This month I am excited to share an interview I did over the summer with Alex Wise of Blush Botanicals. We have worked with this talented businesswoman and floralpreneur for several years and are always blown away by her stunning wedding and event work. She is gracious with her time and talents, always willing to mentor and share her knowledge with not only her staff but with up and coming new talent in the floral design industry. Respect is the word I hear most about her. “She is kind, thoughtful and generous and most of all she treats people with respect,” says Sara Eaton of Black Lotus Designs. In an industry that can be overrun with divas (especially for this caliber of upper echelon event companies) that is truly an indication of this lady’s character. Her work ethic and integrity are long admired and she is a pleasure to have as a client.
We had a passionate conversation about life, flowers, running a floral business in this current social media-driven flower climate and the challenges of being a new mom while working as a high-end wedding and event florist. Trying to find the perfect life/work balance is key and Alex is proving that you can do both and succeed in this hectic industry.
SHELLEY: Hi Alex, first of all, congratulations to you and your husband on your new baby! I know this is a very exciting new chapter in your life.
ALEX: THANK YOU! We are so over the moon about this little gremlin but it’s A TON OF WORK (as you know!)!!!
S: I definitely do! I don’t think anyone can ever prepare you for it. We are so happy for you by the way. So to start, I would like to start our conversation by asking you a few questions about yourself and your background.
Alex, tell us, what were your favorite subjects in school? Did you see yourself as the artistic type or a future entrepreneur?
A: I loved any courses having to do with art such as drawing or sculpture and also loved finance/economics and accounting. I know this is a weird mixture, but that is the way my mind works. I always envisioned myself running my own business, it is in my blood. Both of my grandfathers were and my father is an entrepreneur and it is the mindset I was raised with. I couldn't imagine working a corporate job or having a 9 to 5.
S: Same, I think when art is your calling it’s impossible to work an office job!
Are you a native Californian? What other places have you lived?
A: No, I was born and raised in New York and honestly, always thought I'd move back. I moved to San Diego with my family when I was about 15 years old. I also lived in Los Angeles while I attended USC.
S: What led you into the floral design industry? Were you always a wedding and event florist?
A: I got into the floral design industry very randomly and with no background. I was working at Merrill Lynch out of college and really disliked it so I began searching for other things I could enjoy doing. After helping a friend's mother create florals for a party I was hooked! It was always important to me to be able to be financially independent and after creating a business plan and working out the finances, it became clear to me that it could be a really lucrative and fun path so I went for it!
S: From finances to flowers - love it! I think it’s wonderful that you had that strong financial background going in. I know it has probably been beneficial to you as a floral business owner. For many florists, this is not their strong suit.
A: I had always known I would start my own business in some capacity but would have never guessed it would be in floral design. Every time I am creating a beautiful event I think... pinch me, I can't believe I [get to] do this for a living! I studied finance with a minor in real estate investment so I really thought I'd be doing something in that arena, but the world works in mysterious ways!
S: It definitely sounds like you got bit by the flower bug! What year was Blush Botanicals founded?
S: I saw a recent Instagram post where you gave tips on entering the luxury wedding industry. You seemed to have cracked the code on this very exclusive and finite amount of high-end wedding business. Can you give our readers some pointers?
A: I'm happy to give pointers! I also have plans to launch an in-depth online course on this in the next year so look out for that as I'll go into major detail on this process! See below for a few pointers :) :
KNOW YOURSELF. This entails doing major research on who you are and/or how you want to be portrayed. What makes you unique and your brand different? What look do you want to put out there in the world and be known for? What venues would you like to work with? What vendors would you like to work with? What colors and textures are you drawn to? Don't be afraid to be different and not do exactly what everyone else is doing (if everyone else is doing a calligraphy logo, stay away from it so that you can be unique and can stand out and become known for something NEW!).
KNOW YOUR TARGET CLIENT. Research your target client and design your brand around her/him. Give your client a name and a house and a look. How would he/she dress? What type of car would he or she be driving? Get specific here and then be sure your brand is consistent with the client you are going after.
BRANDING is so important! Invest in a logo and a website that fits your brand and your target client. Be cognizant of colors and type fonts and never stray from what is true to your brand.
SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY. You'll need to invest in yourself and your brand if you are going to play in the luxury market. Your website is the first thing your client will see, so invest in a beautiful website. Be sure your verbiage is completely consistent with your brand and must speak to the needs of your target client. Invest in photoshoots that are true to the client that you want to attract and SPEND on them. You'll have to spend enough to create something dramatic if you are hoping to attract a bride that wants drama for her big day.
ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT VENDORS. Find vendors you love and admire and align yourself with those vendors. This can only be done once you know exactly who you are and have an established brand. It only takes one perfect referral to take it to the next level!
PHOTOS PHOTOS PHOTOS! If you are creating a wedding that you feel is perfect for your brand and your website and can't wait to show it off, make sure you know and like the photographers work! If you don't get good photos then you may as well never have done the wedding. If you plan to do a spectacular job (obviously you do) and are worried about the photos, HIRE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHER! Don't be afraid to spend a little bit of money here to get the perfect photos, it is worth it! Another important side note is to ONLY use professional imagery. Don't showcase iPhone photos on your website!
S: All excellent advice, thank you Alex. So what is your take away working with this level of brides and wedding planners?
A: Stay humble and create a flower family. You can't create this type of magic on your own, you will come to find that you rely heavily on your team and on the amazing vendors you align yourself with and it is important to remember that. Your team should be your family and you should treat them accordingly. When it comes to wedding planners, find the ones that are the best fit for you and your personality. Don't try to work with coordinators who make you feel bad or don't treat you with respect or who take advantage of you, work with people who fan your flame and support you!
S: What’s the weirdest or most unusual request you have gotten from a client so far? How did you execute it?
A: Hmm... this is tough... I was a bit caught off guard a few years back when a client that we have never met (booked after a short phone call and lived in Arkansas) let me know that she wanted me to design her daughter's wedding from the ground up and trusted me to make all of the design choices from start to finish (including color scheme) without needing to run anything past them or even meeting them in person. I was nervous to get their vision right and to respect their budget wishes without having any sort of direction. This turned out to be one of my favorite weddings to date and one of the kindest, most gracious clients I have ever worked with. It really helped boost my confidence level as well in terms of making decisions for the client when they'd like me to.
S: Sounds like a dream client, we love those!
So what’s your favorite flower? Any you’re not a fan of? Any you refuse to work with? Favorite color palette?
A: My favorite flower changes from month to month! If I had to name one right now it would be white clematis. I love how dainty the stem is, the foliage and how it naturally drapes. I am not a fan of birds of paradise. I refuse to work with poorly dyed flowers such as a blue orchid or something that is extremely artificial looking. My favorite color palette is a neutral palette of creams, whites, and greens. I LOVE throwing in a hint of black when I can.
S: Well no surprise there, elegant neutral palettes seems to be your calling card. Would you say your design style has changed over the years?
A: My design style has changed immensely over the years. I think as a designer, it takes years to fully find yourself and it edits slightly through the years. I think initially, my style was literally to cater to whatever style walked in my doors. I don't think my brand truly had an identity until I became more confident in my designs and in who I am. I was initially very attracted to all things glamorous and now I am more attracted to studying nature and movement and introducing natural elements.
S: What trends do you see bride’s asking for in the coming next two years?
A: This is a tough question and we try not to get TOO trendy with our work and stay pretty timeless with a current spin, but I have come to find that fashion trends take about 2-3 years to translate into event trends. If textures and patterns are being showcased along the fashion runways, chances are that in a few years, you'll see those as major event trends.
S: I understand Blush has a minimum for events? I know you have a sister company Parker & Posies that started as a way to handle some of the brides that wanted to work with your team but maybe weren’t quite in Blush’s minimum range. I think it’s a brilliant idea by the way. How has that decision worked for your brand?
A: Yes, Blush does have a minimum and we limit the number of events we take on per year. Starting Parker and Posies has truly been one of the best and most rewarding decisions I've made in business! The decision was originally made because I was beginning to think about starting a family and needed to limit my involvement to a few events per year and also didn't want to lose my amazing team with not having enough work to keep them busy, not to mention we were turning away a lot of beautiful events that we would have loved to be a part of at Blush but were already booked up with larger events and couldn't take on more work. The dream would not have been able to be a reality without the extremely hard work of my business partner, Brittany, who had no background in flowers when I met her. Over the years, she learned every aspect of our world through working for Blush and when I approached her about starting Parker and Posies she was as excited as I was! Together, we've worked to create a relatable brand that is truly "blooming" (see what I did there?). It has been so rewarding to watch it grow and build a team out that is so incredible, thoughtful and hard working!
