10 Tips From My Small Business Startup Journey

10 Tips From My Small Business Startup Journey

It’s easy to assume that a brand you know well or a small business you love just popped up like that, fully formed and already blooming. That, however, as many of us know personally, is not how things begin. 


I’ve shared my story behind why I created Nectar & Bloom and my mission behind what we offer, but many fellow floral artists and aspiring entrepreneurs also ask about what I did to start my business. I’m going to tell you that story here in a way that arranges the steps I took into tips you can use as you fashion or refine the dream you are building.


When the desire to create my own business had sufficiently taken over my entire being, as big callings in life tend to do, I didn’t know yet what it was going to become or exactly what to do first (or next), so I just started where I was.




Take stock of where you have been and what you can bring with you into a new chapter.


Just because you are leaving an old job or career chapter behind does not mean it was useless or a wrong turn. By contrast, your previous experiences and areas of expertise enrich your new chapter and make you unique.


When I began on this journey, I just knew that I wanted to start my own business in a collaborative industry that would connect me with other creatives. I also wanted to build a career that would let me serve more authentically in the world. I had two academic degrees in writing and had taught countless writing classes and workshops throughout my academic years. I had always been creative, from drawing and painting to being a dancer and writing poetry, and I also had a life chapter in flowers from my childhood, but I didn't realize that this would be relevant at all just yet. 


Most of all, while I had no experience yet as a business owner or working floral designer, nor did I even realize at first that what I wanted to do was become a floral artist, I did have a lot of passion and drive. I also had no idea where to begin, so I decided that the next step would be to just allow myself to explore an art class or two. 




When you feel called into a new field of work or art, allow yourself to explore it.


I was still teaching at the university when I spotted on Instagram a holiday wreath and macramé workshop hosted by a local florist, which felt like a sign. I bought a ticket. The evening of the workshop came, and when I walked inside the studio, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. It was like stepping into a dream for me. 


There were wide wooden tables, fragrant boughs of evergreens and juniper, stems of cotton bolls and other seasonal bits and bobs, not to mention an entire wall of floral vessels looking like an art installation to me. The place was pure magic, and all I could think was: “I didn’t know this was an option! This wasn’t on the list of majors!” There was something deeply familiar and grounding about it all too, being among cut florals and a big, shared creative space…




Whether it’s intuition, coincidence, or destiny, things in life often come full circle in ways we can’t see until looking back when it all suddenly makes perfect sense.


Here’s where the forgotten past chapter in flowers comes into play: I grew up on an organic produce farm in the American midwest. My parents made a small business out of an extra-large vegetable garden, growing everything organically from arugula and sugar snap peas to summer squash and heirloom tomatoes, from bell peppers and carrots to three kinds of watermelon, not to mention the potatoes, okra, garlic, gourds, and everything in between. 


Alongside this operation, my big sister and I started our own little flower business, growing a variety of flowers from seed to attract more pollinators and “good bugs” onto the farm. We cut and arranged these flowers into bouquets that we sold at the local farmers market. We chose flower seeds from my parents’ seed catalogs, planted them in seed starter trays, and transplanted them into the ground. We watered and cut, processed and arranged, all the while goofing around, telling stories, and making a little side money together on the weekends. 


By the time I moved to California for college, my farm days were going straight into the past, far, far behind me. I was starting a new life in a place where I’d always felt I belonged, on the West Coast. I was going to study writing and travel and find work that would let me get out into the world. After college I went abroad on a work visa to New Zealand, then got into graduate school and  worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming and lead student abroad programs during my summers. Never once did I think I would return to flowers.


Even so, a seed within me started to sprout. I soon found myself coming full circle to the farm and to flowers in unexpected ways: I sought out a Permaculture Design Course certification one year, and then a job in a florist shop one summer between semesters of teaching (although nobody hired me because I didn’t technically have “experience”). Then one day there I was, standing in a florist’s studio at a wreath workshop asking if they ever needed any help because I’d love to learn more.




Don’t feel locked in to the first iteration or first idea you have, as the process informs the product.


