Jobs: ‘To make people happy is the best feeling in the world’ - life as a florist

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton - Credit: Archant

Stephanie Middleton, from Horsham St Faith, explains how a tragedy inspired her to pursue her dream job and start a successful floristry business.

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton - Credit: Archant

Name: Stephanie Middleton

Age: 44

Job Title: Owner of Steph's Flower Barn

Describe your job in a nutshell: I work with clients to produce flowers for weddings, events and funerals. I discuss their ideas and we work together to produce a plan. I also hire out vintage props suitable for events which add the finishing touches to the day.

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton

Steph's Flower Barn. Photo: Stephanie Middleton - Credit: Archant

How did you get your job? After the tragic death of my husband in a road accident in 2013, I decided life was too short, not to do the things you love. I was very lucky to have friends who suggested I did some training to help me cope with my new life. I quit my job and enrolled at Easton College to do a diploma in Floristry. I had always been interested in floristry but never had the opportunity to re-train. This gave me the chance to concentrate on something positive and creative. After leaving college in 2015 with a Diploma and Certificate Level 3 with distinction I freelanced for 6 months before deciding to take the plunge and set up my own business. I have the ideal space in my garden barn which I use to do all my floristry work including one to one consultations with couples and workshops. Working from home has given me the freedom to breathe new air into the home I shared with my late husband and look forward to the future.

What's the most enjoyable part of your job? Handing over the wedding flowers to a couple is emotional after months of working together to make their ideas a reality. I love being a part of their big day it is a privilege to be trusted to make their ideas come true. As the flowers play such an important part of the day and will be featured in almost all the photos it is crucial to get it right. To make people happy is the best feeling in the world.

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What's the most challenging part? Learning how to order correct amount of flowers for a job. If I over order, I am left with flowers I can't sell and under ordering creates a panic in the barn and means another trip to the wholesalers.

Can you tell us something we might not know about your job? During winter months I have to keep the flowers cool to keep them fresh, many florists use fridges, but I buy to order so have fresh flowers a day before the order goes out to the client. Because of this there can't be any heating in the barn even if it is snowing outside, so layers of thermal underwear are often needed!

What was my first job? I used to work in a hostel for vulnerable young women. I gained the experience and skills to really listen to what the client wanted and understand their needs. I use this in my floristry to discuss the clients ideas and ways to bring them to life with the flowers.

What does your ideal day at work involve? Starts with preparing the flowers for deadlines, conditioning them to make sure they last as long as possible. This involves stripping the stems of thorns and leaves, snipping the ends of the stems and putting them in buckets of water. Then I'd check any emails that have arrived, prepare quotes for weddings and events, meet clients at their chosen venue, update social media, source my collection of floral props to hire out to other florists (who don't have the room to store them) style the photos for the props to go onto the website, set up at the venues and finally make up the orders and deliver them to clients. The hours can be a little crazy and I need to be flexible to work into the nights and weekends to complete the job. No day is ever the same.

Where do you find inspiration? I have always been drawn towards nature and flowers, the intricacies of flowers is amazing to me. It's like a mini alien world. I love being surrounded by nature as it soothes my soul and brings every day life into perspective. I draw inspiration from nature, art, fashion and fabrics as well as following other floral designers in different parts of the world.

What advice would you give to others to set up their own business? Never give up! Don't listen to negative comments - do your own research and make up your mind.

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