Kelly Perry - 00:00 - You are listening to the Team Flower podcast where we talk about flowers with the people who've dedicated their lives to sharing them with the world. We believe that your work or flowers matters and we are cheering you on. Hi, my name's Kelly, and today we're talking with Courtney Ingram. She started her floral design business with a background in teaching and hasn't looked back. She travels to weddings all over the southeast and believes the importance of making each wedding unique to the client. She's happily married to her high school sweetheart and together they have a golden doodle named Violet at their home in Virginia. In this episode, we're talking about skills we've utilized in our floral career from our teaching backgrounds because I too went to school to be a teacher. Courtney is sharing a few relatable obstacles and or she faces and how she's overcoming them. We're diving into what it looks like to market yourself as a new designer and how to avoid stress in your life with flowers. This podcast is brought to you by Team Flower an online support community dedicated to educating and connecting and empowering flower levers worldwide.
Kelly Perry - 00:55 - We provide online classes in person events and free weekly resources like this podcast designed to help you and support you in your journey with flowers, whether you're professional florist, flower, farmer, you just love flowers. There's space for you here. Come join the party at teamflower.org. Courtney, we are delighted to have you here today. Welcome to the podcast.
Courtney Ingram - 01:16 - I'm so happy to be here today. Thanks for having me.
Kelly Perry - 01:21 - Yeah. Well, tell us a little bit about your background. Tell us what made you want to work with flowers and maybe elaborate a little bit on when you knew you were ready to take the leap of faith, starting your own business and all those kinds of things. I know you recently wrote an article on the blog about marketing yourself as a new florist that was really popular and resonated with a lot of people and so we would just love to hear your story and um, yeah, kick things off there.
Courtney Ingram - 01:50 - Okay. So I started my journey with flowers about a little over three years ago. I actually completed a year long internship with a wedding planner who also offered floral design, um, in my area and as I was working with her and she was planning weddings, I found myself not as interested in that aspect of it, but I was very interested in the florals and how she was caring for them and setting them up on a wedding day and she was very gracious and taught me a lot of initial information about, you know, general flowers and um, how to care for them and you know, how she transported them on a wedding day and, and all those things. Um, so that kind of really kicked off my kind of fascination with flowers. Um, and I had actually just received by teaching degree, um, and I was feeling a little unsure if that was the right fit for me. Um, and that all kind of happened in the same, at the same time as when I started this internship. So that kind of became my new creative outlet after I realized that maybe teaching wasn't right for me. So that's little bit about me and kind of what I'm doing. So
Kelly Perry - 03:03 - that's awesome and I can kind of relate to that whole like getting your teaching degree and then thinking, wait, did I do the right thing because I went to school, actually I'm not sure what your certification is in, but um, I was going to be a middle school Home Ec teacher and so that's kind of the background of it, but I love, there's so many things that you can transfer it, so many, so many transferable skills to whatever your background look like and I find that I'm using some of the things that, that I learned and that I kind of picked up or developed, I guess you could say in that all of the time it's um, yeah, it's a really, it's a really great resource. I'm thankful that I am thankful that I had it. So
Courtney Ingram - 03:49 - yeah, I agree with you there Kelly, and I feel like especially in the creative aspect of it teaching does kind of give you a little bit of a background for that. Um, I, my certification was in elementary Ed, so lots of coloring and little craft projects with Kiddos, but it was definitely, definitely fun. So good, good start.
Kelly Perry - 04:10 - I love that. That's really fun. So tell us, whenever you think back to whenever you first started your business, what were some of the biggest obstacles and fears that you faced? And then part two, how did you overcome them?
Courtney Ingram - 04:29 - Okay, well this is a great question. So when I first started my business, I definitely felt like a fraud. Um, you know, I just felt like I had no background in floral design. I just had received my master's in teaching, which is, you know, to most probably completely unrelated. Um, and, you know, I definitely felt like that was a fear of mine to be perceived that way for my peers and my friends. Um, I also felt like if I couldn't sustain my business financially, that would be humiliating. Um, so that was obviously a fear right out the gate, not having any business experience or accounting experience or, or anything like that. Um, and then of course, just like the initial obstacles to starting a business, there's so many things to consider. Um, you know, legally setting yourself up to start a business. Um, you know, making a logo, making a website, actually practicing your craft so you could feel confident and, you know, showing up with wedding flowers that someone will love.
