Happy New Year! I recently had the opportunity to share a little bit (okay, a lot!) about my journey as an entrepreneur and wedding florist in Voyage Baltimore. I’ve included some excerpts from the article below. I hope you enjoy reading!
My First Floral Job: I got my start in the floral design world in my mid-twenties. I was a graduate student at Hollins University, in a rural part of Virginia with few jobs available, and for money I found myself working in the floral department of a Kroger grocery store while completing my MFA in creative writing.
Taking the Leap: I was bench trained, meaning I did not go to floral design school but instead learned from other florists on the job. But social media exposed me to new innovations in floral design and I saw a momentum that’s occurring to push this field into a more eco-friendly profession. Ultimately I realized I had an opportunity to build a career off of a passion for flowers, and with some encouragement from my now-husband, Joe, I launched Violet Floral in 2017, and it became my full-time job in 2018.
Our Vision: Weddings are our primary focus at Violet Floral, and in our designs, we pursue a synergy between the style and personality of our couples and the particular moment in time in which their wedding is taking place, via seasonal flowers. I think of it as ambitious designs, grounded in the season. Seasonal flowers seem to be that magic element that elevates a design to that organic, breathing, alive place. So, for me as a designer, the season drives everything, and I’m constantly thinking about how to connect my clients’ wedding flowers with the local growing season in Baltimore in a way that elevates their designs into something that’s really special, and singular to their day.
Sustainability: Violet Floral is committed to becoming a leader in our local floral industry in the best practices for sustainable floral design. Our studio has a moratorium on floral foam, which is carcinogenic, doesn’t biodegrade or compost, and is totally unregulated in the US despite being a toxic substance comparable to home insulation in its chemical makeup. We are one of very few florists in our area who have eliminated floral foam, yet I believe that the future of floral design is foam-free, so I really hope to see more and more florists removing foam from their studios. But sustainable floral design also means reusing and repurposing, donating or responsibly disposing of flowers and natural materials, and avoiding single-use plastics, chemicals, paints, dyes, and aerosols whenever possible. And of course, purchasing from local flower growers whenever possible is a cornerstone of our pursuit of sustainability.
Inclusivity: We’re also committed to serving Baltimore area weddings in an inclusive way. Inclusive customer service, marketing, and imagery is extremely important to truly serving our community–not every wedding has a “bride and groom,” for example, so those terms are not an appropriate “catch-all” to use as a wedding vendor. As a white person, I have to take responsibility, in my own business and also how I engage with the wider wedding industry, for putting in the work of subverting the way whiteness and heteronormativity permeate the imagery and marketing that’s featured in vendor and product advertising and wedding planning materials. So, I hope that anyone who is in love and getting married can come work with us and feel celebrated, represented, and respected.
The Covid-19 Pandemic: At the start of the pandemic I operated out of a home studio like many event florists in our area, so I was fortunate not to have much overhead to cover throughout the pandemic compared to other small businesses who had rent to pay. Still this time was financially very scary for me and my husband; ultimately, we had to give up our apartment and stay with family members for several months until we both had an income again. This moving around meant that I found myself operating my business out of spaces which were increasingly less conducive to floral design. So, in early 2021 I moved into my first studio space in SoHa Studios on Harford Road. That leap of faith ended up being crucial for giving my business room to grow and prepare for the new demands of the event industry. Every day on my way to my studio in Northeast Baltimore, I drive past that old apartment where I used to run my business before the pandemic. As much as I miss our newlywed life in the “before times” and the simplicity of running a smaller business, I can’t deny that the challenge and struggle of the pandemic ultimately pushed me and my business to grow in a way I wouldn’t have imagined before.
Advice for Creative Entrepreneurs and Aspiring Florists: When I started out, I did not charge enough for my designs, and this got me started on the wrong foot financially and slowed down the growth of my business at first. Another florist firmly told me that I instead needed to “start the way I mean to go on,” and as I became more educated on the industry standards in floral design and the true costs of operating a floral business, I learned that I needed to start charging more if I intended to keep going. So, I would encourage any creative entrepreneur to research their markets and charge what is needed to sustain their art and their livelihood–the clients that you want to work with will respect this. Additionally, be willing to learn from others in your industry who are ahead of you–in our local floral industry, there is a growing number of florists who care about mentoring, collaborating, and lifting each other up, so there’s no need to be a loner or think of these other businesses only as your competition – this spirit of community and generosity elevates our industry and makes it stronger.
Link to full article: https://voyagebaltimore.com/interview/daily-inspiration-meet-mallory-wilson/