Interview: Natalie at Native Poppy
Kelly: Natalie, tell us a little bit about how you started?
Natalie: I originally started my company while sitting at my desk at a corporate job. I was working HR and every day I was like inside of this room with no windows filing paperwork for this giant company and I just was like, "Why am I doing this with my life? I get one time to live and I'm going to stand in a room with no windows filing paperwork for The Man? I can't do this." Then I was just at my desk and I was on Pinterest all the time and I was just like, "Wow, these pictures are so beautiful of flowers. These people's lives are so amazing." Then I realized, I don't know, a lightbulb just went off one day and I was like, "Well, I could do that. Somebody else is doing that. That's a real job." Then honestly within maybe a week I had come up with a name, Native Poppy, while sitting at my desk and I called the only florist I knew. It was a guy in San Francisco and I asked if I could come work for him and he said, "Sure, it's the holiday season. I need help." I packed up my bags, quit my job, and I moved home to San Francisco for a month studied with him full time and the rest is history.
You can do anything you want in life you just got to put one foot in front of the other and do it.
Kelly: Tell us a little bit about the retail space that you have.
Natalie: At year two of doing the wedding business I was approached with an opportunity to open up a small retail location in this shared space that was going to be a coffee shop with all these vendors. I thought about it and I thought this is a good way to get my name out, but the deal fell through.
Then I was approached again to open up the retail shop with a coffee shop and this felt like the right fit. The space is pretty small and hard to work in because it's been so busy. It was very hard to work with customers and work on a wedding. I was working from after the shop closed, like once we were cleaned up at 7:00 P.M. and then I would stay at work until like 5:00 A.M. to finish a wedding so that was just not sustainable at all. I only shared space with my retail business and event business for a few months. Then luckily the business next door to us left and we were able to take over the second part of the building and now I have a full office and studio that I can do all my work in during the day so that's really nice and it's attached to the shop.
Kelly: What businesses surround your shop/studio location?
Natalie: There is a coffee shop and we are also on the same property as a plant nursery. It's very fun. Then the coffee shop just expanded and then my shop expanded to the space next to us.
Kelly: There are quite a few people who are considering a retail location and I was wondering if you feel like there's something that's important for people who are headed down that route to look for whenever they're choosing a space and setting up product offerings and just wondering what a few similarities and differences might be between just doing a studio and then having a shop or having both. What are the differences between event versus everyday?
Natalie: They are so different. That is why I have called it a sister company and I'm trying to rebrand and make Native Poppy Studio more of this full service event styling and design and then Native Poppy shop is for just your average customer who wants to come in and get flowers, deliver flowers, get a few gifts on the side. It's an experience. We try to make the shop experience very special and fun to be in.
When I was working as a wedding designer I had more free time and I didn't have employees and the bookkeeping was easier because it was project-based. I also felt more like an artist with just weddings. I got to take on one project and put my whole heart into it and design it and then having the retail space, it really feels more like a business. I wish I had read more books about how to manage a business and HR. I opened the shop doing what I knew, which was being an artist and designing this beautiful space and designing a beautiful customer experience and designing our offerings. That part was easy and fun and it was amazing and designing the way my employees would interact with our customers. That was fun and amazing. We are coming up on the end of year one for the shop and I'm looking at my books, talking to my accountant and business coach and realizing, I'm not just an artist, I'm running a ship. It's nuts. The two businesses are totally different, but I think if you like to always have your hair on fire it's something worth exploring. It makes me feel alive every day and I feel like I'm definitely getting to contribute more to our community as a daily operation. We get to touch so many lives by being able to send flowers to the community. Native Poppy is something we didn't have in San Diego before. There are flower shops that do a dozen red roses and baby's breath, but it's just so fun to get to introduce the community to king protea and weird stuff that we get used to in the wedding world.
Kelly: King protea are one of your favorite flowers, along with the Japanese anemone. This made me smile because they're two completely different flowers, but after getting to know you through your website a little bit and chatting with you I think there couldn't be anything that's more fitting. The contrasts and the openness to new things — I think that just suits you quite well.
Kelly: I really love how you have all of your subscription offerings set up. You've got really great variety, a lot of different price points. I just wonder if maybe there's something that maybe you've observed or learned in the process of getting that offering established that you would tell somebody who's considering subscriptions for one of their product offerings.
