Love + War: running a small business / by Jessica Hunter

Image by Lynsey Addario, ISIS in Iraq

Image by Lynsey Addario, ISIS in Iraq

It’s late and I’m catching up on emails while simultaneously reading a review of Lynsey Addario’s memoir, “It’s What I do: A photographer’s Life on Love and War” and listening to Beck perform “Heart is a Drum” at the Grammys from my sister’s living room. How can I think of love and not war? Looking at Addario’s coverage of ISIS, Syria’s Refugees, Lebanon Israel War, Iraq War, Maternal Mortality, Talibanistan and so many others, it seems frivolous to be in the floral industry. In another life maybe I’m a photojournalist and the lead singer of a folk rock band, making a difference with stark images and soft riffs. Somehow love matters more in light of the past 15-year war on terror and the worry of how this little business is going to do falls at the wayside. We’re all in this together.

Images by Lynsey Addario 

Images by Lynsey Addario 

Valentine’s Day is approaching and I was planning on putting together some floral arrangements to sell, like a good florist should. For one, I miss flowers and am liable to use any excuse to have them around the studio. But I also didn’t want to loose business momentum. Launching a website is a big endeavor. At least it was for me. And yet, Sim and I talked it over and decided it would be best to sit this one out and instead invest in some quality time together.

There’s something about social media that has an underlying tone of “keeping up with the Joneses.” I think this idiom is still very relevant today, especially when it comes to portraying our lives publicly from every angle.

Insta. Tweet. Status. Update. #cantbeforgotten

I don’t hate social media and I’m not about to delete my accounts. In fact, before launching the website all of my business was coming from my facebook and instagram. I’m actually very thankful for social media and how it enables ordinary people to freely share their work with no fees. It’s awesome! But it does have a cost if you loose yourself in it; you slowly relinquish power to affirm yourself.

As humans we are motivated to do things for two reasons: either to extend love or to be loved.My neighbour mentioned that to me recently when I was racking my brain to understand why people betray each other in life and in industry, saying things like “It’s not personal, it’s business.” But aren’t we all connected? What I do to you, actually affects us all. I think it's foolish to think that what I do to another isn't also being done to myself.  This is what I subscribe to at least.

The moon at sunset on the snow day this past Monday. 

The moon at sunset on the snow day this past Monday. 

In business school they will tell you to have a competitive advantage and to do market research, to become the best and know how you can one-up someone else in your field. The truth is I am extremely competitive, even with myself, and I’m usually looking for a good challenge. If I was left to my own devices without the thought of the meaning of everything in this life I would probably be trying to win at everything, all the time. Even yoga. This is one of the many reasons why I practice. It’s not about winning, but about coming to your mat as you are, learning to breath, to be conscious. As soon as you look off your mat at someone else, you loose your balance and often stop breathing. I’ve started to practice with my eyes closed, as to not be distracted by where other people are at so I can focus on where I am.  It’s been said that, ‘the first thing we do when we are born is inhale and the last thing we do as we die is exhale. Breathing is our life.’

"live free so you can die free" - a dead bird with wings outstretched in front of an old church

"live free so you can die free" - a dead bird with wings outstretched in front of an old church

Old Baptist Church on James St. N where I found the dead bird.

Old Baptist Church on James St. N where I found the dead bird.

I think this is why social media works, why it’s so popular. We post something, we get likes and if we get lots of likes, we’re winning. Oh and if someone likes my post that means I’m valuable, right? If someone doesn’t that means I’m shit? This is awful, completely untrue and yet we buy into it EVERY. DAMN. DAY!

Portrait of my husband while waiting at a stop light from our walk in the snow. 

Portrait of my husband while waiting at a stop light from our walk in the snow. 

My husband and I sometimes go through instagram and laugh at how many likes one photo will get compared to another. He jokes saying, “ I guess I’m just not that likeable” as photos of him tend to sit on the lower end of the like scale on my feed.  We laugh about it because obviously he’s more important to me than any of the other items I throw up on my account that receives more attention. It’s the private and sacred moments that hold the most value to me. So why not practice more of these moments? 

Staircase between two storefronts 

Staircase between two storefronts 

Our upstairs front room under construction.

Our upstairs front room under construction.

Starting a business can evoke so many emotions from the people around you, as well as from yourself. Some people feel really excited and want to help support you in whatever way they can. Others feel threatened and withhold from you. I’ve had my fair share of both along the way to making A Fine Medley happen. At times I was betrayed and other, I’m sure, the betrayer. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing this to each other. But we do it.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” said Alexander Pope.

We all mess up and yet we are all so capable of immense love. Some days I’m posting to the world to share my work and the talents of those around me. Other days it’s a self-esteem boost. But what happens when we rely on these likes and confuse them for value? It means we begin to live for the fix and we hand over our desire to be cared for into the hands of the virtual masses, rather than those who are walking through life with us in real time. 

Hobbes and Rosemary kissing in the morning light.

Hobbes and Rosemary kissing in the morning light.

So as much as I’d like to be playing with flowers this week, I noticed that I’ve been working non-stop for a while now and what our life really needed this upcoming weekend was some time away together. There are many dos and don’ts in the business world. There’s ways to get ahead. Must complete SWAOT analysis on other local businesses. There’s this pressure to always be on, selling, marketing. After all you don’t want to miss an opportunity. But I can’t help but shake that some of these ways are unethical and actually a major hindrance to our relationships. I don’t want to be someone who says “its business not personal,” and try to gain from someone else’s misfortune. Businesses are made up of people and therefore how we conduct our businesses affects people.  Of course I want a successful business but not at the expense of losing my breath. I want a successful life more, and that means my home life and relationships are flourishing as well as my gardens and arrangements.

Muscari Bulbs 

Muscari Bulbs 

I don’t want A Fine Medley to be responsible for satisfying all of me as my life is made up of many other facets. I hope that one day this little business can be a means to advocate for causes beyond itself.  

As a small business owner I can choose how I want to grow and how I want to spend my time. One thing I know is I don’t want to be consumed by it and miss out on the world I have in front of me, my lover, friends, family, my homestead and city. It’s about genuine exchanges and connections, not just networking. I don’t want to try to convince you to choose my business over someone else in the industry; I simply want my work to speak for itself. If you like it, if it inspires you, then we just might be a match for each other but if I’m not for you, that’s okay, I’m more than happy to refer you to someone more suitable. That’s the beauty of diversity.

From our city walk on the snow day

From our city walk on the snow day

I’m still figuring out how this all works and the best ways to conduct business. How to make money doing what I love, be sustainable and also have a life. I think knowing your core values are important and a good start. I’ve decided that one of mine is: there’s enough to go around. We all have a part to play and I think that when we work together, we are stronger, we are capable of dreaming bigger, and can accomplish more as a community. I want Hamilton to be a thriving place to live and work. It already has this artistic, communal, hippie-lovin vibe about it that initially drew me in. I want to further this spirit. So I hope you won’t shun me for not making up Valentine’s Day bouquets. And even if you do, I will keep going, for the love of flowers, is enough.

Other ways you can show the love locally and purchase botanical gifts for your Valentine:

  • Give Canadian grown flowering potted plants. You can go to your local greenhouse for this. I just picked up climbing Jasmine as it was available this season but usually has a 3-year bench life before making it to a consumer. 
  • Succulents, cacti and air plants are great gifts because they last a long time and need little care
  • When purchasing blooms this month focus on spring bulbs like; Tulips, Hyacinths, Narcissus, Muscari and Hellebores. Because god knows, roses in February are only local if you live in Santa Barbara. But if you do want flowers, and don’t we all, then the above list is a good start.
  • Give a handwritten card and a promise for a summer’s worth of flowers. Farmers markets are a great place to pick-up seasonal bouquets once the season changes or you can always try yours truly. 
  • Give a beautiful vase and wrap it up with some seeds for spring. 

If you live in Hamilton, are reading this and want some other recommendations of where to buy fresh flowers try: iFiori on James, Green Finger Flowers on Barton, or Joanna Aitcheson

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