Courtney Ingram - 05:33 - Um, and then of course, you know, just general anxiety and fear. I'm over starting something scary and new that you don't have a lot of experience with. But to overcome a lot of these fears, I really tried to network and become friends with a lot of people in our industry. And um, I felt like on social media I was feeling that people were judging me or that, you know, someone is looking at me like, wow, she's such a fraud. She's posting flowers after she just graduated with her teaching degree. Like, what's up with that? But I felt, I found that I'm kind of interacting with those people that I was seeing day to day on social media and really becoming friends with the people in the wedding industry that I frequently worked with really ended up. I'm actually kind of alleviating my anxiety. Um, and you know, it basically everyone just wanted to kind of see our industry elevated as a whole.
Courtney Ingram - 06:33 - And see our peer succeed, um, and kind of everyone has those same anxieties and fears. So definitely networking and getting to know the people behind the screens was a way that I kind of overcame that. And then I'm just speaking to the financial side of it. I basically did the exact opposite of what my fear was telling me and I ended up kind of investing money into a monthly accountant and a CPA to kind of manage my assets in my account so I could really actually know how my business was doing instead of having anxiety and fear about failing financially. Um, so yeah, I would say both of those were kind of ways that I alleviated and kind of overcame that fear.
Kelly Perry - 07:14 - And those are really, really good tips and really, and common things that I think we all have experienced at one point or another, whether it's been starting a floral business or just starting something new in general. Um, I, that um, perception piece that you just touched on. I just want to dig into that for a second. Um, and kind of do a little compare contrast real quick. So whenever I was, I was in about the seventh grade, I think, um, when I decided I was going to start a cake decorating business and I had a friend whose mom would, you know, decorate cakes for friends, family, and I mean, pretty much that's the gist of what I did. Um, but I did that all through middle school and high school and I'm always say must have been pretty cheap because, you know, grownups, I couldn't believe that, like I couldn't even drive yet and my mom would drive me to these weddings that grownups maybe to make their wedding gigs.
Kelly Perry - 08:15 - And so anyway, it's kind of funny. But you're mentioning these different fears, all of which I experienced whenever I started my floral design business, but whenever I was 12, I didn't have any of those fears. Um, there's something about child likeness, um, in knowing I guess perhaps that you're supported, um, you know, that you've got mom or dad there or whatever. And really it's not a whole lot different. Whenever we're grownups, we still have support systems and all those kinds of things. But maybe it is that we're just a little bit more, more aware or more concerned about what other people might think of us, but I just think back to that first wedding cake that I delivered and yeah, there were some moments of getting there or whatever, but I never thought like, oh, these people are going to think I'm a fraud. Isn't that crazy? Just the, the, the differences that we have with age.
Courtney Ingram - 09:08 - Yeah. That is so interesting. And I especially feel like, and you probably can attest to this, having a little bit of teaching experience and being a former teacher, like it is interesting to see that childlike perception of, you know, fear and failure and earlier what does success look like like versus how we feel that as adults. Um, and it does feel. I say this a lot to my assistant and my husband when I'm running around before wedding, I said sometimes the expectations are just crushing. I'm someone's expectation of you. But really when you really dig into it, I think a lot of that is my own expectation of myself is the most crushing. So yeah.
Kelly Perry - 09:50 - Yeah. It's so good to have that awareness because that's where I think so much of our stress and so much of what holds us back is actually self-inflicted. Um,
Courtney Ingram - 10:05 - totally agree. Yeah. And I think that too, with starting a business, a lot of these fears are heightened, um, especially with, you know, marketing and putting yourself out there that can definitely be intimidating, um, but you've definitely bring up a good point about children and their kind of childlike perception of fear and failure versus how we are now. So that is kind of interesting to think about.
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Kelly Perry - 11:37 - Whenever you are brand new and you're putting yourself out there and you're saying, hey, I offer this product or service or whatever, and you feel like you might not have, you know, what's behind it or whatever. Um, I mean, it all makes sense. It's very logical. I don't want anybody to feel like it's not normal. I also wanted to invite people to kind of go back, I guess a little bit and it was so funny just as you were talking about that that came to mind and just that we have the. We have the ability and we have the self control to be able to retrain our brains to perceive things differently and I've read a lot of books about stress. It's something that's really intriguing to me because it affects so many different parts of our lives and I found whenever I got started with flowers that the stress component was was really crippling for me in some areas when I was trying to figure out, okay, how do I control this?
