w&h New Di­rec­tions: Our gor­geous prod­ucts make busi­ness a plea­sure

Three read­ers tell Fiona Wright why their pas­sion for beau­ti­ful gifts made their busi­nesses so suc­cess­ful

Woman & Home - - Editor's Letter -

suc­cess sto­ries

anna day, 35, and eL­Lie Jauncey, 34, are founders of The flower ap­pre­ci­a­tion so­ci­ety, a floristry busi­ness. They both live in Lon­don. anna says:


We were both be­tween jobs: I was about to train as a mid­wife and El­lie had been made re­dun­dant from her job as a tex­tile buyer. Both of us were work­ing to earn some money at our lo­cal pub. We be­came friends and bonded over our love of flow­ers, chatting over how we hated for­mal ar­range­ments and cel­lo­phane, and how flow­ers should be wild and loose to show off their nat­u­ral beauty.

I had a back­ground in il­lus­tra­tion and had done a floristry course for fun. El­lie’s mum was a florist and she’d helped her out, so we both had a bit of prior knowl­edge. We per­suaded the land­lord to let us do posies to put in the bar. She paid us about £30 a week and we rein­vested that in the flow­ers, vis­it­ing New Covent Gar­den Mar­ket and hav­ing lots of fun choos­ing dif­fer­ent blooms.

We did this for about two years and cus­tomers started ask­ing us to do ar­range­ments for them. I did a friend’s wed­ding and got El­lie to help me out. It was our first real paid gig and we charged mates’ rates. Even though we still thought of it as a hobby, word spread. We did a few more wed­dings and per­sonal bou­quets, and we started to make money.


El­lie found cheap premises. She was more driven than I was at this point be­cause I’d em­barked on my mid­wifery course – I stud­ied and helped out when I could. We did wed­dings as well as one-off ar­range­ments. We worked re­ally hard at the so­cial me­dia side of things – the busi­ness could never have hap­pened with­out Instagram

– it’s where we can show­case our de­signs. I don’t think it would’ve been pos­si­ble to launch the busi­ness the way we did, even ten years ago.

I de­signed our web­site and a friend of ours helped us build it, so that didn’t cost us any­thing. Be­cause of our work in the pub, lots of peo­ple wanted us to do all sorts for them, from wed­dings, to dress­ing houses and shops. We even got some cov­er­age in The Tele­graph, which found us on so­cial me­dia. This led to lots of work, and be­cause of our ac­tiv­ity on Instagram, we were picked up by Har­vey Ni­chols, Lib­erty and re­tailer An­thro­polo­gie.

We did ar­range­ments for photo shoots and launches for them. We also cre­ated sets for shoots on Miss Vogue, Marie Claire and Numéro mag­a­zines. Life­style fash­ion brand Toast asked us to dec­o­rate its Maryle­bone store with herb gar­lands to launch the spring col­lec­tion. We even con­trib­uted a guide to ed­i­ble flow­ers on its blog.

By this time, I’d fin­ished my mid­wifery course, but I knew my heart

“We show­cased our English flow­ers on Instagram and got spot­ted by Har­vey Ni­chols and Lib­erty!”

lay with flow­ers – and we were mak­ing enough money for us both to draw a salary from the busi­ness.

Our USP (Unique Sell­ing Point) is us­ing English flow­ers with hand­il­lus­trated tags. We turned a dis­used gar­den that’s near our stu­dio into a cut­ting gar­den where we grow amaz­ing flow­ers – ev­ery­thing from sweet peas and cos­mos to dahlias, with the aim of us­ing as much home­grown stuff as we can.


Def­i­nitely the launch of our book, The Flower Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety: An A to Z of All Things Flo­ral (Lit­tle, Brown). We were ap­proached by an agent and a pub­lisher al­most at the same time. It was so ex­cit­ing and we’re very proud of it.


Grow­ing our own flow­ers has its down­side. We planted 400 tulip bulbs and waited for them to ap­pear. Then in April there was a heat­wave and they all flow­ered over two days. We didn’t have any events planned – see­ing them look­ing so beau­ti­ful but not be­ing able to use them was aw­ful.


It’s still just the two of us. We out­source things such as mar­ket­ing and PR, and have a free­lance as­sis­tant and sea­sonal free­lancers. We’re ex­pand­ing and have lots of ex­cit­ing projects with life­style brands, and we also run work­shops along­side the busi­ness, in­clud­ing hen par­ties where you can come and make your own head­dress. BEST AD­VICE I’VE EVER HAD Start small and build up grad­u­ally. It is pos­si­ble to grow along­side de­mand. It’s not a get-rich-quick plan, but it’s less stress­ful and more fun. >>

“When top peo­ple loved my pens I knew they re­ally were stylish”

Sally Page, 55, is mar­ried with two adult daugh­ters and lives in Dorset. She is founder of Plooms, a com­pany mak­ing lux­ury foun­tain pens.


I was work­ing as a con­sul­tant char­ity fundraiser and of­ten wanted to send hand­writ­ten notes to peo­ple. I couldn’t find a de­cent foun­tain pen that wrote smoothly, was a good weight and didn’t cost hun­dreds of pounds. I also wanted one that looked beau­ti­ful on my desk, and was sur­prised at the lack of imag­i­na­tive colours and el­e­gant shapes.

I’d al­ways wanted to work for my­self and start a busi­ness, and de­cided to work part-time and build it up grad­u­ally in the evenings and at week­ends. I took an old foun­tain pen to pieces and had a go at de­sign­ing the sort of pen I’d buy for my­self. My hus­band is great at the techy side of de­sign, and made my sketches into tech­ni­cal draw­ings on­line.

I had about £20,000 in sav­ings to in­vest in the busi­ness, so I had sev­eral trial mod­els made in qual­ity me­tals and fin­ishes sent over from China. I was in­cred­i­bly ex­cited and pleased with the colours and how el­e­gant the pens looked. I chose five shades – red, orange, green, pur­ple and pink – and or­dered 1,000 of each, and I found a UK-based com­pany that did the sort of lux­ury pack­ag­ing I wanted.


I didn’t have a mar­ket­ing or PR plan as such. My hus­band cre­ated a web­site for me, and I took the pens to trade shows. I also did the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which was very suc­cess­ful, and had a stall at the Burgh­ley House Horse Tri­als in Stam­ford. I used so­cial me­dia and made a YouTube video about how to im­prove your hand­writ­ing with an ink pen, which got lots of trac­tion. Sales were mainly word of mouth and through the web­site. After two years, I was able to re­sign from my job and take a small salary from the busi­ness.

Do­ing talks about launch­ing a busi­ness at start-up events also pushed web­site sales up, and I was in­vited to the Cam­bridge Univer­sity Union to talk about fe­male en­trepreneurs. I was on a panel with Har­riet Har­man MP and BBC Ra­dio 4 pre­sen­ter Martha Kear­ney.

I was very flat­tered. It felt great to be help­ing oth­ers and net­work­ing at the same time. I also re­alised how im­por­tant the cus­tomer ser­vice side of things is. I made this cen­tral to the busi­ness and hand­wrote the la­bels on the gift boxes – I still do to­day. I make sure cus­tomers know that I re­ally care that they love the pens.


Sell­ing pens to Alexan­dra Shul­man (ex-ed­i­tor-in-chief of Vogue) and Martha Kear­ney. It gave me con­fi­dence that my pens were stylish.


My Chi­nese sup­plier’s in­ter­net server went down for eight weeks and I couldn’t get in touch with them, which was in­cred­i­bly stress­ful. I eked out sup­plies and cre­ated a wait­ing list. There’s very lit­tle you can do to guard against things like this.


