#girlboss profile No2: Lauren from Concept Flowers

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Eeeeek!! I have been so excited to share with you our second #girlboss profile, all about the awesome lady who is behind Concept Flowers, Lauren Curry. It has been such a pleasure getting to know Lauren over the last few years, being friends in the industry, as well as (when we’re lucky) working alongside each other on weddings and styled shoots. Lauren is such a whirlwind of a character and her pure creativeness and passion for her work, shines through in everything she does and is truly infectious!

Lauren has recently taken a big step in her career in leasing a unit to work from, and I know her already successful floristry business, is going to grow in leaps and bounds.

Heres what happened when I visited Lauren (and Bruce the best florist puppy around) at Concept Flowers HQ a few weeks back….

Tell us about your decision to launch Concept Flowers. What inspired it?
After completing my masters degree in Floristry, I found finding someone to employ me in the local area was a challenge. Recession had hit, small business were not thinking of hiring, but more like firing!and In a lot of cases my difficulties in finding work was due to being over qualified, Which to be honest, really made me sad and question my future in floristry.  I’d found a love and passion for flowers and wanted to work, or pass this onto other somehow, but kept hitting this wall. So I decided that I should try this for myself.
Build a company where creativity and passion is infectious, but one which ultimately is professional, experienced and qualified. As part of the masters degree, I learnt how to write a business plan, because this gave me a bit of knowledge and confidence, to give it a go, I thought, sod it! the worst anyone is do is going to say no! LETS DO THIS!

Were there any lifestyle changes you had to make in order to make the leap? Did you ever doubt your decision?
I guess I made the most out of living with my parents whilst I built the business up, believe me this helped! I have an awful lot to thank them for. And sure thing I did! From sitting in that meeting with the bank manager, to sitting right here right now on the sofa typing this, I have doubted myself a lot along the way, not just on the decision to start my business, but the decisions to grow the business along the way too… but once you start doing what you love for a living… its kind of hard to give up on that- its the key to being happy and that I manage to get by at the same time is a blessing.

The actual process of getting a company off the ground is challenging. What steps did you take to set it up for success?
Originally I started with writing my business plan, approaching the bank and achieving a small start up business loan, 5 years later, and I found myself repeating the process to move forward to gain the new Concept Flowers HQ over in Poole.
The second time around is more nerve wracking than the first! haha!

What does a typical day in the workshop look like for you?                                             Oh man- theres sooo much more than just creating that goes on!
Admin- there is SO much admin and paperwork to do its relentless! However I am glad to be busy- thats totally not a complaint!

Sweeping, tidying up, prepping of packaging, buckets to be bleached, Bruce to be walked, buckets to be filled with water, flowers to be conditioned, floors to be mopped, flowers to be ordered, van to be cleaned, vases to be cleaned, sundries to buy, alllll alongside planning for the rest of the year- right now I am not only thinking about my brides to be for this weekend, but thinking of those in 2018 who are needing quotes, and of christmas! It is madness and you have to learn to juggle and prioritise.

What’s your favourite social media platform, and why?
I do love Instagram, its great for creatives to use it like a portfolio!
pinterest too is great for visually explaining whats in my clients heads to me,but I do feel it needs to come with a warning! The floral designs represented can be beautiful,but are usually pricey!

What is your work-life balance like? Do you think such a thing even exists when running a company?
hahahahaha!
I work all the time….but at different times of the year, the stress and pressure and hours vary!
At the height of wedding season, Ive been known to be sending emails from the kitchen whilst I’m cooking the dinner, or I take my paperwork to the beach just so I can join in on days out with friends and family, and yes.. that kind of is my decision to do so. but you also HAVE to work hard in this industry if you want to reap anything from it in the end!

I have learnt over the years ,you can say no, and be a bit firmer and Fairer to yourself- its not selfishness, its self preservation
Very rarely do I get to escape, and when I do, that time is incredibly precious to me and good for my soul!

