Welcome to Changing the Game, a Modern Rebel blog series where we talk with professionals in the wedding industry who are using their platform to diversify the industry’s image, give back to their community, and challenge the idea of what a wedding “should” be.
What brought you into the wedding industry?
I came into flowers on the retail side and was adamantly against working in the wedding industry because of the negative "Bridezilla" garbage the media throws at us. However, once I had one of my retail customers ask me to do their intimate same sex wedding at a local restaurant in my neighborhood, I couldn't resist. It was a Jane Eyre themed weddings with wildflowers, tiny bud vases and styled books on the tables in all pastels. I found my place in the wedding industry! l found that I could curate my own customers through the energy I put out through my shop.
What is the most rewarding element of your work?
Being a florist is about helping people express their emotions. Whether that means through wedding flowers, a delivery order, a walk in customer or teaching someone a new skill at a workshop, all of these things help bring positivity to the world. That’ my lot in life, I've accepted it! I need to help people express themselves with flowers.
What challenges do you face in the industry?
I’m going to go ahead and say it, INSTAGRAM. I myself am NOT impervious to the ugly word of comparison. One of my biggest lessons came a few months ago when I learned that taking a pretty photo of flowers and being a good writer goes a long way on Instagram. Having the perfect Insta doesn’t mean you have a perfect business, nobody actually has that. We are in a time when there are so many exceptional designers with beautiful Instagrams that our market is saturated! Which is great! More flowers, more happy people! But, keeping a healthy relationship with Instagram world is key. Trying to “stand out” is becoming incredibly difficult. You can’t win by just having the best flowers. You need great customer service, fluid pricing and a good client flow. That’s where the motivation from the community there is good, to keep us striving to be the best. Instagram isn’t everything but it is important. Keep it balanced and remember that it’s a controlled image so you can’t see the whole picture of what’s happening!
What changes to you want to see in the wedding industry?
EXPECTATION. I see a lot of couples coming to Stems completely bombarded with "the wedding process". It starts out with you wanting to spend your life with this really super rad person, yay! Then it's like, "Okay, let's get married. I guess we need outfits... and a place to do it, that can hold like 100 people? I don't know, are you inviting your side of the family? Oh wait, maybe we need more like 200 people. Catering? Music? Booze? Bachelorette parties? FLOWERS?" Quickly, oh so quickly, the couple is then putting together an EVENT. Then at said event, everyone is expected to put on a good face, the couple is expected to have the best day of their lives and nothing can go "wrong". I’m already so stressed out thinking about it! It's a lot of pressure. I wish and hope that more people take a step back and celebrate their weddings on their own terms, to feel completely and utterly surrounded by love.
What do you feel you bring to the industry that wasn't there when you started?
Accessible design work for the everyday person. I always have wanted my flowers to be available to a regular person. I typically do small to medium size weddings and have refined my systems, sources and team in such a way that Stems can provide wedding design without a minimum budget. That doesn't mean that our flowers are free but it does mean that you can get a few really beautiful pieces made without having to spend a minimum amount which in Brooklyn is typically 5K-10K to start. I understand why this is a minimum but I built a business model that allows for us to take on jobs at all levels!
Who inspires you in the industry?
Oh the list could go for days!! My first floral crush was/is Saipua. Her work is the opposite of Stems in every way but seeing a true “floral artist” when I was starting out really inspired me to create interesting shapes, source locally, try new textures and think about feeling in my flowers. Aurora Botanica is also a huge inspiration! She has a way of creating spaces and putting her flowers into a room with such a natural touch. You'd see her flowers and go, did those flowers just fall into the magical garden on their own? Also, she designs delicious dresses that make me swoon. I have two in my closet now.
How are you using your platform to give back or impact a larger community?
We believe in community outreach at Stems. We give back every single month, and sometimes more - sometimes is money, gift cards, workshop tickets or flowers. And here’s why…
I get frustrated, like a lot of us, looking at our time in America and feeling like we can't make change. I am not the opinionated person who is going to throw lefty jargon in your face or slew facts about this or that to help promote the good fight. What I know I CAN do that feels right in my own life is give back to my immediate community. I believe we all have tools in our own lives that we can use to give back. We can give back with our time, money or voice. I choose to give to my fellow humans through flowers, thats the tool that I have and I can choose what charities and non profits I want to support for matters that mean something to me. I encourage everyone to find what it is that they feel connected with to give back, walking dogs at a shelter, driving meals on wheels, picking up trash, participating in a protest, writing our senators, cooking for a sick friends, whatever it is. Let's try to be the best humans we can!
What do you think is still missing from the industry?
MORE CAREER JOBS!!! There are so many florist (especially in Brooklyn!) but very few companies to employ those florists, especially in the wedding industry. You basically have to start your own company or design studio to have a career in the industry. Many floral businesses, including my own, hire freelance designers to help complete event jobs, given the seasonality of our work. It’s hard to keep employees year around if there isn’t work year around, however, I see wedding trends changing, people are getting married all year around. So, I am doing my best to grow a business to support careers in a field. My desire as a floral business owner is to create jobs that offer a living wage, benefits, retirement, paid time off, etc... I've very proud to say that we started offering 401K benefits at Stems this year in addition to health care and paid time off. I put a lot of weight on having a happy team that is taken care of! That’s how I know how to build a company and what I hope for the industry.
Who is your role model, mentor, or hero?
Dolly Parton comes to mind. She just donated her 100 millionth book to a kid. She started Imagination Library to encourage young people to start reading early, anybody can sign up to get a free book regardless of income, location or background! Can you imagine what 100 million books look like? I hope all 100 million kids are enjoying their books right now. She’s so dope for staying grounded, giving back and sharing her roots while also being a business woman! Dollywood? Acting, singing, she’s a true performer and business lady.
If you could have dinner with a famous female-identified badass, who would it be and why?
Sadie + Bessie Delany (both “firsts” in their prospective fields as women of color) I read their book called “Having our Say” when I was in high school and it imprinted on me early. They grew up with so much bullshit fighting against them and achieved so much in a system that wasn’t designed for them to succeed. I’d ask them who inspired them to believe in themselves so much? What support did they gain in their communities? What made them choose to think outside the box? I'd want to ask them why they said yes when the world told them no.