I still run the busi­ness from home. I sell about 100-200 pens a month, fluctuating sea­son­ally, and I em­ploy free­lancers to help me at busy times. I sold briefly in Fort­num and Ma­son, but high street re­tail­ers don’t re­ally work for me. My aim is to get into Not On The High Street and keep in­creas­ing web­site sales. I also sell coloured inks and beau­ti­ful writ­ing pa­per and sta­tionery, adding new prod­ucts ev­ery year.


Any­one can eat an ele­phant, you just have to do it a bite at a time! Start a busi­ness slowly, part-time while you’re still earn­ing a salary, and build it up.

“It took two years of slog to cre­ate my rock sam­phire gin, but now it’s sold in John Lewis”

Ru­bina Khan, 50, is founder of Cu­rio Spir­its Com­pany, a botan­i­cal gin busi­ness that makes rock sam­phire gin and a range of flavoured vod­kas. She is mar­ried and lives in Cornwall.


I was work­ing as an en­ter­prise fa­cil­i­ta­tor and was used to work­ing with start-ups. About three years ago I was given a flavoured gin as present. It was de­li­cious and I won­dered if I could cre­ate my own. I ex­per­i­mented – the re­sult wasn’t great, but I be­came re­ally in­ter­ested in the process. I didn’t like gin that was heav­ily flavoured with ju­niper; I wanted some­thing that wasn’t too sweet, but light and cit­rusy. Rock sam­phire grows wild near us and has a fresh, le­mony flavour with a pep­pery af­ter­taste. I kept try­ing un­til I got some­thing drink­able.

My hus­band, Wil­liam, and I used around £70,000 of our sav­ings over two years to support us while we worked on the busi­ness, and I con­tin­ued work­ing too. To do it prop­erly, I wanted to make the gin from scratch and I needed a li­cence. The process was re­ally rig­or­ous. I had to be vet­ted and show that I had a good busi­ness model and the bud­get to buy the equip­ment and in­gre­di­ents.


I got the li­cence, bought a gin still for around £500 and for­aged for wild rock sam­phire. It took about two years of tweak­ing, then one week­end, I tasted a batch and it was ab­so­lutely de­li­cious. I was so ex­cited. I re­peated the recipe and it worked again. I cre­ated enough to fill seven re­cy­cled wine bot­tles. I made la­bels, put corks in the tops and sealed th them with c can­dle wax.

It I took them to Hel­ston F Farm­ers Mar­ket. I went round with a sam­ple tray – and I sold ev­ery bot­tle for £15 each. I vis­ited lots of mar­kets and grad­u­ally upped my stock and the price each time. I ap­proached lo­cal shops, winer­ies and del­i­catessens and came back each time with more and more or­ders. It was so thrilling to have my idea val­i­dated, and I plucked up the courage to hand in my no­tice. Two years later, I man­aged to get into John Lewis, which has put my gin into 12 of its large stores, in­clud­ing Oxford Street. I’ve also gone into Har­vey Ni­chols and Not On The High Street.


That mo­ment when I tasted the batch that worked. It was amaz­ing to know I’d cre­ated it, and that it was proper gin. I also loved the first time I saw my prod­ucts on a shelf in the shop with all the other “proper” brands!


Sup­pli­ers that didn’t turn up, de­liv­er­ies that didn’t hap­pen – things that make you feel like giv­ing up. But you’ve just got to keep go­ing.


Wil­liam now works with me and we’ve branched out into flavoured vodka and a fruity punch cup. I sell over 2,000 bot­tles a month re­tail, and we’re plan­ning to sell whole­sale. We’re also mov­ing to a big­ger site, plan­ning gin-tast­ing events and launch­ing new flavours.


Build de­mand and then sup­ply it. We had or­ders be­fore we’d made enough batches and had a wait­ing list. It cre­ates a buzz around the brand, but you must de­liver when you say you will and make sure ser­vice is re­ally good. w&h

flower power for el­lie, left, and anna

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