How to Expand Your Florist Education by Growing Your Network
Education is an essential tool you have at your fingertips. We all have our favorite resources for inspiration, but one of the greatest avenues for florist education is friends! When you have flower-loving friends around you to trade tips with, your journey through the industry can become so much easier. But what are some ways to get out of your comfort zone and grow your network as a floral pro? Events!
During the wonderful Team Flower Conference in Waco, Texas, in March 2019, there were so many opportunities to meet and network with new people. It was a thrill! One of the sentiments that I constantly heard was, “I wish I knew more people to talk about business with.” There was such a strong desire to feel like a part of the bigger picture, more than just a florist alone in your studio trying to come up with solutions and ideas all on your own. If you feel this way, you’re not alone—and that is great news!
One of the best ways to meet other floral designers and get excellent floral education is through floral associations that are focused on educating designers across the country. State associations, allied associations, national organizations, and wire services all provide an opportunity to learn and—possibly more important—to meet other people who share your love of flowers.
State, regional, and allied floral associations were developed as a way for florists to connect, share ideas on best practices, and learn new trends and techniques. These organizations often provide their resources through annual conventions and regional design programs. Much like the Team Flower Conference, these are great opportunities to meet your fellow florists and learn from renowned industry educators.
While attending events produced by state organizations is a wonderful way to get to know new people and learn tips and tricks, it takes more than that to feel like you are part of the big picture. Getting more involved with these groups will benefit you and them. With a new group of floral designers making their way into the industry, the established organizations need you to tell them how they can serve you.
Getting involved is easy. All you have to do is reach out to any of the board members or the association’s president and ask how you can become an active member. Let them know you would like to assist at the next event or that you would like them to consider you for a position on their board. Sitting on the board of an association often means that you will need to attend a few meetings each year and help in the planning and execution of design programs. While each association is different, most are very considerate of your time and volunteer efforts. They will often have committees to oversee the direction of specific tasks or focus areas, e.g., marketing, membership, education, publications, etc. These committees have the responsibility of making small-scale decisions that can have significant impacts on the organization’s future.
Another way to get involved as a member is to ask to work with the designers who will be on stage presenting education programs. These presenters always need an assistant or two in the days leading up to the event, and assistants can learn valuable techniques that allow them to grow as designers. It’s one of the most rewarding “jobs” you can do!
In addition to state and/or regional floral associations and allied groups, there are floral design schools that have proven excellent education but also allow for time to really connect with the other attendees. Two of the primary wire services, Teleflora and BloomNet, both have “schools” with classes taught by some of the biggest names in American floristry. You don’t have to be a member of the wire services to attend their classes. Teleflora Design Academy and BloomNet’s Floriology Institute provide a wide range of courses from business and design to floral communication. They’re a great resource.
Of course, there are national organizations that are a considerable part of the industry’s progression. Since 1884, the Society of American Florists (SAF) has worked hard for a vast swath of the floral industry. They work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate for industry members. They provide resources to growers, wholesalers, researchers, floral retailers, and event professionals. SAF also educates consumers through public relations campaigns. Throughout the year they hold numerous single-day events across the country, and there is a large convention where floral industry members gather for training, inspiration, and networking.
Another great place to make flower friends and continue to develop yourself as a floral professional (a task that never ends) is with the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD). The mission of AIFD is to advance the art of floral design. They try to do this by hosting regional events and a national symposium, taking place this year in Las Vegas in July. The symposium brings dynamic stage programs, world-leading designers, hands-on education, and more to any floral designer who wishes to attend. They also hold an evaluation each year to attain the coveted AIFD designation. But more than that, these events are a great place to meet florists who are striving to become their own personal best.
Education is such an important part of the floral industry. There are so many avenues to learn and grow, but getting out of your comfort zone and attending an educational event could be a life-changing experience for you and your business. If you ever need guidance or inspiration or you need to feel connected, get out and experience all the education available to you. New flower-loving friends are out there just waiting to meet you!