We talk to past PSF student Elaine Chew from the chic Sydney Inner West Florists Twig and Vine about her leap of faith to ditch the 9 - 5 and chase her dreams to be a Florist. And how a chance meeting lead to a fabulous business partnership.
"I have so much to be thankful to PSF for and hope my story can help others take the leap too." Elaine
Tell us a little bit about your flower journey so far , why did you want to be a florist and how Twig and Vine was born?
After many years in a corporate job I hated, I really needed a career change! I had always wanted to do something creative and hands-on, so floristry seemed like a good fit. I did a few short courses at Pearsons before committing to the Certificate III course. I loved it from the very first class and have never looked back!
I got my first floristry job while completing my Certificate III and the experience I gained was invaluable. Next, I started my wedding business, Butterfly Philosophy, which I ran for 6 years. I really loved wedding work but with two young kids and no family in Sydney to help, I really struggled to balance all the weekend work with family life.
By luck I met another florist Linda, who had sold her retail shops and was also looking for a change and a new business. We clicked right away and decided to start Twig & Vine together, initially focusing on corporate and event work. We've now been going now for 6 years and I feel grateful every day for the path I have ended up on!
Why did you want to run your own flower business?
I didn't start out wanting to run my own business, but it grew organically as friends, and then friends of friends started asking me to do their wedding flowers. Running a small business is so multifaceted and there are so many interesting things to learn. Besides the hands-on flower aspect, I have loved the challenge of things like setting up my first website, learning how to read a profit and loss statement and fumbling my way through making a reel on Instagram! Being a small business owner constantly stretches you - there is always something new to learn!
Why did you choose Pearsons School of Floristry for your studies?
I wanted to leave my corporate job and needed a course that I could complete quickly. PSF was much faster than the TAFE alternative so it was an easy decision for me. Being able to complete my course and be job ready in under a year was exactly what I was after.
What do you think was the biggest benefit or helped you the most, from your floristry course at PSF, going into the industry?
The biggest benefit from doing the PSF course was that it gave me the confidence to go out and look for work in the floristry world. Having come from a non-creative, corporate background, I was really nervous and overwhelmed at the thought of finding work in a completely new industry. The course equipped me with floristry skills which in turn gave me the confidence to approach florists for jobs.
What has surprised you the most about running your own floristry business?
I think I have been surprised by how much there is to do beyond the everyday work of arranging flowers. There are so many aspects to running a floristry business - there are days when I could easily go the whole day without touching a flower! People think a florists' job is about making bouquets and setting up events, but there is so much else that goes on behind the scenes. Quoting, invoicing, marketing, social media, planning, meeting clients, the list goes on and on. And cleaning! Oh don't get me started on the cleaning!!
Tell us a bit about how you transitioned into online/personal orders and have you enjoyed this part of the industry?
Twig and Vine was operating primarily as a Corporate and Events florist. However when COVID hit we sadly lost 90% of our work overnight! It was a really scary time for us. Prior to COVID we had an online store but never got more than a handful of orders coming through each week. As we went into lockdown though, our online store started to get more and more traffic. Unable to be with friends and family, people were sending flowers as a way to express their love and celebrate milestones. I‘ll never forget one lady ringing me to tell me that she was so glad she found us on Facebook and was able to send flowers to her grandma in a nursing home. She was in tears as she told me how grateful she was that she could at least be there in part through the flowers that she sent. I have never felt prouder to be a florist as I did during those lockdown months.
What aspect of running your own business do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy that no two days are ever the same when you have your own business. Some days you'll be amongst the flowers, some days you'll be at your desk working on marketing activities. And of course the ever-changing nature of flowers means that there's always a new bloom coming into season. After so many years it’s still so exciting when the first dahlias (my favorite!) hit the market or a grower has a new flower variety.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a florist?
Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask for work experience, be willing to get your hands dirty and start from the ground up. As a junior, you may feel like you are doing menial work at first, but there is so much you can learn from running deliveries, processing stock, even sweeping! Every task is a necessary part of running a successful floristry business and the experience will never be wasted.