Even when my new florist friend said “yes” that I could apprentice with her, I still didn’t realize that the business I wanted to start was a floral design studio. My first business idea was a kind of catch-all creative effort that would provide calligraphy, macrame, styling, signage, and other kinds of decor and installations. I called it the “Rare Arrow Studio.” My poet self loved the rhyming vowel sounds of this name, but it was frankly quite difficult to say and understand (try saying “Rare Arrow” three times fast), and it was also confusing and unfocused as a business ideea (although it was great at first to just make a start).


While still working at the university and apprenticing with a floral designer on the weekends, I finally started to realize that what I really wanted to do was exactly what it looked like I was trying to do: to be a floral designer myself. I hadn’t realized it because I was entirely inhibited with fear and imposter-syndrome doubts. I thought at the time that I could not possibly become a floral designer because I’d have to go back and get another degree to be “allowed” to do that. 




Ultimately it is you who gets to decide that, yes, this is for you.


Once I realized that what I really wanted to create was a floral design studio, I was petrified with fear. I’m not even kidding. I was so scared that people would hate me, kick me out, know I was faking it, see that I had no real training or talent at all, you name it. 


I’ve learned that this often happens: when you take a big step toward your truth, suddenly all of your past shadows and doubts show up and try to stop you. These parts of the mind are trying to keep us safe, but in reality they are often just keeping us small and stuck. The real opportunity is to face these fears with compassion so that you can integrate and expand what you believe is possible for yourself so that you can grow. In my experience, this approach is most helpful.


Even after I had officially registered my business, got licenses and bank accounts set up, and had my first website and legal agreements ready to go, I still went into the flower market fearing that at any minute they might kick me out. If you ever feel this way, please just laugh with me and remind yourself of what I thankfully one day realized: the flower market is a business, and the vendors there are much more interested in people being there to do business with them than wondering if someone is new or qualified. 


More than anything, I just had to give myself permission to step into what was calling me. No one else could do that for me. I also had to give myself permission to make changes, to fall on my face, to make weird designs that didn’t match what I had in mind yet, to take awful photos of my work before I understood how to work with natural light, to feel anxiety and self doubt in putting myself out there, and to keep believing in and acting on the dream I felt calling to me. Looking back I can see that the whole time I was right where I needed to be, walking my edge into growth and alignment. 




Sometimes that alignment process requires review and revisions too.


After realIzing for many reasons that “Rare Arrow Studio” wasn’t it, and once I finally saw that it was a floral design studio I was meant to create, I decided that I needed to give myself guidelines for choosing the right business name. To be “right,” my business name had to:


  • Be made of words I love and love to say aloud
  • Be easy to say and understand
  • Make sense, as in be recognizable as having to do with florals
  • Have deep meaning for me, the founder, the way a tattoo does


            For me, “Nectar” has a bright, warm, citrusy feel to it, which feels aligned for me, plus I grew up on Greek mythology, and I loved that nectar is the drink of the immortal gods (a magical nourishment). “Bloom” has a round, resonant, expansive, and deep feel to it for me, and it evokes flowers literally while it metaphorically expresses the action of unfolding and becoming. 


            In searching for my business name, I filled up many pages of a notebook with different words and meanings, sounds and pairings. When you are in this stage, take your time with it. It’s worth it. Try my criteria to support you too. 



            TIP 7 — PRACTICE

            Whatever it is you want to master, it is imperative to practice. 


            I’ve always been an athlete. I ran track and cross country in high school and in college. I was a dancer, and I picked up a devoted yoga practice during graduate school. Practice in sports is not optional if you want to improve. 


            The same goes for the arts. When you want to learn a new sport, art form, craft, or trade, you need to practice. Make space to train. Make space to explore, try things, mess up, and improve. Make space to learn your craft. Take online classes. Go to a workshop. Start freelancing. 


            When I started out, I bought flowers from the local farmers market to take home and practice. You can also find decent flowers at some supermarkets too. The only other essential things you need in order to begin practicing floral design are floral clippers, a vessel (taller ones are easier at first), and some kind of armature or mechanics, which can be as simple as a lattice of tape over the top of the vessel to keep stems in place. 


            At first I gave myself a hard time when buying flowers that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell. It felt irresponsible to spend money on materials without having a way to sell them and make income for the business. And then I realized that I wasn’t buying flowers to sell. I was buying flowers to invest in myself, my business, and my craft. 


