Episode 17: Collaborating with a Florist with Alicia Schwede
We have all seen the incredibly helpful rose colour studies on the Flirty Fleurs blog that are scattered all over the web. In fact, if you have yet to check out the blog, you should do so immediately! The blog is written by no other than the internationally renowned florist, Alicia Schwede. It includes resources and workshop information for florists but is equally relevant to paper florists.
Back to Alicia - she’s has been in the florist industry for more than 16 years and runs her floral studio, Bella Fiori, out of Seattle, Washington. She offers floristry services for weddings and events and instructs floral workshops all over the world. Next spring, she’ll be in Tuscany for a week-long floral retreat, and in October (October 22, 23, & 24, 2019), with our very own Quynh in California for a Wedding Intensive Workshop.
Listen to Alicia as we grill her about how paper florists can work with florists successfully to better suit and meet our paper flower clients’ needs. In the meantime…
Let’s first learn about Alicia:
1. Who is Alicia Schwede?
Oh gosh, this is a tough question! Well, I am a person who truly cares about the floral industry. I want people to want flowers – flowers in all forms. Flowers bring happiness and calmness to people, and I think we could all use more of that in our lives! I want to share my passion with others, spread happiness, and encourage others to follow their dreams.
2. How did you get started in floristry and in the floristry business?
I did not start off ever thinking I’d be a florist. After college, I took a position with a software development company in San Francisco. I found sitting in front of the computer for 8-12 hours a day to be rather daunting and depressing – so to keep my hands and the creative side of my brain happy I took all kinds of artistic classes in the evenings and weekends. One day I signed up for a 6-week floral design class at the local community college. I was hooked by the third class, and the rest as they say … is history.
3. Tell us about Flirty Fleurs.
My wedding business name is Bella Fiori which launched in March 2003. I had been blogging for my business and found myself always wanting to talk more about the floral industry so in May 2010 I decided to launch Flirty Fleurs – where I could talk flowers all the time! At that time social media wasn’t so strong and having a blog was a great source of information and a way to share a passion and interest. Over the years it has evolved in many ways and now has grown to 9 years of topics saved in one place!
4. How did you find your branding style? How has your brand and style evolved to what it is today?
In some ways, I would say I’ve moved with the times and with how the look of weddings has evolved. Yet, the logo I use for Bella Fiori was created for me by one of my brides over 10 years ago! I like that it is classic. Flirty Fleurs has changed more – since it is my creative outlet I can follow my whims and give it tune-ups as I wish. At the base for both – I like feminine looks, cursive text, lots of pinks, greens, and whites. Bright and airy.
5. What are some of the challenges you've faced during your florist career?
It definitely hasn’t all been a walk in the park. I think often when people are first getting started they think it’ll be a walk in the rose garden, pun intended – ha! Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. First is always putting myself out there to find new clients. That is one thing about weddings, the brides (are most likely) one-time customers.
Sure their sisters or friends might come along, but for the most part, it is a one-time business transaction. So as a business owner I have been marketing and putting myself out there for 20 years now. It’s a lot of committed work to keep marketing out there, keep fresh, keep the drive.
As a fresh florist, there is always the challenge of sourcing fresh flowers week after week. Flowers are obviously very dependent on weather – one hail storm and an entire farmer's crop can be destroyed, and the florist won’t be getting those perfect dahlias that week! Gosh, one time I had ordered in flowers to come in from the Dutch Auction, well there was a volcano issue in Iceland which meant no planes flying between North America and Europe – that means no flowers!
6. How have you made yourself stand out in the crowd of other Florists?
There is a saying in the wedding industry – You are only as good as your last event.
Someone said that to me early on and I quickly realized that I could have a phenomenal wedding, but it would quickly be forgotten so I’d have to find ways to keep what I was doing out there and being viewed. I jumped onto all things related to websites, blogs, social media early on and have kept at it all for years. It probably helps that at that post-college job I had was cutting edge on websites back in the day and I learned so much while working there.
7. How would you define your style? How did you find your style?
I grew up in Northern California, had my business Bella Fiori in Colorado for 10 years, and now call Washington home. So I have had a good amount of moves in my life over the past 20 years. Yet, I find the style that appeals to me the most is the one that is found in the wine country of California – it’s full of puffy flowers like garden roses, peonies, dahlias, and branches of fruit. Give me the wine grapes, the fruit on branches, the vines. That’s still my favorite! I call it wine country style and I always seem to come back to that style when I design as I wish.
8. What advice would you give to a florist who is starting out today? And one that is about to give up?
Tenacity is everything – for those who are just starting out and those who are about to give up. Tenacity to keep going even if one client gives you a rough time, or if you didn’t get one of the jobs you bided on. Take a deep breath, re-set, keep your head high. You know what you want to do and follow your dreams!
And if you’ve been doing this awhile and feeling drained – step back, take some time off and do what you need to do to get your energy back. For me, I love to travel and a trip to Europe is always good for my soul!
9. Do you have any floristry related tips that could be helpful to Paper Florists?
Take lots of pictures. The majority of flowers are seasonal so get as many pictures as you can to draw inspiration from when the flowers might not be available.
I also recommend the book by Robbie Honey – Accidental Botanist: The Structure of Plants Revealed. Robbie deconstructed all these different flowers, it’s so interesting to see the structure – and the perfect images for a paper florist who is building up flowers!
10. Do you have any advice for a Paper Florist who is working on the same wedding as a florist?
Communication is everything! Both paper florists and fresh florists are creative minds, and sometimes it can be difficult or forgotten to voice concerns and/or thoughts. So try really hard to make sure you are always communicating as a team.
Learn more about Alicia, Flirty Fleurs, and Bella Fiori by following on social media: