Next up in the Business in Bloom series is Melissa Dole Glorieux from Aster B. Melissa is a really talented farmer florist based in Massachusetts and a mom trying to grow her business in a way that affords her creativity AND time for her boys. I really admire that she has taken the bull by the horns with her wedding business and has decided to go for quality, not quantity. It’s a tough lesson for any designer to learn! So often we crazy people in the wedding flower business size each other up based on our number of weddings per season. But when what it all boils down to is finding the right number of events for YOU (including your farm, your interest, and your family). I’m really inspired by Melissa (I could definitely use better life balance boundries) and can’t wait to see what the next season holds for her!
Tell us a little bit about your business, business model and clientele.
Aster B. is a small, sustainable flower farm and design studio. We grow several dozen annual varieties, as well as dahlias and an increasing number of perennials. Our floral designs lean toward the natural, organic and colorful – we take inspiration from what’s blooming in the fields. We grow the flowers we love and we grow additional flowers based on what our wedding clients ask for. All of our design is done in our historic barn.
What got you into flowers in the first place?
I have always loved flowers. When I think back to different times in my life, there always seems to be a specific flower in my memories. When I moved from San Francisco to a small farming town in Massachusetts, I decided I wanted to try farming myself. Flowers are the only crop I could imagine growing. With my artistic background, floral design was the logical next step, and truly, it’s my favorite part of the business.
You attended our Weddings: From Seed to Centerpiece Master Class at Love ‘n Fresh Flowers this past spring. When you signed up, what were you looking to gain by coming to our farm?
When I signed up I was looking for design instruction. I wanted to make sure “I knew what I was doing” before signing up to design flowers for people on a day that some consider to be the most important of their lifetime.
What did you find most helpful about your time in the class? Where there any surprises?
Jennie’s design instruction was exceptional. I learned from her several tricks that would’ve taken me years to figure out on my own. What I also learned, however, was to trust my own design skills. I learned that having a personal style is very important and personal style is what sets one designer apart from another. I’m truly inspired by the couples I work with and also the flowers we grow. Jennie is too… and that made me see that I was on the right track. Additionally, Jennie was super generous with information on how she runs her business. That was invaluable to me. At the time I took the class, I was headed into my third season. Over the course of the season, there were too many occasions to count where I thought back to what Jennie said during our class, and used that knowledge to overcome challenges.
Can you give us a specific example of something you learned and then implemented into your own business once you went home?
My favorite thing that I’ve been using is Jennie’s checklist. Its the list of action items that begins with the first time a client reaches out to you and lists every step of the wedding process until the security deposit is returned. Oh, and I also love her advice to fill the vessels that hold the bouquets for delivery all the way up with water (instead of just filling an inch and hoping the ribbons don’t get wet). Let the ribbons get wet!
How has your business changed over the past several months since the class?
Before the class we had grown and designed flowers for 2 seasons. The first season we sold our flowers at farmers markets, sold wholesale and designed one wedding. The second year we did the same but added a bouquet CSA and increased our weddings to 7. Since Jennie’s class, I felt ready to take on a lot more. For our third season, we continued with markets, wholesale and CSA but we upped our weddings again – designing (all or part) of nearly 30 weddings.
Have you stayed in touch with any other students from the class?
Yes, we are connected on Facebook and Instagram (my fave!). I also saw several of my classmates at the ASCFG conference in September.
Time for the “big question”! Where do you see your business going from here? A healthy business is always evolving. What’s that process look like for yours?
Aster B. has grown quickly. It started very small and got big, almost too big, very fast. I see myself choosing to do fewer weddings for the next few seasons in order to make having the business sustainable for me personally. (I’ll also scale back on our CSA, farmers markets and wholesale accounts.) I have 2 young boys and I want to be able to spend time with them in the summer, which I haven’t done in 3 years. My hope to attract 5 to 6 brides each season that specifically want Aster B.’s colorful organic style so we can have a true creative collaboration and realize the wedding flowers of their dreams. Down the road, once my boys are older, I may choose to take on more weddings again. For now however, I’ve learned what I’m capable of, and I’ve learned what I enjoy… I hope to put those lessons into practice during the 2015 season, while designing some stunningly gorgeous wedding flowers!