Florist A focus on the wedding market offers plenty of opportunities to showcase your best work.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Startup Costs: $10,000 to $50,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

Business Overview
What: Provide the wedding party with all its floral needs, including consultation, design, delivery, setup and breakdown of floral bouquets and arrangements at the event.
Advantages: Start part-time while learning floral design and gradually build your operation and portfolio.
Challenges: Meeting the needs of the client, securing agreements with suppliers, juggling multiple events and adapting to ever-changing weather conditions.

The Market
Clients seeking a wide range of floral needs, from simple boutonnieres, bouquets and centerpieces to a full-on bower of flowers at their wedding ceremony site and towering displays at the reception site.

What You'll Need to Get Started
A business license, a supplier or access to a flower market, flower-arranging supplies and refrigeration. Business cards, website, calendar, phone, transportation and a list of resources and contacts are also necessary.
To get attention:

  • Attract business through ads in your local Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of your local paper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Maintain a wedding blog and participate in popular wedding blog forums, such as Wedding Bee, Style Me Pretty and The Knot.
  • Establish a relationship with local wedding-oriented vendors--bridal shops, photographers, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and musicians.
  • Leave brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.

Q&A With Florist Mindy Rice spoke with bridal florist Mindy Rice about how she started and grew her successful business, Mindy Rice Floral Design.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in wedding floral design? Definitely get your finger wet. Having a background in horticulture is helpful, yet not necessary. Since floral is more of an art form, a creative background is mandatory. Floral and event design closely follow the fashion industry, along with the world's current affairs. As the times change, you will always see the trends trickle down to the events industry.

An example right now would be the "green" movement. Even though we are recognized for our organic feeling in design, I find that most of our new clients are interested in this look and open to finding creative ways to incorporate it into the rest of their event.

Do you think now is a good time to start up a wedding flowers business? Do you think the market is oversaturated yet? Regarding oversaturation, with the heavy encouragement to be a stay-at-home mother or father, I have noticed people are looking for ways to "control" their work weeks. Jobs such as floral design may seem to be a nice way to supplement a family income. What I have noticed is that they quickly realize that the hours are taxing; there is no such thing as 9-to-5. Do I believe that there is oversaturation? Yes. Yet it's quickly thinned as soon as it begins.

What services can florists offer in this do-it-yourself world to remain cutting-edge and in business? Through the recent explosions of blogs, the do-it-yourselfers really have such valuable resources at their fingertips. There have always been the do-it-yourselfers out there--I was one! They have to understand that planning a wedding for yourself is a completely different task than creating one--or more--weekly for clients with discerning tastes. What we offer is complete design; supplying clients with product selection that's original along with the comfort of actually enjoying their wedding day. This "luxury" is often overlooked during early wedding planning (then quickly realized the month before).

What kind of person does it take to do what you do? Expressive, imaginative and tenacious! You will need to have a grasp on running a business and, most important, a personality that can inspire clients. Each client is individual--be ready to wipe the slate clean after each meeting (my favorite part)!

How much capital did it take for you to start your business? There are three areas that I prioritized: location and rent (studio or retail); advertisement; and inventory. Unlike a retail clothing boutique, floral is perishable. We buy what we need and then create what the client wants that week. Therefore we don't have the expensive inventory sitting around for weeks. As your business grows you can add to inventory--yet it's not necessary in the beginning. Savings that will carry you through for at least a year is very wise! It takes time to get your name out there and collect a client base.

What were your fees at first, and what are they now? I didn't have a minimum when I started--you can't! You use the first three (plus or minus) years to collect photos and establish your networking base. I then went to $5,000 minimum, then $8,000, etc. The majority of my clients now are through recommendations. I have now achieved a level that I'm happy with. The clients we're attracting know that the quality, design and service that we supply is of a certain value to them.

What are your closing words of advice to would-be wedding industry floral designers? Give it a try! If you've dabbled in floral and enjoy the feeling of delivering a product that is praised, then dive into it. Be prepared to work! I always hear people say "Oh, I have always wanted to do floral and event design"--yet after three weeks of working in the industry, they realize that it's not what they had expected. It really has to be your passion.

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