Kelly Perry - 12:31 - In my mind physically, how do I eliminate some of these stress responses that my body is having in? The thing that I really took away from that was how you perceive the situation is really what whether or not it's actually true is how your body tends to respond to the situation. And so whenever I find myself, I'm feeling anxious about something, I do have to do this little gut check of like, is what I'm thinking about. Is that like replay in my brain? Like, is that actually true? Do I have any evidence or am I making some assumptions and, you know, causing adrenaline to spill out of my body into my bloodstream and make me feel awful.
Courtney Ingram - 13:16 - Totally agree. Kelly. Yeah, it's, it's definitely hard, especially working with something perishable like flowers to not to not be stressed. Um, but I, I'm actually finding as I'm working, I have this, um, this tick, I guess this nervous tick of trying to make every single arrangement absolutely perfect. And it really, um, especially a few years back really affected me. You know, I couldn't go to bed at a decent hour before a wedding and I was having a hard time staying awake because I was so um, you know, invested in making every single arrangement absolutely identical and absolutely perfect and filled with the same flowers in the same places. Um, and now I've kind of started this mantra repeating over and over again, done is better than perfect and it's not that, you know, obviously I want the flowers to be beautiful, but flowers are never going to be perfect. There's always going to be some part of a flower that's unique and different. Um, and that's kind of the beauty of it is that all of the arrangements look unique and kind of special in their own way. So that's kind of helped me too with that piece.
Kelly Perry - 14:26 - I love that. And I will just add to that, um, excellence not perfection is really what we want to go after in life. Um, we all know that perfection is not something that is humanly attainable, so it's nice just to take that backpack off and set it down, but still to strive for excellence, to strive for something that is beautiful and to just sort of adjust that mindset. That's what I'm, that's what I. Because I have always been a perfectionist. I think a lot of creative people are because we recognize when something is very beautiful and sometimes whenever we get going we start doing it. We're like, oh, there's this gap between what we're able to produce right now and what we wish it looked like. I guess you could say I really practice just fills in all those gaps, but there are different. There's different stages and there's just so much grace that's available to us if we'll just only receive it and let it in. So I like to think about. Excellent. So it's not that you're not that you're given up or anything like that. Um, but it's excellence over perfection and it's so true that having it done and ready to go is way more important to your clients. Having it be your perception of what perfect looks like. I think it hit me. Um. Oh goodness. Probably not until like year three did it hit me that they didn't notice the same things that I noticed about my flower arrangement.
Courtney Ingram - 16:08 - No, that is so true, Kelly. I mean, and when I say done is better than perfect. I don't mean like slap hands and flowers in a vase and I'm off, but you know, like perfection and I liked what you said to like perfection is just not attainable and clients don't have the same design I that we have, which is why they hire us. So when I would get to a wedding and notice something that just the tiniest little detail seemed off, no one else would ever notice. So definitely is encouraging to think about as you're starting out, you know, like you said, lots of graces available. So.
Kelly Perry - 16:42 - Yes, absolutely. And I didn't, I didn't think you were just, I knew you weren't just slapping flower, you weren't just slapping flowers. No. I know nobody goes for. Nobody goes yes. From being a perfectionist to being like, Oh man, then yeah, we all want that excellence 100 percent. But yeah, it was just trying to think of another word that we can sort of substitute there that's not um, you know, the is still elevated and all those kinds of things. Anyway. Anyway. Okay. Next question because we really took a little tangent there, but it was really fun. How long did it take you to discover your style and what did you do to find it? How did you know that it was you when it presented itself or maybe you feel like that's something that's still developing? I'm not sure. I just fill us in on how you, um, yeah, just what your thought process is behind that.