What have been some of your professional highlights?
All of it to be fair! Im lucky enough to do what I love for a living!
However I enjoyed myself immensely participating at Chelsea Flower Show and winning a Silver Gilt and a Bronze medal.
This year I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in an international photoshoot with Floral Fundamentals and went over to holland to visit growers of the products I work with on a daily basis – that was pretty sweet!

What is one thing you wish you had known before starting Concept Flowers?
tricky question.. I quite like that this whole process so far has been such a creative and emotional rollercoaster, and that along side the business growing and maturing along the years, that I have done so at the same time with it.
I guess…. that i’ll answer this one with that;
mistakes get made, don’t be afraid to make them, and don’t be afraid to make changes, just have faith in yourself and keep on swimming!

What’s next for the company?
since moving into the unit, I guess its time to find my feet there!
workshops, more weddings, a new website, and i’ll be opening up as a pop-up-shop over christmas this year which I’m really looking forward to doing!

What advice would you give other women hoping to run a company or propel their careers forward?                                                                                                                              To not loose sight of who you are and not to be scared to make sacrifices for what you believe in.
Having a strong wolfpack around you is essential.
Always take time to fall back in love with your creative soul.

Best moment of your career so far?
Is it corny to say that every time a client is happy with the flowers created for them, it gets filed under “best moment so far”
its such a lush feeling to put smiles on others faces through something I have made.

What advice would you give your 24-year-old self?
Keep on, Keeping on!
You got this.

One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Oh jeez.. just the one thing?! hahaha.
I know THE WHOLE of the script, songs and all, to the film The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Thankyou Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.

#girlboss profile: Emma Woods from Fancie Buns Cakery

Im super excited to share with you the first of my #girlboss profiles, a series of profiles on some amazing female entrepreneurs in creative industries. So to kick off the series I spent some time with Emma Woods from Fancie Buns Cakery, in her new studio in Dorset.

As well as being a wedding supplier friend of mine, Emma is a national industry award winner and an extremely successful female business owner. Since starting in the wedding industry myself 5 years ago, it has been so inspiring watching Emma grow her wedding cake business from strength to strength, from awesome branding to the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen (or tasted) she can be an inspiration to us all!

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Tell us about your decision to launch Fancie Buns Cakery. What inspired it? – When I had my daughter in 2010 I starting making cakes for her birthday & found that I had a real passion for cake decorating. Soon friends started asking me to make cakes for them so I registered as a business and it grew pretty quickly from there.

Were there any lifestyle changes you had to make in order to make the leap? Did you ever doubt your decision? – Initially I worked it alongside my employment as a Small Business Manager, so I was working long hours, late into the night & weekends. I gradually built the business to a point where I could leave my employment, it was a huge decision for me & sometimes I long for a 9-5 job but I know I would get bored of that very quickly! Being self employed gives me the opportunities to grow my business, reap the rewards of all that overtime & keeps me motivated doing something that I love.

The actual process of getting a company off the ground is challenging. What steps did you take to set it up for success? – I desperately wanted to give up my job, so I had to push the business forward quickly to enable me to replace my salary, that was my focus & the driving force. I set myself a goal date for giving up my job & I worked hard promoting the business to grow my order book which then meant I met my goal! I had a very clear vision for my business brand & cake design style.

What does a typical day in the studio look like for you? – My days are quite varied depending on what the to do list is for that day, at the beginning of the week it’s admin & sugar flower making which is a little more relaxed! If its a baking day then the oven goes on straight away & it’s a full on day of baking tier after tier, then lots of washing up! Once the cakes are baked they need filling, ganaching & icing, this will be over 2 days, if it’s summer season then these will be long days. Friday’s are stacking & decorating days, one of my favourite days, seeing the sketch & design I drew up with my couples come to life.

What’s your favourite social media platform, and why? – At the moment I am loving Instagram, it’s a little more informal than Facebook & I tend to do more of a behind the scenes feed. There is a great community feel as well, with a lot more interaction with fellow suppliers & also other cake decorators.