            Remember that a painter must buy paints and canvases to practice painting. Allow yourself a monthly budget that works for you so that you can buy flowers and practice your craft.




            Set up your business from the start to be organized, secure, and intentional.


            In addition to practicing and honing my craft, I also wanted to set up a business. While I had been an academic, athlete, artist, writer, and teacher in different ways throughout my life, I had never formally studied business. 


            Don’t let this stop you! I went to a Small Business Development Center in our city (some comparable service likely exists where you are too) for a small business startup workshop, which gave me one of the most helpful tools of all: a checklist. 


            This checklist provided me with steps to take and necessary items to get this set up right so that I could legally do business, charge and earn money, and exchange my services as a retailer and service provider. Here’s a brief overview of that checklist:


            • Register a business name with your local government agency.
            • Set up a legal business entity with your state or region.
            • Set up separate bank accounts for your business.
            • Apply for a business tax license.
            • Apply for a business tax identification number.
            • Apply for a seller’s permit (or equivalent) to purchase wholesale.
            • Set up a basic website so people can search and find your business.
            • Work with a certified tax professional to set up your bookkeeping and tax filing.
            • Work with a lawyer to set up legal contracts and agreements.
            • Set up your small business insurance policy to cover your operations.


                                    This list is not exhaustive, but it does encapsulate the core essentials. Use this as a diving board, and go to a small business startup workshop anyway. It’s well worth the time to attend.



                                    TIP 9 — START WITH THE END IN MIND, AND WORK BACKWARD

                                    Once you have the business essentials set up, now you need to get your specific business operations in order. 


                                    I went to the Career Counseling Center at the university to ask for advice regarding making a big career pivot. The woman I worked with gave me a great suggestion, which was this: Imagine that someone is going to call you up today, asking to hire you to do their wedding florals. If that were true, what would you need to have in place in order to be able to accept this new client? 


                                    This is a great exercise because it starts from the end goal (booking your first client) and helps you prioritize what you need to do first in order to be ready for that. In this line of work, you’ll need a way to put together and share a quote or “proposal” for your client. You’ll need a legal agreement to outline your services and to protect your business. You’ll also need a way to accept payments and a structure for how you plan and execute your event weeks, and you’ll need inventory, a workspace, and potentially hired help. 


                                    This list is not meant to overwhelm you, and it certainly doesn’t have to all be done at once, but it is meant to give you the lay of the land and help you decide what to do next to move toward being ready to open your business. This is why you want to give yourself time to intentionally build a good foundation for your business. Be patient, and don’t rush any of it. You wouldn’t want to rush setting the foundation of a house, and a business is much the same.



                                    TIP 10 — KNOW YOUR WHY AND WHY YOU ARE WORTH IT

                                    Nothing is more motivating than an alignment of passion and purpose.


                                    During college, one of my favorite professors gave me this piece of advice: “Your thesis should be something for which you would climb walls.” What she meant was when coming up with a topic for such a big capstone project, it better be something you care about immensely, choose intentionally, and would go to any lengths to bring into being. 


                                    In a way, starting a business is quite similar. Are you willing to climb walls for the business you are creating? Is there anything to shift or clarify about what you want to offer the world to make it more fully aligned and worthwhile for you? What’s driving you to create this business? The more you know about yourself and your motivation, the more well-grounded you will be as you put the work in to make it a success (and the more you will enjoy and find rewarding the experience along the way!).



                                    I absolutely love sharing tools and insights to support and motivate what you feel called to create in your life. Your dream deserves support and success! If you’d like to learn more, check out my Online Courses, my Holistic Floral Mastermind, and my Mentorships to explore a rich array of supportive options.


                                    Reach out when you want to uplevel your floristry practice or bring your business into being. You are worth it. It is worth it. And you have this one, vibrant, one-of-a-kind life! Let’s make sure you get to thrive and feel fulfilled in it.




                                    PS: If you are an aspiring floral designer, you can also read my post about Apprenticeships vs. Mentorships to know which is best and what to expect.


                                    Note: This post is not intended to provide any kind of legal advice. It is purely genuine knowledge from my experience that I offer to you as you collect and research your endeavors.







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