Courtney Ingram - 17:43 - So I would say that I really didn't kind of come into my own, um, with kind of my style. Oh Gosh. Maybe about a year or so. So it took me about two and a half years to kind of experiment and see what kind of felt and looked authentic to me. Um, I've tried a bunch of different styles and there's just one style that I just kind of keep coming back to over and over again that my brides are asking for over and over again. Um, so, you know, gradually I felt like I just stopped fighting other styles and just kind of went with that particular kind of, um, look. So yeah, I would say that I definitely invested in a lot of styled shoots. Um, especially like my first year to experiment with different styles and to see kind of what meshed well, um, I would always purchase like extra flowers or maybe some discounted flowers from my local wholesaler. I'm just to go home and play with them and see kind of what I could create.
Courtney Ingram - 18:44 - Um, but, you know, to be honest, I just felt like none of it was really authentic to me until I kind of started consistently creating the same sort of design look and that was kind of, you know, um, no one ever really maybe finds their exact same style. Like things are always changing. You're designing for new clients. There's a new event or a wedding or even if you're just working in a shop, like everything's going to be unique in its own way. Um, but I think definitely just practice and time kind of helps hone in on that. So
Kelly Perry - 19:16 - I agree with you that it is, it is you're well into, with the style thing. Um, I feel like I have a very distinct philosophy flowers style and that the Kelly Perry do anything that you want style. I feel like those are two similar there. They're two different sides isn't that, you know, isn't that kind of how it goes? Like you have different expressions of your personality or different things like that. And I feel like that that is kind of how it is for me with the style component, this guys, the things that I make whenever nobody's around are really weird but so intriguing and interesting to me intellectually. It's really interesting. And then my philosophy, flowers, things like I can kind of close my eyes almost at this point because it's so almost like rhythmic to me. Um, those product based things. But whenever I split out and it's like, okay, I can pick grass out of the stream and I'm gonna look for a mushroom or I don't know, whatever.
Kelly Perry - 20:24 - Like the stuff that comes out of that is like really, um, interesting. But I would say that there are these very distinct reflections of personality and that's something that I love so much about watching other people arrange flowers freely, like at the workshops, um, and things like that. It's so fun. A lot of times it'll be like, oh, I need to make the thing for the bride, but kind of towards the end of the day after they feel like they've accomplished what needed to accomplish for their business and they just can kind of play like, oh, the things that I've seen come out of that. It's just like really getting to know somebody in a special way. And that's kind of what I think is interesting about creativity and how we express it in our individual styles and all of those, um, pieces of it. But if you happen to be brand new and you're just like, oh my goodness, I don't know, this is the story to, to welcome you and say like, give yourself grace. Like it, it takes time to sort of like figure it out. Um, but it's a really fun way to express yourself that you'll have and they will develop for your whole entire life.
Kelly Perry - 21:24 - And that's what's so exciting about it. To meet at, like perhaps we haven't even discovered all of the principles of design. Like maybe we are the ones who will discover them through experimentation. And um, so those are the things that make flowers really exciting and fresh to me is whenever we consider that there might be more out there than we can google right now. Like I don't think everything in the world has been discovered in, um, yeah. So anyway, that's a little, little bit about style, but, um, tell me, uh, Courtney, a little bit about your mindset whenever changing gears when it comes to marketing your business. I know we touched on that just a little bit earlier on, but can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Courtney Ingram - 22:18 - Sure. And I love what you said too, about style and kind of how creativity is kind of on a continuing spectrum. Um, you know, you can continue kind of developing that throughout many years of practice and um, you know, engaging with flowers and different ways. So love what you said there, but my mindset when it comes to marketing. Um, so I would say that when I first started my business several years ago, I'm based out of necessity. I really didn't have any marketing dollars to spend, um, whether that beyond online ads or print publications, uh, anything like that. So majority of my marketing time, uh, went to social media. I went to Instagram, um, and it also went to investing in styled shoots, which now many years into my business, I kind of have a different perspective on that than I did at the time.
Courtney Ingram - 23:17 - Um, but styled shoots were definitely very helpful when I was first starting out. And then social media was of course where I spent a majority of my time marketing. Um, and I've found that clients really reacted well to getting to know me personally versus just being thrown different pictures of flowers and saying book me, book me. Um, they, they really became invested in my life and they became invested in our home and, you know, they would ask you about my dog Violet. Um, so, you know, there's, there's definitely a lot of ways to make that experience more authentic with marketing instead of just, um, you know, throwing up a print ad or doing a bridal show or something like that. Um, now that I've kind of been doing this awhile, any marketing dollars that I kind of do have available, um, instead of, you know, paying for a wedding wire subscription, not that there's anything wrong with that, I just have never done that.
