist friends that you can trouble shoot things like mechanics and pricing with is truly invaluable. 

Q: What are your most difficult flowers to work with (fragile, don't last long, hard to get)?

A: I like this question! I would say the most difficult flowers to work with are ones that either aren't fresh, or aren't fully open. For example, I like to use roses when they are nice and open and luscious. I find them very hard to work with when they are closed and stiff. Or just really any variety of flower that isn't as fresh as it should be. Hello anxiety. Poppies are a tough one because  of their outer pod, and hellebores can be finicky...dahlias when it's hot...

Q: Do you like when your clients have a clear sense of what they want or do you like when they leave it to you?

A: I would definitely say there are pros and cons to both. I think sometimes client's have an unrealistic expectation and especially when that doesn't match their budget, that is hard. I like clients who trust me and are flexible. Ultimately I want my clients to be happy and whether they have a clear design sense or need some guidance, I just want the to like their flowers!

Q: How do you work with clients whose budget is lower than your pricing?

A: OOMPH. Tough one. It's never fun for me to have to tell a client that their budget doesn't cover their needs. I usually like to give them a quote anyway, since everything it itemized, they can decide on what they really feel like they need. There are the things that are most of the time a given - the bouquets, personal flowers, and centerpieces, and sometimes this means cutting down on more "wish list" items such as installations, flowers for the bar...things like that. I think it's important that the client is able to make the decisions and I try to stress to them that I will work with them as much as I am able to. I am always firm with my pricing, it just means the client will probably get less quantity than that they hoped for. The quality of the design and flowers does not suffer. 

Q: How did you choose your business name?

A: I have always wished I had a cool story for this one! Truthfully, I don't. When the time came and I was ready to start my own gig, having my own name was a must. I knew I didn't want anything that was an actual flower in the name...like Petals and Roses or Daisies and Daphne, I was drawn to something more botanical. I didn't want to use my own name, so that was quickly out the door. I originally was going to call my business Thistle Floral, but it sort of sounds like a mouthful of marbles when you try to say it out loud!  So Thistle and Honey sort of just became what stuck.

Q: How do you see your business evolving in the future?

A: I would really, really love to travel more for weddings in the future. That's a tall order since there are SO many fantastic florists all over the world. I want my weddings to take me to new places...I love to drive so I would love to do weddings all over greater Northern and Central California as well as Oregon and Washington. Arizona would be amazing...the list goes on. I don't like flying on planes so much but for the right gig I guess I could suck it up!

Thank you to everyone who had a question for me! Feel free to leave questions in the comments or be on the lookout for my next Instagram post asking for questions. Also, feel free to make topic suggestions in the comments or you can always email me.

Shannon MahoneyComment