We are chatting with the beautiful and lovely Margie Keates of The Lovely Ave.
Listen to Margie as she talks with Quynh, Jessie and Priscilla, about her business, her “house”, and her new studio space.
Margie is such a well-spring of information for paper florists and had some great insights to share with us! Check out what she has to say about branding, style, and persevering:
1.How did you find your branding style? And when you started A Lovely Ave four years ago, how has it evolved to what it is today?
I found my branding style with the help from a brand specialist. I reached out to her about a month after a started the Instagram because I knew that I needed help with my logo and how I wanted to present this new company. She helped me get all of my ideas out and then she sifted through what she felt would look best over time. I call this the "walls of my business". My foundation is my why and my branding was the structural beams that needed to be built so that I could continue to grow. The branding helped me stay focused and allowed me to grow inside my "house" without straying too far outside my brand. This created consistency and helped my brand become more recognizable.
My brand has of course evolved as I have evolved as an artist. This evolution comes from pushing yourself to try new techniques and try new ideas. This only happens when you truly figure out the direction you want to take, however, that is not as easy as it sounds. It took me two years to realize that I didn’t want to be in the wedding industry and that I wanted to focus on home decor. I still struggle with that choice since we do still offer wedding options through our site. In the end, you have to focus on what makes you happiest and learning how to say no is super important. As you can see, I am still trying to take my own advice but I believe in baby steps and not making decisions too quickly.
2. As you start your fourth year of business, what challenges are you facing?
The struggle I am currently facing is being forced into a new studio space since our old Pickle building was sold. We found a new studio, however, it is almost double the cost of what we are used to paying. This obviously makes it harder to just create for fun (which is how I believe new ideas and new styles come about) and makes your days all about how to make more money. This is going to be something I will truly have to work on and make sure that I don’t lose sight of what is truly important, my why.
3. How have you made your paper flower voice stand out in the crowd?
One word: CONSISTENCY. I knew from the very start that it was important that I created something everyday and then I would share my work on a regular basis. This helped make me a better artist but also helped with my brand recognition. I also made a point to stop comparing my work to other amazing artists. I know, I know...that is so much easier said than done, but truly, you have to stop. Your work is already unique because YOU made it. Keep creating and your own quirks and style will become more apparent and that is how you will be recognized. Consistency with your way of doing things and not comparing yourself to others who may be on a different level than you are. Perfect example is my anemones. They don’t like realistic...far from it, and I have tried to change them multiple times. But every time I do, I realize that my new and more realistic anemone looks like everyone else's and it just gets lost. So stay true to yourself and put those blinders on! I do want to make it clear that you can grow as an artist and gain better skills and still keep your style so don’t be afraid to grow as an artist because your style will always follow.
4. How would you define your customer base?
My customer base is the person who wants something lovely in their home that will start a conversation or spread joy to others. They want to gift our flowers because they know the joy they felt when they saw our blooms for the first time and they want to share that joy. Our customers are everyday consumers who are excited to find something new and share it with their friends and family.
5. How did you narrow down your ideal customer when you were starting out?
Honestly, I didn’t. I tried every avenue and did almost every project. I didn’t know what made me truly happy so I just took every job. I recommend doing this for at least your first year. It's almost like trying on a wedding dress. You may think you know what silhouette you want, but you try on every type because it turns out a mermaid shape is actually very constricting and how are you supposed to drop it low on the dance floor if you cant move?! Its the same when you're trying to find what your ideal customer is. You really can only find out when you take an order of every type and see how it makes YOU feel. You're going to be doing this job for a very long time, might as well make sure you absolutely love every aspect of it!
6. What advice would you give to a paper florist that is starting out today?
And one that is about to give up? My advice is actually for both scenarios. I want to remind them how important they are to this community, to this art form, and to the world. They are creating something magical with their hands, how amazing is that?! Stay in that powerful thought and let it empower you.
If you're just starting out, remember that your flowers will not be perfect, but they will be yours and that is huge. Also, nature isn’t perfect so you're already doing something right, GET IT BOO!! Remember to create something every day, even if you don’t have orders. This will allow you to practice your craft while also allowing potential clients to see what you are capable of. OH and one last thing: COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY, hunny, don’t let other's work sway you from being you.
If you're about to give up, please reach out for help. Its okay to admit that this job is crazy hard and that sometimes, maybe all of the time, it feels like you're not going to make it. Please know that we have all felt this way in one form or the other. Talk to your fellow paper florist, get some feedback on your work, and maybe just take a break...but please don’t give up. Your work is needed in this world and you started this journey for a reason. Reflect on that reason/your why and keep pushing. We are all here for you!
7. Do you have any paper flower making tips to share with our listeners?
PUT DOWN THOSE TUTORIALS. I know, I get it, I like following the rules too. But trust me, when you make your first flower from scratch you will realize how powerful your hands and mind truly are. This is so important as an artist and as a human being. Learn what techniques you can from other florist but in the end, your hands are your own and I for one what to see what you can do with them! Create just for yourself and show the world!
8. What would you say is your signature flower?
It’s a three way tie between my wild garden rose, my classic peony, and now my peony bombs.
9.Tell us about your subscription service!
When I first started this business I knew I wanted to have a subscription service. After doing this job for 3 years I realized that my original though of having bundles of blooms shipped out would be too hard. It wasn’t until my close friend suggested I think smaller and only start off with one flower a month. Its been a wonderful 6 months where I have learned SO much about myself but also about my clients. I cannot wait to see where this will take me as an artist and also where it will take my tiny little company.
10. How has adding a subscription service changed your business?
It has provided me with consistent income and work. This is HUGE in an online world, especially in a market where we are creating everlasting blooms that make it hard to retain customers. This service brings in a cash flow that we haven’t seen before and that is helpful in multiple ways. However, it also brings a little bit of headache. No matter what, we are shipping anywhere from 50-150 orders a month. That is A LOT. Its been a struggle to keep up with inventory, packing materials, and what truly important: creating for just me. So even though its helped my company be more financially stable, its also tricky to keep everything else balanced. Talk to me in 6 months and we will see if we have survived!