I bet there’s a few of us who have considered a brand new fresh start as a florist, working amongst nature all day, growing and nurturing the most beautiful flowers. It sounds like a dream come true.
Well Sarah Statham did just that. 3 years ago she left her successful career as a criminal lawyer. After 20 years of working in that field, a change of career would seem inconceivable for many but Sarah made the jump and has since enjoyed many successes whilst overcoming many hurdles.
Sarah now runs Simply By Arrangement from her home in West Yorkshire where she creates her floral masterpieces. Along with her long time friend and now colleague Christie, they also hold a fantastic array of workshops which include fresh coffee, cake and a 3 course lunch with wine. The food is all made in house by Christie. So you leave with a new skillset as well as a full and happy stomach.
I have been lucky to meet Sarah since moving to Hebden Bridge and I asked her a few questions about her life as a florist. I was really interested in her studio space. She described it to me,
“A studio in the garden so that I can be near to any flowers I need to pick up and so that I can look out of the large window and see the hills and trees. I have a huge cupboard for vessels and equipment, heavy duty shelves for lots of buckets and 2 huge sinks. There are 2 adjustable workbenches which were made to measure by George Kidd at Dovetail in Hebden Bridge. They have zinc tops which are great for all the water but also look good as a background for flowers. I spend a lot of time making little patterns with flower heads on the zinc patina when I really should be working! It’s a quiet, calm place and I love being in there.
I’m always interested in how successful small business owners utilise their time especially how they gear themselves up for work;
“I get up early, especially in summer when flowers need picking before it gets hot. After a pint of Yorkshire tea and some kind of green juice which I kid myself is good for me, I check emails and glance at instagram. I’m also partial to a second breakfast and am addicted to marmalade. A lot of my work happens later in the day once flowers have been in water for a while. If we have a class to teach we start at 10am and the workshop gets filled with flowers and a scented geranium candle.”
Social media is great to show all the positive aspects of having your own business, beautiful pictures, smiling faces. But it rarely shows the difficulties and hurdles creatives face in order to get a business off the ground and then to grow it. On the most part we don’t share the aspects which are very grueling. For Sarah it was getting people to know who they were,
“We started from nothing and I had a very different career. At first we had customers who knew us personally. But gradually, thanks mainly to social media and the free advertising it allows, we have built up a much bigger customer base. Making flowers is a very visual thing. I had no idea how to take a decent photograph but I quickly realized how important this is and did a couple of online photography courses. I’m still learning!
It is overcoming these hurdles and seeing hard work pay off which instills confidence in you to carry on. Sarah describes some of the things they have achieved,
“We’ve done some great things creatively, at places I love. Probably the best thing was a workshop we held at the Bronte Parsonage where we were asked to fill the house with flowers for the birthday celebrations of Charlotte Bronte. We used British flowers which I’m passionate about. Recently we helped the National Trust with a photoshoot at Hardcastle Craggs and I particularly enjoyed working with other local artists there. But on a day to day level, I take more comfort from the fact that we have lots of repeat customers for our workshops and brides who just come and trust us to create them something beautiful because they’ve seen what we do.”
It can be hard especially in the early days of setting up a business to stay motivated. I wanted to know how Sarah kept disciplined and kept coming up with new ideas,
“I suppose I just love what I do and appreciate it more having spent so long in a different world. I’m very much motivated by whats growing outside and so every new flower that appears must have its day in a floral design of some description. This week it’s apple blossom, next week it will be aquilegia. I’m always thinking about new things to cover for workshops and the same with designs. Weirdly a lot of my ideas come to me whilst I’m asleep!”
I asked Sarah about her personal and business values,
“The values for our business, and for me are probably the same. Keep things simple and honest, work to the highest standard. Be generous especially in sharing what knowledge you can and always encourage others. I love to see people from our workshops go about their own ‘flowery journey’. Oh, and maintain dignity and a good sense of humour at all costs!”
Her creativity also feeds into other areas of her personal life,
“I love interior design almost as much as flowers. I also love fashion and whilst I’m no fashionista I do avidly watch what is going on as inevitably whatever is on the catwalk will filter down into flower fashion. I love gardens and seeing them all around the world and locally. Places like Great Dixter or Harlow Carr are both inspirational and very calming. They’re also a good place to practice photography. I love art galleries too, always places to get ideas from. I’ve always loved books and have several piles all around the house.”
I finished on asking Sarah if she had any advice to other creative business start ups and students,
“Absorb as much as you can from others, read extensively and practice your craft as often as possible. Find a mentor whose work you admire or look closely at others and see how they present their work. If you can, go on courses and always keep learning. Never become complacent about what you do, the nervous feeling should never go away.”