Courtney Ingram - 24:15 - Um, I typically will invest that back into my client experience in the form of gifts or surprises, branded collateral like note cards. Um a surprise Starbucks gift or, you know, even just paying for a meal at a meeting, anything like that, that really enhances my client's experience with me, um, because I've found that most of my business is coming from either social media or referral from a vendor or a past client. Um, so, you know, having clients leave me happy and feeling loved on is kind of my best marketing kind of strategy that I'm using right now.
Kelly Perry - 24:53 - So yeah, absolutely. Financial support for the production of this podcast is brought to you by Team Flower centerpiece in reception, online class, a comprehensive course covering techniques and mechanics for variety of perception needs. If you're looking for an easy to understand process for designing in the garden style while meeting your client's budget than the classes for you, you'll discover tools to design both garden style flower arrangements in big picture receptions at a wide variety of price points. Learn how to keep a client within budget without compromising your profit. Margins are time. We'll cover 15 different centerpiece designs in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, heights in colors, other essentials like cake decorating in chair backs are covered to each tutorial is crafted purposefully to equip you with both design and business tools essential for success in the wedding. Floral industry perception. Flowers are often the largest portion of the event budget for a client, and they also typically take the largest portion of our internal production budget. Learn to master this aspect of planning and design and you'll be able to tackle any brides requests with competence. Ready to learn more. You can find the details at teamflower.org/online.
Kelly Perry - 26:04 - What follow up question to the social media piece of it. What role do you feel like that plays in your business? Like what goals might it be accomplishing, like is it an introduction to who you are, it helps them get or do you find that as you're booking people, they're kind of following along with your journey journey and becoming attached that way or like, you know, I'm just thinking through like what is the, the takeaway or the benefit for all of the time that's invested in, you know, getting those pictures up and writing the captions. And I guess that's another question too, just like what kind of pictures and we can definitely, we'll put your Instagram on the show notes and you can just call it out if you'd like while we're here and people can get and get a sense of it. But it sounded like that you were sharing pictures of your, you know, your violet and different things like that. Um, sometimes people are a little cloudy on whether or not they should mix those business and personal is at the end of the day. I know that's kind of like a personal decision, but just some of your thoughts on, on that.
Courtney Ingram - 27:14 - Sure, sure. Yeah. Um, so I feel like Instagram for me really became where I was spending most of my time when I first started my business. I was trying to do any social media that I could Twitter, which I was terrible at. Pinterest, Facebook, you know, and over time I just tried to kind of track where I was booking clients from where income was coming in and that was where I started spending most of my time. Um, so for me, Facebook has really not been helpful. Um, and that's probably user error on my part, but I just couldn't really figure that out. It just didn't seem like my, my brides were hanging out on Facebook. Pinterest is great except for it's harder for a bride to get directly back to your page, I find on Pinterest because there's so many repins and people can save an image and then pin it separately, you know, away from your account. Um, so I have booked a couple of brides on Pinterest but not enough to really justify for me spending a ton of time there.
Courtney Ingram - 28:14 - And again, like you said, this is, you know, it could be different for everyone, but Instagram really seems to be where my brides kind of hang out and um, you know, I've had several brides telling me that they started following me before they were even engaged. Um, so they, they really kind of become invested in my life and behind the scenes, you know, obviously the, the flowers that I design obviously are a big part of that. But I try, I try to kind of have a healthy mix of behind the scenes and personal posts every now and then. Um, and then of course just lots of photos of my work. I work with a lot of amazing photographers who share lots of images with me, which has been amazing to the growth of my business because I really am terrible at taking photos and can't do, can't do much on my iPhone.