What is your work-life balance like? Do you think such a thing even exists when running a company? – I’m definitely better at balancing this now than my first few years, however during the summer months I have no social life! I have made sure I now book some time off during the school holidays to keep me sane & to spend some time with my family. Having said that working for myself means I can do all the school drop off’s & pick up’s something I couldn’t do before, I have more flexibility.

What have been some of your professional highlights? – Definitely leaving my job, that was a huge decision & I am incredibly proud of making that leap! Winning the UK Wedding Awards for the best wedding cake company last year was just incredible, I never expected that & it’s been fantastic for my business. Last year I was commissioned by Danny & Jo Dyer to create their Spanish themed wedding cake, it was an amazing opportunity & one that doesn’t come along often. Then at the end of last year taking on my little cake studio was just amazing.

What is one thing you wish you had known before starting Fancie Buns Cakery? – The amount of hours I would work, or how much cake ’stuff’ I would accumulate! However I don’t think that would have put me off, I’m pretty determined when I have my mind set on something!

What’s next for the company? – I have recently launched cake decorating classes & this is something I would like to grow in the quieter season. An admin assistant or washer upper in the summer would also be nice!

What advice would you give other women hoping to run a company or propel their careers forward? – Be prepared for a lot of hard work & long hours. Sometimes things might not work but don’t let that knock you, keep going, keep focused on your own business & goals, it will take time but you will get there! A strong network of likeminded self employed friends is invaluable, I wouldn’t be where I am now without that support.

Best moment of your career so far? – Seeing the cake I created in Hello Magazine, that was a very surreal day! The pressure was immense but very rewarding.

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self? – Believe in who you are, always trust your gut instincts & don’t worry about the small stuff!

One thing people would be surprised to know about you? – I took a year out when I was 26 to go travelling, I did a sky dive, bungee jump & got my PADI diving certificate!

5 Steps To Create Hygge At Home

After my recent review of The Little Book of Hygge (which you can read here), I have been thinking a lot about how I can create a more hygge in my own home. I already have an abundance of blankets and books so I have done a little research into what you can do to have a more hyggelig home. There are a lot of different interpretations and opinions out there, so I have put together what I believe are the best 5 ways to add that extra bit of cosy, happy and safe vibe in your home.

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Step 1- Get the right lighting. Hygge is all about soft, warm and natural lighting, to create a homely and cosy atmosphere. This is a great excuse (not that I need one) to get the candles out for dinner or reading in the late afternoon. If you have one, then light the fire, or create the same effect with an electric one. Use table lamps or dimmed lights instead of harsh, bright overhead lighting.

Step 2- Decor and furniture. Natural materials are much more hyggelig than plastic or syhthetic, so stick to real wood furniture. Vintage or second hand is also a great way to add a homely feel, as well as being good for the environment. Also bringing the outdoors inside is good for the soul, so add some house plants and go foraging for some pine cones or driftwood to decorate with.

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Step 3- Food & drink. Hot drinks and indulgent food will add to a hyggelig evening. So when you have visitors pop the kettle on and get the cake or biscuits out. Also the Danes are big on lingering, so if you have a dinner party, take your time with your meal and enjoy the evening, dont jump up straight away and start the washing up!

Step 4- Slow down. We live such a fast paced life so taking the time to slow down and relax will help you enjoy the hygge in your home. Spend an hour or two reading on a Sunday afternoon, pop on a Disney film with the kids and get the popcorn out. Take an hour out of your day to sit and play with your little one or have a cup of tea and catch up with a friend. If you have friends or family round, get the board games out and make sure to stay off your  phones as much as possible.

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Step 5- Contentment. Spending time and enjoying the company of others is a great way to create a hygge home, its not always about having expensive furniture or a perfectly tidy, clean home. In fact, guests will feel more comfortable in a little bit of mess than a pristine home, if they are terrified of touching anything or spilling something then it will be hard for them, or you, to relax.

Being content with your home and belongings is important to create hygge, it doesn’t matter on the size or location, or how much you’ve spent on your furniture or decor. A loved home, where you feel happy and safe and guests feel relaxed and welcome is more hygge than a large mansion with no soul.

As long as you have some candles, tea and biscuits, you don’t need much else!