S: Do you have a Floral Crush right now. Any favs? Or who inspired you early on?
A: Oh ya, I've got a ton! Every time I go on Instagram I find a new one! Mindy Rice is always impressing me with the way she takes the classic, garden look to a new level and my mind is always blown by White Lilac.
S: Both so good!
What’s your biggest floral pet peeve? Things you don’t enjoy designing or trends you’re not a fan of.
A: My biggest BIGGEST pet peeve in floral is when a designer is attempting to make a piece look naturally dripping or cascading with blooms such as tulips or foliage and instead of naturally clustering them to drape on their own throughout the piece, they place them only in a single area, facing completely downward. I am not sure if I am expressing this correctly but it always bothers my eyes. I know I've mentioned previously, but I try to stay away from being too trendy or to somehow blend trendy with classic. I may have a case of baby-brain right now but I can't think of a single trend that I'm not a fan of (sorry!).
S: Do you enjoy destination weddings? Any tips you would like to share? Any horror stories?
A: I have enjoyed destination events in the past! I am sure I will enjoy them again, but for now, we are staying local in Southern California (LA, OC, SD) because I have a newborn baby. In terms of tips, I'd say organization is key and plan for travel time to be longer than anticipated so you're not late. I'd also say PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING. We had a large corporate event in Santa Barbara and the client said they'd be paying for our rooms and I forgot to enter this into my contract. When we arrived I called to see where our rooms were and she told me that they ran out of a budget and that we had to get our own rooms. This wasn't the end of the world, but it was an unexpected expense and also put a bad taste in my mouth for the event setup.
S: Favorite location so far?
A: Locally, Cal a Vie - STUNNING!
S: How do you feel about hosting workshops? Do you enjoy collaborating with other florists?
A: I would love to host a workshop, I have taught many of the girls at our studio. Collaborating with other florists gives me LIFE. I LOVE collaborating and I LOVE a team environment. I'm all about empowering others.
S: If you weren’t doing this what other career do you see yourself having?
A: When I first started, I actually did wedding cakes and desserts as well as florals. I quickly learned I couldn't do both but if I had to do something else I'd probably want to do amazing wedding cakes. I am obsessed with Ron Ben Israel, I got to meet him a few years back and nearly fainted.
S: I just learned how to make a homemade cake last year and this year attempted real french buttercream! I have a totally new appreciation for this art. I can see where it would be a superhuman feat to try and do both!
What advice would you give a newcomer to the floral industry just starting out? What would you tell your younger self?
A: It takes a really strong work ethic to be successful in this industry but DON'T BURN OUT. Being organized is KEY. Learn when to say no and never take on too much, it only takes messing up once to get a bad reputation.
S: How has social media affected or influenced your business?
A: Hugely. I think that nowadays all of my brides check us out on social media prior to meeting us and potentially even before looking at our website. It is a major way that we show off our portfolio. Many times, brides will fall in love with our work on instagram and know that we are a good fit prior to meeting us.
S: Knife or snips?
A: KNIFE is LIFE
S: YES girl, preach! I love to teach the proper use of a knife in my workshops. Speaking of which, what’s in your toolbox?
A: So much sticky clay!!!!! :)
S: Ok silly question time: Do you like pickles? I am a fan of the famous Dave’s Sweet and Spicy bread and butter myself haha!
A: Uh... ya! Who doesn't like pickles?! But I'll keep it real - if I had to choose between a pickle and a cornichon, I'm going cornichon all day long.
S: Fancy AND French, me likey! Well thank you so much Alex! Any final thoughts, opinions comments on the state of the industry etc...?
A: Love me some Mayesh! The only issue I have with the industry currently is the whole crediting the artist thing on social media... but other than that, happy as a clam ;)
S: We love you too! And we couldn’t agree more on this topic. It all comes down to integrity and respect of your peer’s work. It is so important to properly tag and give shout-outs to the original designer/artist/photographer. I don’t think people understand how important this is and how it harms the original creator when proper credit is not given. Hoping we will see less of this in the future.
Alex, thank you for your time and for all your insight and wisdom. We look forward to seeing your work on Instagram every week!
Here are some fun BTS photos I took when I visited Alex in her studio... the team was working away on an event! Scroll down for the finished event photos... it turned out STUNNING!
And the finished event!
Gorgeous images by @the_grovers