Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in floristry but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gelareh Matheson, owner of Petalino Flower Bar and Events, located in North Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Starting off, my flower shop was just like any other flower shop. We took orders online, sold most of our inventory through walk-ins, got a few weddings here and there, and occasional funeral Flower orders. Soon I realized I needed to do something unique that sets me apart from all the other flower shops. After a deep dive, it was clear there were issues with floral services in both funerals and weddings. That's when we decided to service both those markets in a brand new way.
Funeral companies were frustrated with the quality and the level of service they were receiving from the local flower shops and wiring services. There was no system that would cater to the funeral home exclusively. After interviewing a few funeral companies, we created a program that was designed to service the funeral directors. This was the birth of our Petalino tribute funeral books.
Our book has the best collection of easy custom flowers for every culture, any budget, and it's all color-coded. We designed an online ordering system as well as exclusive delivery. Quality became our priority. We are now working with a number of funeral homes as their exclusive florist.
When it comes to weddings, there are usually two questions on a couple's minds when looking for a florist: -How can we stick to our budget? -What level of artistry do we receive with this budget? Couples usually book wedding services through referrals, which got me thinking we should create a one-stop-shop for wedding services under one umbrella.
"The bridal bar" company was formed in 2021 by partnering with "Samantha Rose Weddings" to offer a one-stop-shop for our couples to book all of their vendors in one place. We developed an online wedding flower calculator to help answer our couple's questions. This gives our clients the approximate price of their wedding flowers.
Once the budget is clear, we work with them to create a full floral presentation, including presentation, mood board, and custom sketching /photoshop. This year, most florists are overwhelmed by the amount of weddings booked post-COVID. More and more couples request theme-based weddings such as beauty and the beast, ocean theme, underwater, forest, etc.
Petalino is becoming known for offering custom-themed weddings as well as helping couples choose the right colors through an appreciation of the color wheel and color theory and harmony.
Tell us about yourself
Why did I become a florist? Here is my story:
As a child, I always wanted to become an "artist" when I grew up. I was taking some piano and oil and canvas painting classes. My love for art as a profession did not go well with my parents, especially my dad, who wanted me to join him in his business and eventually take over. Well, that was the opposite of what I had in mind, but as a young girl back then, I didn't have much choice. I had to do what I was told and go to university and study the business of Insurance!
I received a Bachelor of Arts in Insurance management, and 12 years later, I received my Certificate of Proficiency in Insurance. I worked for many large insurance companies for years. I remember the day I received my "CIP" clearly. I was in the car when I found out I had passed the final course..... as excited as I was, something told me that my duty to my parents was over. Now I was free to pursue what I always wanted to do.
I started taking event planning at BCIT, as well as floral arranging classes at Maureen Sullivan Floral Design School (Best School Ever). When I felt it was time! I sat down and put all my qualities on a piece of paper:
- Natural artistic vision
- Painting: Good knowledge of colors, oil on canvas, acrylic and mixed media, Encaustic
- Flowers & event planning: Certificates from reputable organizations and five years of actual weddings and events work.
- Degree: BA in the Insurance business
- Entrepreneurship: Naturally inherited from my dad
- Photography: Took some classes and a lot of youtube training
- Photoshop and Lightroom: I've been obsessed with them since I was 18 years old
- Customer service: I love people, and I often hear that I'm very friendly and helpful and a natural troubleshooter.
My husband looked at my paper and encouraged me to start my own business. He helped me find a flower shop that was for sale... after only a month, I purchased my first flower shop in Lougheed mall Burnaby, "Amazing Florals," and only after a few years I set up Petalino Flower Bar and Events in North Vancouver.
Recently I've jointly partnered in a 3rd business, "The Bridal Bar," with Samantha Rose Weddings. I've published three books: "Tribute flowers by Petalino" exclusively for the funeral industry.
As my goal is to encourage young people to go after their dream, I've started running workshops teaching floral classes.
All and all, I feel you should follow your dreams, never give up, and just move forward. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true!!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Actually growing through COVID by creating a unique system to service funeral homes and online services. We were even able to do a few outdoor weddings.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
COVID affected the price of flowers drastically as well as import issues make it hard for us to promise certain flowers to our customers. However, customers' budget has not grown since pre-COVID. Florists are settling for less profit margin just to take the job and make up for the lost time. Finding good staff is another challenge; most people would like to work from home.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
If you are sad, stressed, or suffering from anxiety, all because of your job, make a decision and get out. People will tell you to have your business has its own challenges, that's true, but when you succeed, it's all worth it! Make sure you have enough finances to support you for 3 to 4 years, though. I'm lucky to have had my husband beside me as a business owner himself. He gave me lots of guidance and occasional financial help when money was short.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I am happy to call myself a successful business owner who survived and actually thrived during COVID. I want to encourage anyone who'd like to have their own business to think outside the box and do it differently from competitors.
Where can people find you and your business?
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.
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