How To Plan A Styled Shoot

Styled shoots are becoming more and more popular in a range of different industries and for good reason; a styled shoot can be a great tool for any business, from photographers to makeup artists and product suppliers.

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If you can get the shoot featured it will be some fab free advertising, or just some great images for all involved to use on their social media and websites.

For a shoot to be successful, planning ahead is so important. To make your ideas a reality you will need to be as organised as possible and bring a whole team of individuals together. It’s usually best to have one main organiser, but to make sure everyone is involved right from the start of the planning process. The shoot should end up being a collaboration, you want to make the most of the skills and talents of all involved.
I have put the following tips together from my own experience.

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3 Steps To Planning A Successful Shoot:

  1. First you need to plan the look, venue style, and the feel of the shoot. Where you would like it to be featured, on a specific blog or magazine? Its a good idea to put together a mood board of your ideas, Pinterest is great for this.
  2. Then you need to get all the suppliers on board and make sure to choose the right ones for the look you are going for. You will most likely have some no’s, some suppliers may be too busy or it might not be the right sort of project for them, but don’t worry, it will all come together.
  3. Make sure you have a rough timetable prepared for on the day, like who is doing what and when. Plan the order of the shoot (what looks you will shoot first etc). Delegate the right tasks to the right people and remember to let everyone get creative on the day!

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What To Avoid

  • Doing everything yourself, and maybe accidentally becoming a control freak! Learn to trust others opinions.
  • Unreliable suppliers or models- you need everyone 100% on board for it all to come together. You don’t want to be let down last minute.
  • Only one location option- make sure you have a good back up plan if its raining etc, and make sure everyone involved can be available on an alternative day if needs be.

 

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The more shoots you do, the more experience you will gain, bringing a team of talented and creative suppliers together can be a lot of fun and the end result will be something you can all be proud of!

 

 

Working with your other half

An honest account of what its like, working with my husband.

Nearly three years ago, my illustrator husband Ben was desperate to leave his 9 to 5 job in retail. My photography business was growing and I was in need of a second photographer, it just made sense for Ben to jump in and help out. He initially changed his hours to part time, before eventually taking the jump I had taken myself one year previously, and went completely self-employed, helping me with my business as well as focusing on his freelance illustration.

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We get asked on a regular basis what its like working together and we politely reply ‘oh, its great, we’re very lucky, we get to spend so much time together’ but the reality isn’t quite the same. There are many positives AND negatives to our situation and plenty of challenges we have faced along the way…

The Positives:

  • We genuinely do enjoy each others company most of the time and have found our relationship suffers with time apart
  • Both being self employed, we get to choose when we work and when we take time off, so we can schedule in quality time when needed
  • It’s great to have another person to bounce ideas off of (it can get quite lonely working from home alone)
  • We both 100% appreciate each others jobs and how hard we work as we are working towards the same goals
  • Both being creatives, we have a lot in common and can really appreciate each others interests
  • Cuddles in the office 🙂

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The Negatives:

  • Spending 24/7 with your other half can sometimes be a little suffocating, its important we have hobbies and spend time apart
  • There are times the personal/professional boundaries can be hard to keep clear (heading to a customer meeting after a row over the washing up isn’t always fun!)
  • We affect each others moods and productivity, which if one of us is in a slump can result in a unproductive few days for the both of us!
  • Both our incomes are changeable and reliant on the business, so we don’t have the reliability of one steady wage
  • All decisions are made together, big and small, and all financial decisions or purchases have to be agreed by both (making surprise gift buying a little tricky)

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While we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to work for ourselves, doing something we love, it is a constant struggle to get the right work/life balance. There is no denying that working with your spouse can quickly end the romance factor, spending many romantic evenings chatting about our accounts or brainstorming for our next styled shoot.

Our main advice would be, to have strict ‘no work chat’ nights, and time away from the office, as well as your phones.

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One of our favourite parts about working together, is that on any day, we can decide on a whim to head to the beach for a stroll or pop to the cinema together. That’s the best part, we have complete control over our lives and how we spend our time!

