Florist Interview: Branch Design Studio

Florist Interview: Branch Design Studio

Join us as we dive into Leslie’s journey and find out just how Branch Design Studio came to be! It’s a story as rich & vibrant as the blooms she creates. From her days on a Maryland farm surrounded by nature to her time spent exploring the world of chemistry, Leslie’s path was always intertwined with her love of floral design. The turning point in her journey happened when she designed the flowers for her sister’s wedding. She had an “aha” moment, as many florists do, and everything fell into place...

But what truly sets Branch Design Studio apart? Let's dive into our interview with Leslie!

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Can you share the story behind the founding of Branch Design Studio? What inspired you to start your own floral business, and how has it evolved over time?

For as long as I can remember, I have loved flowers, design, and art.  I grew up on a small farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where we were surrounded by Black Eyed Susans, Zinnias, Lilacs, and Tiger Lillies - to name a few. My parents obviously have a love of flowers too.  

Over time, my interest evolved to me participating in our high school prom flower committee. And then, eventually, in my early twenties I started working at a flower shop near my house. I graduated college and went on to work as a chemist with an international pharmaceutical company, but I always found myself gravitating back to flowers.  

While working as a chemist, I kept my creative energies busy by providing flowers for family and friends’ various weddings and events.  In 2011, I single-handedly provided all flowers and design for my sister and brother-in-law’s large wedding in Charlotte, NC. The wedding received great press and overwhelming positive remarks. My family encouraged me to devote my career to the creative field I love. And my sister and brother-in-law had such confidence in me that they said “let’s do this together.” From there, our wonderful Branch Design Studio journey began! I come from a supportive and wonderful family and it makes me so happy to have a successful family business in the creative industry I love.           

I still feel the same level of excitement for flowers that I felt playing around our farm on a summer day. I still get excited to see the Mayesh boxes come through the door. And, I may be known for rushing to the boxes and leaving a mess of paper and greenery in my wake :)  

Just like flowers, Branch is always growing and evolving. We originally focused on weddings and events. In 2021, we also opened our wonderful, little retail shop. Now, we not only provide flowers for life’s big events, but also for everything in between. We love that we have grown to being there for all of the moments in our customers’ lives. We are always evolving with our staff and customers. We offer classes, gifts, and so much more. I am so excited for what we have in store for the future and I can’t wait to see the flourishing that Branch will continue to do around the community.

Designing the flowers for your sister's wedding seems like a pivotal moment in your journey. Can you describe the process of creating arrangements for such a significant event, and how it impacted your decision to pursue floral design professionally?

Selfishly, I had secretly hoped that if I did the flowers for my sisters’ weddings, I wouldn’t have to be in the wedding party or go shopping for dresses. I am not a huge fan of public speaking or standing in front of everyone. But, my plan didn’t work out and I had to be a part of the wedding party and provide flowers.  I should have known better.  

Joking aside, it’s true, doing the flowers for both of my sisters’ weddings actually proved to be pivotal moments for me. Sarah’s wedding in particular, which was an outdoor Southern wedding, reminded me of my love for the South and being outdoors. I attended the University of South Carolina for two years so I loved the opportunity to return to the Carolinas and the beautiful, natural landscape.  Providing the flowers for my sisters’ weddings also reinforced my need to be creative again after so much time away in the corporate, scientific world. After my sisters’ weddings, both of my grandmothers kept telling me I needed to be more involved in the floral industry and pursue my talents. As we all know, Grandmas are usually right :)

In providing my sisters’ wedding flowers many years ago, I realized how rewarding it is to collaborate with a bride, listen to their visions, bring my knowledge and creativity to the table, and design their perfect wedding.  There is nothing more fulfilling than for a creative to hear “this is exactly what I had in my mind” or “this is beyond my dreams!”  I learned early on that to design something for someone else, listening and providing thoughtful, knowledgeable guidance is key.  Designing for my sisters, who aren’t known for holding back opinions, probably helped me to understand what it means to design for others.       

Can you share some insights into how your background in chemistry influences your approach to floral design? Are there any principles or techniques from your scientific training that you apply to your work as a floral designer?

I think the scientist part of me and the florist part of me are a perfect “marriage,” the perfect “formula.” As a chemist, I had to have extreme attention to even the most minute detail and I had to find solutions to complex problems. Now, I apply that to my career as a florist. I compulsively look for the best flower and composition for our clients. I have scrupulous attention to detail and a compulsion to get to solutions and design balance. These are extremely important characteristics both as a business owner and someone who is involved in the most important parts of the human experience - weddings, births, new loves, just because, cheering up, saying goodbye, etc. Having a creative mind that seeks out beauty and a scientific mind that drives towards solutions has surprisingly turned out to be the perfect combination. Turns out you don’t have to be one or the other!

