Q&A :: The Importance of Continuing Education

Last week for the Q&A Session we discussed if a living wage is possible with a flower business and how a designer can afford to take a workshop. Madeleine Elmer replied with a great bit of advice, enough advice that I think her reply warrants its own blog post! Thank you, Madeleine for your lovely and helpful reply!

I understand your concern about making a living wage with your flower business. It is always a concern these days, especially with so many other flower supply outlets for clients who want you to “match Costco or the grocery store flower costs”. I heard the term “labor of love” and therein lies the challenge. Because the work can be very difficult and physically taxing, if you are only doing it as a “labor of love”, you will burn out, as we learned in an aphorism at the Chapel Designers Conference which was that “Burn out is a result of resentment. “ When people take advantage of our good nature and don’t remunerate us properly, we will become resentful which was a universal theme at the conference. That is why it is all the more important to invest in your design education and developing a sharp business acumen so you can distinguish yourself and your brand, become more profitable and command the prices that will sustain your business. You need to keep getting better in order to stand out in the pack. We can’t do it alone!

I began my business in 2010 and have invested some of my earnings each year in conferences and workshops, which are tax deductible, as you know. Each year, my business has either doubled or grown by more than 50% and this spring I have more events in my pipeline than ever.

The conferences, beginning with Hitomi Gilliam and Jim Johnson at the Benz School of Floral Design in Texas, Christian Tortu at Flower School New York and most recently with The Chapel Designers at Florabundance Design Days have all helped me step up my game, learn new skills and find new resources. 2014 Florabundance Design Days presenters not only focused on floral design which is fabulous, as you have seen from the pictures, but also had an entire day of business presentations. From the pros in each area, ( including the author of this blog, dear Alicia ) we learned about branding, website design, social media, SEO (search engine optimization) , pricing and contracts, how to get and use great photography and styled shoots, and about shipping in flowers from a wholesale service (Florabundance) to get product that you may not have access to in your market.

(Which, again, will distinguish you from the pack.)

In between designing the fabulous florals and tablescapes, the 53 designers and our lead designers, photographers, web designers and bloggers were constantly talking to each other and sharing ideas, problems and solutions as we ate lunch, sat in the hotel lobby talking about business late into the night , rode the bus to the vineyard venue, etc. And the learning and support has continued ever since we left California a few days ago. It was by far, the most valuable floral design conference I have experience thus far. It has already benefitted me from the exposure on social media, the affiliation with the group and problem solving on upcoming jobs.

Some creative ways to save money to attend conferences are:
1. Look into your state floral association scholarship offerings. Texas State Floral Association offers them for deserving floral designers and can help offset or eliminate costs.

2. Find a friend who lives in a city where a conference is being held and stay with them to save on hotel expense. It saved me a bundle in California…

3. Share a room with another attendee.

4. Crowd source funding. Why not?! People are doing it for all kinds of things online. Why not continuing education? It will only make you a better event resource for the people in your community…

5. Make a good, well photographed photo shoot of the conference and set up some speaking engagements at local women’s’ clubs for a fee afterwards. Call it a Trend Talk and establish yourself as an expert! It may well generate some floral jobs as well as it has for me. You could even offer a workshop and lead the group in designing something you learned at the conference. I am doing that in April at a women’s club in Houston.

6. Offer yourself as a part time subcontract designer at another event planner or florist in your town to help offset costs. You will learn a lot from working with other designers! Plus they may be willing to loan you containers and props as you prove your value to them.

7. Attend every floral design presentation you can find (Garden Clubs of America have outstanding speakers in all the major cities and they are often free a service to the public held at museums).

A leap of faith and investing in your business will pay off in spades. Best of luck to you and hope to see you at a conference one day!

Madeleine Elmer
Fleur de Vie
Houston, Texas

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  1. Very nice post, and very helpful on ways of dealing with the challenges of entrepreneurship in the floral business. I love how Madeleine addressed the ‘labor of love’ appoach, and encouraged continuing ed. and developing sharp business skills. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful advice! I am attending Benz School in May and I look forward to the new skills I will learn! This is a new career for me, and I hope that it will provide enough income to help support my family- I thank you for tips!


  3. Madeleine brings up some very good points. May I also suggest attending a class by René van Rems AIFD in California? Not only does René teach you about correct design techniques, he teaches about the business of design. Most of his classes are geared towards the florist who owns a business and wants to make money, a living with flowers.