My Top 5 Smoothies

Last year, in the run up to our wedding, I got myself into green smoothies, in the hope of losing a little weight. I didn’t lose a huge amount of weight but I did feel a lot better for it, they are a great, quick way of getting some much needed fruit and veg into your diet.

Since the wedding my smoothie consumption has gone up and down, (mostly down over the Christmas period) but since the new year I have kicked my butt into action and am aiming to have a smoothie at least 5 days a week.

I have to say, with all the rubbish I was consuming over Christmas, I was started to feel quite lethargic and un-motivated but after a few weeks of being back on the smoothies I have a lot more energy and am feeling great!

I have experimented quite a bit with different ingredients and recipes, so thought I would share with you my top 5 smoothies.

 

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This is my quick and easy go-to recipe and my favourite, with a good balance of fruit & veg, plus the banana and avocado both add extra creaminess, I really dislike a watery smoothie!

The ingredients are:

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The very berry is great if you are in the mood for something sweet, this is also the hubbies favourite, he’s so fussy when it comes to fruit as he doesn’t like a lot of the textures, but loves a cold fruity smoothie!

The ingredients are:

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The super green is great if you’re in the mood for something zingy and fresh, and the apple adds a little sweetness.

The ingredients are:

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Now, this is not at all the tastiest, but its actually a lot nicer than you would think, and its amazing for a super quick energy boost.

The ingredients are:

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Now I know this last one is definitely not a super healthy option, but I have included it in my top 5, as I think everyone deserves a little treat sometimes!

The ingredients are:

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Do you have any favourite smoothie recipes? I’d love some recommendations!

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Up The Motivation

Sometimes, working for yourself, it can be very hard to keep motivated. I will be honest, I’m not and never will be a morning person, so just getting out of bed can sometimes be a struggle! I have now resigned myself to the fact that this is ok, as long as I work in the evening instead and get the work done that I need to, I don’t have to be up at 7am (or even 8am) if I don’t want to. Thats the best part of being self employed, you make up the rules!

But how do I motivate myself to work and keep building my business?

  • Mondays are very important, its the start of the week and will set the tone for your week ahead and how productive you will be.
  • The first thing I do on a monday morning (around 10am) is complete my weekly planner, set out a day to day guide of what work I want to achieve, as well as add in any appointments, shoots or weddings I have booked in. Just doing this makes me feel productive and motivated, as I have already completed a task for the week!
  • As I complete each task I put a (very satisfying) big fat cross right through it, theres nothing better than completeing a list full of tasks and having a page full of scribbled out jobs to do.

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So keeping motivated day to day is not so tricky, but having long term goals and aspirations can be a far more daunting task, especially when you are making the rules up as you go and don’t have a boss giving you weekly, monthly or yearly reviews.

Again, I find the best way to get motivated and keep on track is to write it all down, every month or so I set myself monthly, 6 monthly, yearly, and 5 yearly goals. These sometimes change along the way (which is fine), for example, two years ago I wanted to set up a studio space, but as time went on I have developed my photography style and found that the studio thing just isn’t for me and the over heads of a studio space is unnecessary, considering 90% of the time I am shooting weddings. So I am now offering natural outdoor or at home shoots and plan to get together the equipment to photograph newborns here in our office.

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Its good to have future goals, but its okay if they change along the way.

Re- evaluating your goals and aspirations isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes plans change and may take you in a direction you didn’t plan on taking. But without having something to aim for in the first place, you will achieve nothing. As long as you are always looking and moving forward, opportunities will come your way. You may have to work hard and there will be times you fail or have setbacks but as long as you keep focused on moving forward and don’t let yourself get complacent, then you can achieve your goals.

My Top Tips:

  • Putting a weekly timetable together on Monday morning will help keep you on track throughout the week.
  • Writing down your goals and seeing them on paper makes them more real and even more attainable.
  • There are times I get stuck in a rut, or start to feel self doubt about my abilities, but looking back at my goals and taking small steps to achieve the smaller ones, will then motivate me to achieve the bigger ones!