A couple weekends ago I held my first pop-up shop. I was completely terrified out of my wits. Sometimes I wonder how I get to these grand conclusions. I didn’t just have a pop-up shop booked, I was also styling a shoot for a friends album cover and working on a baby shower to ship off to Toronto all in the same weekend. I got this!
Naturally, I called my Marmy in a puddle of tears saying “I can’t do this. Why am I doing this? I’m so tired. I spent too much money. Money we don’t have. How do people run their own businesses?” All this melodramatic unravelling was happening while boxes of tulips, ranunclulus, narcissus, anemones, and hellebores piled in the kitchen waiting to be cleaned. Rosemary heard me blabbering on, churttled and climbed up on my lap to comfort me. Cats make everything better .
My mom listened and eventually agreed to come assist me for the weekend. She was the one who was moving all the buckets, cutting paper, prepping tags, all while making sure I ate and drank water. And she did this with a grace that only a mother could. One day I hope I will understand all that she does.
I think the reason I panicked was because I spent an exuberant amount on cut flowers, all which are a dying inventory. It’s not like I can save them for later. I was scared that no one would show up, that I would be out of pocket, that I would pass out in the middle of working because I had over-extended myself or worse, that my work would be an utter disappointment. Running a business tests every insecurity.
To do the pop-up in February I had to import flowers. In fact, even with supporting local farmers and growing some of my own flowers during spring, summer and fall, I usually still have to import flowers simply because they are desirable or requested by a client. And as much as I strive to have as little environmental impact as possible with my work, I’m also in the business of beauty and part of my mission is to make the most beautiful things that I possibly can. This means importing (for now). This was the topic of discussion between Whitney and I while we awaited customers.
It’s a conundrum. We can’t grow lush flowers in minus 30 degree weather. We live in Canada and at this point, Ontario grown flowers just aren’t as unique or full as those grown in Holland or Ecuador, but when I’m cleaning flowers and the smell on my hands isn’t the scent of the garden but that of a harsh pesticide, it all feels wrong. I don't mean to sound like I'm on a soapbox, I just want to do what I can.
Then again some flower farms overseas are fair trade and allow single moms excellent jobs because of onsite daycares, unions that provide healthcare and a vocation where they can be paid well over the minimum wage. This is the case for Nevado Roses. So if we are going to be using imports, which we are because CANADA, then the key is urging our Ontario markets to purchase ethical imports and as a florist I feel responsible to look for labels that I know have stringent standards of sustainability.
My enthusiasm to attain more land to grow crazy unusual floral varieties grows stronger by the day. For now can I use your land? Seriously, send me an email. I want to do more to conserve and care for our landscape. I think we need more beauty in this utilitarian society we’ve created. Like this past weekend, people walked into the shop just to be around the flowers. The man at the gas station said “you have a garden in your back hatch, what do you do?” I said, “I’m a florist setting up shop around the corner on King today because we’re sick of this maddening weather.” He said, “what a lovely sight,” and we went our separate ways.
I have to believe that beauty matters and that these brief exchanges are worth it, but I also have to help reduce how much shit we have in this world and how much of it we could avoid creating, consuming then wasting.
I haven’t figured it out yet. Sometimes I still throw my yogurt containers in the garbage because I am too damn lazy to go outside in the cold and put it in the recycling bin. I want to stop doing this. It’s silliness.
By the end of the weekend I had sold out of all my flowers, and met the most wonderful people. My fears, once again, quenched by the goodness of humanity. Everyone who came out to support me was so heartfelt . My favourite part was seeing the look on people’s faces when I handed them their personalized bouquet or arrangement designed specifically for them. Everyone seemed to light up.
Many people mentioned to me how much they enjoy picking up a bundle of flowers so they can go home and plop them in one of their dusty vases. I loved seeing the pics that people posted of their own mini constructions.
On Friday afternoon a woman named Carly asked me to make her something. She said, “I just want to have something alive at home to remind me that Spring is on its way.” Her voice cracked as I finished adding the last bloom into her arrangement, she gasped and said “I could cry.” My eyes welled up with tears as I turned to hand her the finished piece. I could feel the happiness off of her and suddenly I could make sense of it. I knew that what I was doing meant something. I’ve always known there was magic in flowers, but this past weekend proved it to me.
My goal was to break-even financially. It was going to be tough as I knew that most people may not be ready to pay a high price for premium blooms so I decided to work within people’s budgets but this meant I’d have to sell more flowers, which meant that more people would have to drop in.
When I was standing over the kitchen sink cleaning flowers the day before the pop-up started, my eyes glossed over while starring at the running water and thought “it’ll be a miracle if I make back what I spent.” And then, within days, I had my miracle.
Yes, it sucks to work really hard and at the end of it all only be able to buy a latte with your earnings but having little money means that you have to be resourceful in other areas. You must employ your mind. I really believe that lacking the ability to just "buy a solution” breeds creativity. I must admit that this week I’ve been dreaming up ways to get a part-time job. Mainly so I can have co-workers that aren’t my cats. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. For now I will keep designing, because it's part of me.
Even though this time is trying, I know that I will look back on it with deep appreciation for all those who helped sustain me in the beginning. I can't help but well up with joy when I think of all that happened at the pop-up and all who contributed. I am, so very fortunate.
I’d like to thank Whitney McMeekin for hosting me at her lovely shop Girl on the Wing. She was the most generous and encouraging host. Ever since I met Whitney she’s been cheering me on, giving me little pick-me-ups along the way. She’s one of the most genuine people I’ve met in this city with such a great eye for fashion and a deep desire to see her community thrive. She’s not just in her business for herself. It’s more than that and she holds an irreplaceable spot in Hamilton. To keep up with her and all her shop news follow her on instagram, twitter and facebook.
I’d also like to thank Christopher Godwaldt from Café Oranje for allowing me to set-up shop for a third day on Sunday at the café. I wouldn't have made costs if it wasn't for the spontaneous kindness from Chris. We decided to do an impromptu Dutch coffee and flower shop with my leftovers to ring in March with a boom. The response from people was fantastic and I got to drink the most delicious coffee while creating. It was one of the highlights from the weekend. The best part is that this café is my local joint. It’s where I walk to get a good brew and work long arduous admin hours. Having a physical space to work within my neighbourhood was such a gift. To follow along with Café Oranje check out their: Instagram, twitter, and facebook.
I did what I was afraid to do, it didn't compute but I can hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.