I initially wrote this post for Team Flower, an educational resource for floral designers around the world. It's obviously written from my perspective as a floral designer, but my belief in the power of a strong referral network is something that transcends industries. No matter what area of the wedding industry you reside in, you shouldn't be alone - no one is an island! It's time to find yourself some colleagues whose businesses and mindsets align with yours, so you can experience what I have.
Before we dive in, I wanted to share a few thoughts from Kelly at Team Flower:
"When Lauren reached out with her proposal for this post, I knew it would be good. Lauren was the first person ever to register for a Team Flower Workshop. I could tell when I met her that she would be a leader in Canada, bringing life and renewal to the flower industry in a way that was yet to be seen. She is! So, when Lauren wrote to tell me she wants to encourage fellow florists to be kind and genuine with the florists in their local markets my heart naturally filled up and popped all over the kitchen table.
See, kindness is something you remember. It’s a beautiful circular process that is just good for the world. You are kind, it values another human life, then a natural by-product is being unforgettable! This “unforgettable” quality about you is good for business, bringing more opportunities to be kind and the cycle continues. Having a kind relationship with the florists in your market is powerful, and I’ll let Lauren tell you why…"
As floral designers, we are blessed to see much beauty around us, every day. Yet, for days filled with pretty things, our industry can be downright nasty sometimes, can’t it? There seems to be a constant battle between retail florists and studio designers, a tug-of-war between long-established shops and young companies. I’ve been lucky to experience only a little bit of this negativity since launching Stone House Creative 4 years ago. However in that time, I’ve also experienced an incredible amount of positivity, support, and encouragement. All this is not just from wedding vendor friends, but a group of wonderful floral designers and business owners who I lovingly refer to as my “Flower Friends." These women are my COMPETITION, but who have created a real COMMUNITY that I’m honored to be a part of.
The week I started my business, I received a text from a gal who owns a similarly structured business — home studio, florals specifically for weddings, and who had been in business for 5 or 6 years already. I hadn’t known her well at all previous to this text, so what did she want? To ask if it was okay for her to refer brides to me when she was already booked up. UMMM yes. It didn't take me long to know that I was lucky to have had this message from her, as the referrals starting pouring in. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for this simple message and the brides that she started sending my way. These referrals allowed my business to grow exponentially in my first year of business. I had a goal of booking two weddings that year, and I ended up with 30!
These referrals weren't only beneficial to me. The brides who came to me were so incredibly appreciative that she helped to connect them with another designer with a similar aesthetic. Many of them were excited to hear that I was a small, woman-owned business as well! She continues to refer brides to me, and over the last four years, we’ve developed a group of Flower Friends who all refer to each other when we’re booked up.
Our group of Flower Friends likes to get together as we can. Each summer, we visit the flower farm that one of us owns, and spend the day cutting flowers in the sun and chatting. A few winters ago (when these photos were taken), I had the idea to try something a little different — a design day with surprise flowers. We decided on a loose color palette, then sent that along with a total budget to our wholesaler (who chipped in some extra flowers that he wanted to test!). That day we had the opportunity to get creative together, enjoying each other’s company while doing something relaxing for each of us — design! We talked shop, talked about exciting projects we had coming up, got in each other’s way and just had a lot of fun.
In my Flower Friends group, we have two studio designers, one flower farmer with an at-home shop, and one retail shop owner. We rent containers to each other, we all buy flowers from the flower farmer and share sources for unique items. We hear each other’s complaints, share tips, and get together for lunch every few months. Sometimes we quote on the same weddings, but in the end, the fact that we’re all technically competition doesn’t matter to any of us because of the community that we’ve developed. The support that we’ve been able to give each other has caused each of our businesses to grow and has given us a network of comfort that we know we can rely on in a pinch.
So, here’s your challenge: consider what community over competition would look like in your local industry. Get together for coffee with a couple of your local peers, and just have fun together!