Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in floristry, but not sure what to expect? Then check out our interview with the florist, Alison Howe, owner of Mad Lilies, in lovely Banstead, Surrey, United Kingdom.
Tell us about yourself and your journey to where you are today...
It feels like Mad Lilies and I have been intertwined forever, but in reality, this fabulous business came into my life in 2013.
Flowers are a big part of my heritage – my late mum and grandmother owned a floristry business in Belfast together when I was growing up – but until I was in my mid-forties, I chose to follow a different path, one based around sales and marketing for pharmaceuticals. I’d love to say that my change of career was sparked by a chance discovery of my passion for petals, but the truth is much more somber. In 2011, my mum died. At her funeral back home in Northern Ireland, I reminisced with dear friends and family, remembering my mother’s green fingers, her creativity, and the twinkle that ran right to her core. I started to wonder whether I too had the floristry gene, and when I returned to England, this seed of an idea sprouted into something that just wouldn’t leave me alone! I decided to enroll in a floristry course with Jane Packer, and five minutes in, I knew that my life had changed forever! It was like a lightbulb had been switched on inside my head – I had to forge a career in flowers.
Finding The One
After much research and discussion (and gin), I made the decision that changing careers at 44 years of age would not be easy and I would be better finding an established business to buy, which I could then take in the direction I wanted, rather than trying to build something from the ground up. Months of searching followed, but there was always something not quite right about the businesses I viewed. The premises were in the wrong place, or at the wrong price, or, most common of all, they just didn’t feel right.
And then I got a call. A business called Mad Lilies had come up for sale in Banstead. Well, I had no idea where that was but I knew I had to see it, my grandmother’s name was Lily, it had to be a sign… and from the first moment I walked through the door, I knew it was ‘the one! It sounds cliché to say ‘and the rest is history, but that’s truly how it feels.
Mad Lilies worked its way under my skin and into my heart, and with the gracious support of the previous owner, Lee, I learned the ropes over a seriously intense four-month handover and took the keys in February 2013. The last six years have been the busiest but happiest of my life. It’s been a crazy ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What motivates you each day?
I'm lucky enough to work in an industry that I absolutely love and adore, with the most amazingly creative people. Don't get me wrong it's hard physical work and long hours but we're working with stunning flowers on a daily basis and getting to bring people's floral visions to life. The feedback we get from our customers makes all the long hours worth it! As long as we're doing a great job and the customers are loving what we are doing, I'm loving my job.
What makes your flower business stand out?
Mad Lilies is a bustling and color-filled flower shop brimming over with all things botanical and beautiful. From seasonal British blooms carefully designed into glorious hand-tied bouquets to Peonies from France and Ranunculus from Italy to classic orchid planters and the much loved modern succulents and houseplants, our jewel of a flower shop treads the perfect balance between good old-fashioned values of great customer service with high-quality products and stylish, en trend designs. We specialize in wedding flowers for flower lovers. Working with couples that really want and really care about lush and elegant floral decoration. We will pour our signature style, skill, creativity, and passion into each and every piece of work that we create, giving each couple a truly bespoke and utterly beautiful collection of floral designs for their very special day.
What's been your biggest accomplishment to date as a business owner?
Surviving COVID!!!!! It's been a huge challenge to navigate a small independent business through COVID but we've done it with sheer guts and determination where failure was not an option. We are stronger and more robust than ever, which is a huge testament to the whole team and the unwavering support of our customers.
Where can people find you online?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check us out and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.