Courtney Ingram - 29:04 - But I'm my assistance during wedding days. Always try to snap a few behind the scenes photos of me so I can post something either to Instagram stories or to my feet directly. Um, so clients can kind of see what I look like. I'm, I feel like if you see someone's face, you're more trusting of that person and you can kind of understand, you know, the face behind the account or, or something like and faces are definitely important and I try to hop on Instagram stories when I can, um, to give you no more behind the scenes, like with me talking or explaining something that I'm doing. Um, I try to talk directly with brides on Instagram stories, so say, you know, hey, I noticed that a lot of brides that have been emailing me lately or asking about greenery or garlands and, you know, here's some tips or here's a way to reuse that in an easy way at your wedding or something like that. So I definitely try to have a mix of really professional, pretty photos and also, um, you know, more, kind of unedited, unfiltered look into my face and my life and you know, are crazy dog and all that. So
Kelly Perry - 30:09 - I love your tip to have assistance on event day, like snap, a quick picture of you working in those behind the scenes kinds of things. That's a really good little just like check for the day. It doesn't take very long, but it's something that's so easily overlooked and forgotten and then, you know, you don't have anything like that to share or post or whatever. So I love that little tip.
Courtney Ingram - 30:33 - Totally. Yeah. It's honestly, the girls that work with me are so great and they are really consistent about it because I would forget with all the busyness of a wedding day to ever take any photos, I frequently leave without a single picture of the day that I've taken on my iPhone just with, you know, the hustle and bustle. Um, so yeah, that's a really, um, kind of good way, an easy way to show someone what you're up to and a little more of like an unfiltered, unedited way. So
Kelly Perry - 31:00 - yeah. Well before we sign off for today, it's been super fun having any hair at one more. One more question. Any tips that you would give to a new florist as they take steps like to go do this? Um, maybe just one or two things that maybe we haven't talked about yet that you feel like that would be important or just a word of encouragement or, um, something that you want to say or share?
Courtney Ingram - 31:31 - Sure. I would say that networking is a really important aspect to marketing and kind of be getting your flower journey. Um, and I would even kind of say to further that point, networking authentically is the most important. Um, I feel like if you're kind of coming at networking as what can you do for me, then that becomes, you know, not as genuine. Um, and people really I think are much more responsive if you are looking at networking as what can I do for you? Um, so that's kind of one tip and I think that has really benefited my business along the way, you know, whether that be me giving a floral arrangement that's leftover to uh, you know, a stationary friend who's doing a braiding shoot the next day or you know, driving 30 minutes to give someone some silk ribbon for a last minute styled shooter or anything like that that I can do to kind of serve my friends and serve my community around me has really come back to help me in the long run even though it might be inconvenient at the moment.
Courtney Ingram - 32:35 - I'm obviously, I'm not saying you should say yes to every single request or you know thing. But in general, networking in that way in an authentic way has really helped with growing my business. And then also social media, like kind of what we talked about earlier. I use hashtags, which has really helped a lot. I have a lot of brides tell me that they have specifically found me using, you know, a certain hashtag or um, I always try to tag the locations or venues that I'm working at so someone could easily go, you know, if they're, if they're exploring that menu to book their wedding, they could easily go to their page and say, Oh, I, you know, I see that coordinating from was here a couple of weeks ago. Let's check out her page or, you know, something like that. Um, and then of course styled shoots are important to when you first start out. Um, I know there's a lot of kind of talk about styled shoots these days and how people are using them. Um, and I would just encourage you to definitely consider investing in one but also set some firm boundaries in place with the other vendors or whoever's involved.
Courtney Ingram - 33:34 - And then of course, once you're, your marketing budget for the year is up, which I would encourage you to create one if you don't already have one. Um, you know, maybe back off of styled shoots and consider kind of doing something else. And that way you're not, um, you know, kind of doing that over and over again without any kind of a reward, I guess is.
Kelly Perry - 33:58 - Oh, well, thank you so much for hopping on. Courtney's been great to have you here today. And to all of you listening, thank you so much for tuning in. It's always great to connect with everyone on the podcast. And if you're looking for notes from today's Today's session, Andy liked to connect with Courtney. You can find all of that over at teamflower.org in the show notes
Kelly Perry - 34:24 - as we sign off today, I want to remind you that your work with flowers matters. It's about more than the blooms. You're loving the world. You make magic happen. You're creating memories. You're following a dream, delivering light and grace here at Team Flower. We're cheering you on one bloom at a time. Thank you for listening to the podcast. And until next time, remember that we're so thankful for each bucket that you wash and each bag of garbage that you take out of your studio that makes all of this possible. If you're looking for more Florida education, that's free conversation or inspiration. Just visit teamflower.org/free to see the library of helpful videos and articles for florists, growers, and fire business owners. You'll find helpful tips on everything from creating flower walls to hiring freelancers and much, much more.