Since I began my small business journey, I have had so many people ask questions about the logistics of it all. I get a lot of questions like "How do you find clients", "What does your wedding work week look like", and "How did you know how to own and operate a wedding business?"
I wanted to address some of these questions in a blog post, by sharing some advice and an inside look at my own small business ownership journey! I am by no means professing to be an expert, but I just want to share what I have learned throughout my own process, in hopes that someone else may benefit from it! Enjoy! :)
1. Opening a legitimate business is a long, drawn-out process.
After I decided to officially become a small business, I had to first register my business with the state of Virginia and choose which business "entity" to operate as. I chose to open up a Limited Liability Company, or L.L.C. I also had to register my business within my county of residence, open up a business bank account, and apply for an EIN number. Another part of the process of being a small business owner is filing state sales tax; since I am selling a "product" (flowers), I have to collect tax from my clients and then give the sales tax money back to Virginia! There are so many moving parts to just opening up a small business, let alone maintaining it month to month. My advice would be to definitely be to consult an expert for this part. I worked with a CPA through this process, and I was so happy that I had his expert advice to help guide me through all my questions!
2. Business insurance and business money management is crucial!
It was important for me to protect myself and my business from any crazy bridezillas (luckily I haven't had any of these), accidents on a wedding day, or just having some general protection in case something goes wrong. My policy is very inexpensive, but even if it was more- being covered is worth it for my peace of mind. I also knew that I wasn't that knowledgeable about small business tax systems and managing business funds. Some questions I had were- if someone pays my business, how do I pay myself, how do I know what to set aside for Virginia and federal income tax, and how do I know what to invest back into my business?! I don't have the right answers for you, as I believe that each business will have a different system. I did just bring on an accountant to work with me and help me answer some of these questions, and I am already SO relieved that I don't need to have all the answers myself. Definitely consult the experts, people. Using a system like Quickbooks, Wave, and some receipt-collection app will be helpful when tax time comes around too!
3. I work way more now than I did when I was teaching.
I get up, grab a cup of coffee and get on my computer as soon as the day starts. I post to my social media pages (more on that soon), check emails, and make lists of things I need to purchase, ask my wholesaler about or pre-order for my next wedding. For each wedding, I have a checklist of items I need, some of which are in my current inventory and some I will have to special order. Examples include vases, vessels, custom ribbon, different sorts of flowers and more! Sourcing these item for each wedding I design for takes time, and then placing the actual flower order involves lots of counting, recipe-creation and math! As someone who hated math all through school and studied early/elementary education in college, it's so ironic that now so much of my day is spent crunching numbers! Haha! During the week, I also have meeting with brides, meetings with potential clients, and meetings with vendors to chat about upcoming weddings! I also wrangle my 10 week old goldendoodle, Violet :) And these are the things I do before the flowers for a wedding ever arrive!
4. Wedding weekend workflow.
Depending on the situation, I will either design everything by myself and then have an assistant work with me the day of, and sometimes I will have assistants come in throughout the week to help me prep flowers! Either way, on wedding weekends I probably work from about 8AM- 9PM, having a direct hand in the creation of each design I bring to a wedding! Here is a rough estimate of how my process works: I typically get my flower orders for weddings on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The flowers are delivered right to my door, and I end up processing blooms that day in my home studio. Depending on the size of the wedding, processing can take anywhere from 2 hours to 6 hours. Processing is stripping the leaves and foliage off of flowers and cutting their stems at diagonals so they have a better supply of water coming up through their stems. It sounds simple, but when you have 500 roses for a wedding, that quickly becomes a LOT of work!! After the processing day, I typically begin centerpieces/ceremony designs the next day, and depending on the complexity of the wedding, this can take half a day or a full 2-3 days. I save the bouquets and personal flowers for last, because designs like corsages and boutonnieres don't have access to water once I start working on them! They stay fresh in the fridge until we leave for the wedding! The day of the wedding, I'm up early, tweaking designs, tying ribbon on, making final cuts on bouquets and loading up the car(s)! My travel time for weddings is typically between 1 hour to 3 hours, as I most frequently design for weddings in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. After arriving at the venue, there is no limit to the amount of time spent there! If a flower arch is being installed, I will design that on-site. My team and I place centerpieces, fluff bouquets, help pin boutonnieres on if needed, and generally just stay busy until all the designs are absolutely perfect. If we have to breakdown after the wedding, we will head back to the venue between 10-11PM to collect my vases, arch, decor, candles etc., and most likely grab a coffee or a soda to stay awake on the drive home! Needless to say, it's a long day :)
5. Social media is a biz owners BFF.
Paid advertising is a thing of the past with Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms! My favorite to use is Instagram- floral design is so visual, and I love updating my account with pictures of my latest wedding work! I began trying to focus my efforts on posting to Instagram about once a day, and I have been able to connect with lots of potential clients and give them some insight into who I am and how I run my business! As a result, I receive a majority of my inquiries from brides who found me on Instagram, which I love! I feel like they already know me, and the sorts of floral designs I create, which is so important to me because I love to have a connection with my brides from the first consultation we have together! :) I also love that I get to travel all over Virginia and the East Coast for weddings- social media connects people in an amazing way! :)
I hope that these few facts give you some additional insight into small business ownership :) I love to chat about other creative businesses and your journey, and I would be happy to answer any questions or comments you may have! Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or comment below! :)