Natalie: Yes. Originally when we opened the shop all of our pricing was about $15 cheaper per arrangement. When I was doing the numbers after being open for about six months I realized that people were going to tend to buy our smallest arrangement over anything. We upped the price on that. Not something that would deter people from not purchasing but to help us, because the small at $50 when we open, as you know, it's hard to make it, like send it out and have it look like something that you want people to photograph and share. We thought that by raising the price a little bit we were able to make a design that was more in line with what we wanted to do and still have it be something that was an attainable price for most.
With subscriptions we offer them weekly, monthly, or seasonally which would be four times a year which is cool because you could see it in the fall, winter, spring, and summer. We give people a 15% discount overall for subscribing. I think that it's just been a beautiful thing for other companies in the area, like for your front desk. The repeat business is worth offering the discount for us. To the customer it makes sense, too. It's definitely an incentive.
Kelly: Yes, I think, getting outside the box of thinking an everyday consumer would order a subscription for a gift etc. is important. Having that as a clear option for restaurants, hotels, some of those more corporate clients, hair salons etc. is important.
Natalie: Oh, yeah. Well, I read this study recently because I'm trying to find the science behind why flowers are so important. I know that flowers are important because when I have them in my house I feel healthier, I feel happier, and I don't think it's just because I'm a florist. I think everybody loves flowers, they just don't know it. I'm trying to find science behind it to back it up and I found this study that they took an advertising agency and they had three studies. One was a control, one they put a sculpture on the table, and one they put a flower arrangement on the table. Then they measured their creativity and the group that had the flowers had, I think, 35% more creative ideas than the group with the sculpture or the control.
Natalie: It actually does promote creativity and I think that it can reduce anxiety. I want to take flowers and give them to everybody! So I think as a human, not as a business but, as a person, I want to incentivize people to have flowers all the time because I think it'll just honestly make the world better if people are more creative and less stressed.
Kelly: Yeah. I love that study. It's so cool. Thank you for sharing that.
Natalie: Yeah, thank you. I mean, how amazing would that be if we could back up something we already know and feel with the science to prove that having flowers improves your life!
Kelly: You deliver some of your arrangements on bike and I was just wondering if you personally have taken an arrangement out and delivered it on a bike?
Natalie: I wish I could say yes, but unfortunately no. I have a beautiful bike and I live in San Diego which is honestly paradise and I haven't had the time this year to even get on my bike once. It's so sad. We do have these amazing friends, they're called Courier Collective, and they're two blocks away from us and they're just a bunch of tattooed dudes who deliver all of our flowers by bike and that's so fun getting to work with them. They show up at the shop and they have a cargo bike and we get to just load their bike up with all of our flower arrangements and they deliver them within like I think five to six miles of the shop.
Kelly: I noticed you want to be a ballerina and a neuroscientist and a florist and you've nicknamed yourself a florosaurus and I could not stop smiling because I was like, "Finally I've met someone like me!" Haha.
One of my earliest memories was my babysitter asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, "I want to be a dentist like daddy on Monday and on Tuesday I'll be a babysitter like you and on Wednesday I'll be a teacher like Mrs. Hostettler who was my preschool teacher. On Thursday I'll be mommy like mommy and on Friday I'll be a scientist like!" Whenever I started Philosophy of Flowers some of the social media usernames were't available so I was like, "What else could I call it? I thought, I'll be a philosoflower." Haha.
Knowing we are both multi-passionate people, I imagine that like me you're full of ideas and projects that you like to try. I was wondering how you keep track of all of your ideas and if there's something maybe that you've learned in working with yourself over the years that's helped you sort through what you're going to do and when you're going to do it so that your business is sustainable? Because after you've had your hair on fire for a long time you kind of want to just put it out.
Natalie: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: How do you deal with that?
Natalie: The first thing that came to my mind was you can do everything you want, just not all at once.
Natalie: Then I kind of laughed a little bit to myself because I was like oh man, I'm not great at that. I want to do everything now. I have a journal that I keep and I write all of my goals in it all the time and I'm constantly updating that and changing that and they're very specific goals. Like I want to be published in this magazine or I want to work with this person or I want to make this book about this thing or I want to start a podcast. Whatever it is. I just constantly am writing that down and thinking about that and I have truly found that if you write something down it will happen. I've looked at goal lists that I've had from five years ago and I think I write stuff down then I'm like, "That could never happen." I read it and I say, "Yeah. Every single one of these things did happen." I start with writing it down. I have a bunch of whiteboards in my house too, that I'm constantly writing things down as they come into my head and then in seeing that over and over I start seeing it actually happen.
Kelly: Same! Write it down + cover the walls. Then I figure out how it could all link together. It's one of my favorite things to do.