I wanted to take a moment to give my clients, past, present, and future, a little glimpse into what it took to earn the recently awarded ‘Best of Weddings’ title. First off, I was totally shocked when I got the call. In the small business world, you often feel like you’re reaching .005% of your client base, floating along with all this passion, drive, and determination, yet no one is even aware you exist. Marketing dollars are tight, and you never know what’s going to offer any return on investment. It was absolutely amazing to have such a large and well known wedding industry leader say “we saw you, we think you’re great, and we’re going to let everyone else know too.”
I originally started this business in the worst part of the economic recession. Why on earth would I do that? Well, it was actually pretty natural, and I knew it would take some time to grow. I graduated college with a degree in Interior Design, and at my first job out of school I met my soon-to-be husband, who also happened to be an architect. We ended up moving together to take on some amazing design work in the middle of the country, only to find ourselves 3 years later in the worst downturn we will probably ever know in our working careers, especially among the design industry. Everyone we knew in our field was hurting. After 5 rounds of layoffs, both my husband and myself were finally ‘out’. It was miserable trying to find another design job at the time, and of course, I found out we were expecting our first child the week I was laid off.
For those that know me personally, you could say my candle burns at both ends. I refuse to give up…ever. I hated the feeling of not being in control of my own future, and with the design industry so bleak, I turned my sights on the little thought that was always in the back of my mind…Poppy Floral. The company was started in my kitchen while we were living in Kansas. I remember filing that first online form to get the name approved. It was so exciting! I had started something, and it was mine to grow, mine to succeed at, and mine to fail at. Fortunately, I had, and still do have, a crazy amount of support from my family, friends, and peers of the design community. Requests started coming in, and what started with one bouquet for a close friend’s wedding, has now turned into a 1300 sq ft studio in Cambridge with over 30 weddings booked this year.
How did I get here? Definitely not the easy way. This award means a lot to me, because over the last year I’ve somehow managed to restart the business in the Boston area after taking a really wonderful long break to bring our beautiful baby girl into world, and spend those first months with her. But, me being me, I started getting antsy. I started with a few small weddings, all done in my Cambridge apartment’s kitchen, in the evening, where I could work without distractions. I would be up until midnight, carefully tying boutonnieres while the rest of the family slept. And did I mention we live on the second floor? Yep, I carried mounds of white hydrangea arrangements up and down our stairs in 100 degree June heat to get this business started. Some of that with my daughter strapped to my chest in her baby bjorn. After about the first 3 weddings I was like a crazy woman, determined to find a new studio space, with room to grow the business into what I hoped it would become. And of course to do it before the next wedding, since my family room has now become half filled with baby swings, and the other half with an order of 20 centerpiece containers. Not an ideal combination.
Finding a decent apartment in Cambridge is one thing, but a retail space? It was incredibly daunting; each location I looked at felt like it meant a completely different business plan for Poppy Floral. I didn’t see myself as a typical retail florist, and still don’t. I look at each event like a custom design job, and enjoy putting something incredible together on a large scale. Of course, there was a spot on mass ave that was a former photography studio, complete with a storefront, and an old dark room with a huge sink already installed, and lots of work space that could be used for arrangements. Except that work space and sink was downstairs. I shuddered at the thought of continuing the process of carrying 20 centerpieces up and down stairs to load all over again. So by the time I looked at what is now my current space – “Wait, there’s a huge loading door? I can literally back my car into here? I can build a full size Chuppah out of birch branches and won’t damage the ceiling? I’ll take it”. So yes, Poppy Floral is tucked away in North Cambridge, rather out of sight, but it allows me to produce pretty much anything for a wedding. I have no space limitations, no height limitations, and lots of room to grow. I also get to share my space with the amazingly talented Lo of Lolo Event Design. (Double bonus: great company, and great business insight).
What is now a pretty decent studio space, was actually a furniture making shop before I moved in. And boy was there sawdust. Lots of it. I think I spent my first two months just cleaning the stuff off of everything! It was totally worth it though to have my first few clients through the door, knowing I would have quiet space to sit and discuss their dream event. And not competing with the Harvard students at Peets in Harvard Square, where I had met many of my clients before. One meeting I had with such a sweet couple, we were outside, since there were no seats inside, and of course it started to rain! I felt so bad, but we wrapped up quickly, and I ended up doing their wedding flowers, which of course they absolutely loved. So when I say I really appreciate my brides – I really do. It is not easy to start your own business, and to keep it running. You have to be passionate every day, sell yourself every day, and own the responsibilities of that every day. It can be exhausting on the days when you were underbid for an event, but totally worth it when the mother of the bride comes up to you after a wedding, with tears in her eyes, and says “you made my daughter’s wedding day even more beautiful than we imagined.” It’s those moments that make it worth it, and makes you happy that you were up until midnight making boutonnieres just. right.
Thank you to all the Boston support this past year, and here’s to many more!
– Meghan Perlow, Owner, Poppy Floral.