How do you incorporate your artistic talents into your floral designs, and what inspires your creative process?

I have always loved originality, color, texture, and evolving ideas. Flowers are the perfect medium for exactly that. Each flower is unique and each arrangement is the opportunity for a unique composition. Myself and the entire Branch team prides ourselves on making sure each wedding, event, and arrangement is truly one of a kind. I have always found flowers to be the way I communicate and at Branch we use flowers as a beautiful, storytelling tool. Just think about it . . .you can hand flowers to someone to say soooo many things and evoke so many emotions!  From gratitude to sorrow to love to excitement, you can literally express feelings with flowers.          

Like any artist, there are days where I am energized with new ideas, bursting with creativity and just waiting to dive into my craft, and there are days where I need to seek inspiration. There is one place where I am always inspired - the outdoors. I am a nature lover and we are so lucky to be surrounded by an absolutely beautiful natural environment. You will often find me outside writing proposals, on hikes with my kids, or just getting fresh air to get energized for my creative work.  

What sets Branch Design Studio apart from other floral businesses? How do you differentiate your brand in terms of design style, customer experience, or other aspects?

We like to say that Branch is the “hellebore of the community.” We’d love to use that in marketing but realize only other florists will know what we mean :) We are unique, reliable, strong, and delightful. Our customers know they will always find creative ideas, engaged and caring customer service, and a superior product. And, we take great pride in that. Our customers’ style is our style. Personally, I lean towards organic designs with a touch of whimsy. But, we truly focus on listening to our customers and giving them exactly what they ask for while also providing our unique and knowledgeable suggestions and insight. We are there for guidance and support, but our number one priority is active listening.

Could you share a memorable experience or project from your career as a floral designer that particularly stands out to you?

We live in such a great environment with such an exciting wedding community that there are truly so many amazing opportunities and moments that come to mind. We were lucky enough to design for a Darcy Miller event at Charleston Wedding Week, which was definitely a career highlight. Darcy loved our flowers and personally took so many pictures of our flowers that it was truly a proud moment. To be recognized by an expert in the event industry really meant so much.  

That being said, we really love the day to day. We take pride and great memory in designing for everyone!  From families and celebrities with endless budgets to families with a specific, low budget in mind... we truly love and remember providing the right flowers for each event and customer. We provide options and superior service for all. 

How does your relationship with Mayesh impact your floral design process? Are there specific flowers or varieties that you frequently source from them, and how do they contribute to the overall aesthetic of your designs?

Mayesh is our support system! We always know we can trust and rely on Mayesh. Mayesh’s global reach and resources are unparalleled. And, all Mayesh professionals are top notch. Having this amazing support system means so much to us as a small, creative business. We know we can dream big dreams and make big things come to life because we have Mayesh behind us. We can think of the most unique or unusual bloom and we know Mayesh will source what we need. It’s a creative’s dream. 

Can you share a memorable experience or interaction you've had while shopping at Mayesh? What makes the experience of sourcing flowers from them unique or enjoyable for you?

Oh my goodness. It’s so hard to think of one. Whether we are sourcing materials from the LA office (shout-out to our amazing rep, Sarah Girard!) or staying close to home with the newly established Charleston branch (more shout-outs to Myah and Scott), the experience is always so easy and fulfilling. Everyone at Mayesh is always happy to hop on the phone to talk through our needs for an upcoming event or to help us problem-solve when nature isn’t cooperating or when a bride wants “purple, but not purple” :). The customer service and response times from Mayesh are unbeatable. And, it is honestly the every day, without fail, consistency, reliability, expertise, and service from Mayesh that is memorable and means so much to us.    

What advice would you give to someone considering a career transition into the floral industry, especially if they have a background in a different field?

Do it! If you are not afraid of hard work and long nights and are looking for a way to speak volumes without words - it is a great career choice. I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t smile or enjoy being greeted by flowers. Don’t hesitate. Get involved and start to get your hands dirty! In the end, you’ll find you can create something beautiful and fulfilling. 

Looking ahead, what are your goals or aspirations for the future of Branch Design Studio? Are there any exciting developments or projects on the horizon that you can share with us?

Branch is constantly evolving and we always have fun and exciting plans in the works. Currently, we are in the midst of planning a brand refresh and we are working with a great marketing team. We are excited to unveil our refresh soon!

In a creative field, we think it is so important to be constantly evolving and we take pride in regular self-evaluation and change. In 2021 we grew from weddings and events alone to also opening our amazing, little retail shop. In the years to come, we are focused on continuing our tremendous wedding and event business while also expanding our retail offerings.

That’s the great thing about the flower industry. Just like flowers, we are always growing and changing, but at our roots we will continue to provide the same creative, engaged, and thoughtful customer service. We are so excited for the many more adventures and growth opportunities to come!  



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