TALKING FLOWERS & SIDE HUSTLE WITH ASHLEY MARIE FLORAL
Ashley Brown drops flowers off at HausWitch every Saturday without fail. Her company, Ashley Marie Floral, does events and flower deliveries on the North Shore and in the Boston area. She'll be doing a Mother's Day Pop-up this Sunday from 10-3 so make plans for brunch and bouquets with mom! Read about her journey toward making a name for herself in the flower biz.
Tell me about how you got into one of the prettiest businesses (besides HausWitch).
My family was wholesale florists. So, my dad’s grandfather started a wholesale florist business in Boston. Then his son took it over, and eventually when my dad was in his twenties, he started working full-time. It made sense for him to take it over. So I grew up going to the flower market.
I started working there more, and got familiar with different flowers. My stepmom definitely influenced me a lot because she is very knowledgeable about all flowers. She has all this stuff going on in her mind about gardens, different types of flowers, how to manage them, why you need warm water for this flower, and why you need to cut this one a certain way. You even need to mash the stems on hydrangeas and things like that. So, I learned a lot from her. At the time, when I was younger, I wasn’t even thinking about getting into floral design. It’s just something that always kind of like stuck with me.
After college, I did the typical twenty-something thing where I was like, “Well…I don’t really know what I want to do. I’m just going to pay my bills and try a couple things.”
I started working at a retail florist shop and garden center. That’s when I decided that I needed to start something with flowers because I loved being around them.
I feel like for a lot of people that’s a pretty big leap right after college to get one job, and then just be like ‘I’m just gonna start my own business right now.’
I started getting it in the works, but because my main gig was retail it was 6 days a week, it was always on weekends, so I didn’t have time to explore my own avenue. But I definitely got a lot of great design experience from that place.
Then I switched to working in an office, which was not on the weekends, and dedicated my weekends to researching how to start my own business, and just seriously going on YouTube and watching videos like Rittner’s Floral School. I’d play around with flowers I’d get from the market, from my family, but sometimes I would just go to Whole Foods and buy a bunch of flowers and arrange them at home.
Eventually, I started talking to friends and coworkers in my office who were getting married and things, telling them I do flower design. Trying to get an ‘in’ anywhere. Last year I officially had my first real season. And I had a bunch of weddings—it was just really fun trying to figure it out.
Was it like a big time puzzle to fit it all in around your day job?
Yeah! It was interesting. At the time when I started my season, I was doing my own weddings and I was also helping another designer. I was picking up on what she was able to teach me. I went to one of her workshops which was how I met her originally. I told her, ‘If you ever need any help, I’m here. I just want to learn from you.’ Especially when it came to the business side of it, I’m not as business savvy as I would like to be, you know?
I really like designing but there’s a whole other side to it. I would take vacation days and things like that, and my coworkers at my company didn’t know. But they didn’t really mind when it came out that I was doing flowers. People started talking.
How early did you have to get up to do these things while you were working full-time?
I mean…the market opens fairly early.
What is fairly early? I’m a little scared.
Ha! 5am and they’re open. And I get there as early as I can. One, because I’m semi-OCD and I like to have everything in front of me and no one milling about bothering me. There are certain days that are really busy and there’s a bunch of designers and retailers there and they’re picking stuff up and throwing it down.
That’s the other thing. Working in the market with my parents—I would hear them talk about the proper care of flowers. Handling them carefully, not being too rough with them, you know. I picked up on that and I try to be really conscious of being very careful with the product and asking the right questions about the flowers.
They’re like your little flower babies. I mean, I come from a space where no matter what it is, if you really care about it being kind to it is important.
They’re beautiful, they’re awesome. When I’m designing I talk to every single one of my flowers. You would think that I’m talking to myself, like sometimes my friends are with me helping on events and they’re just like, ‘you are so weird.’
And I’m like, no these are my flowers. I talk to my cat the same way. It makes me feel good when I’m designing and stuff, it makes me feel like I’m working in a real and authentic way. It takes me away. It brings me back to what I know and what I feel is true and right for me.
As someone who started their business right out of college, do you have advice for anyone trying to do the same?
Do as much as you can, and learn as much as you can when you leave college. Because at first if you don’t really know what you’re going for and you have a few different ideas in mind and there’s a couple things you like to do—just try everything until you’ve exhausted all possibilities.
If you really are passionate about something it’s 100% worth doing even if you have to wake up at four in the morning. Get money to pay the bills but really work on your side hustle.
Ashley Marie Floral will be at HausWitch on Sunday 5/14 for a Mother's Day Flower Pop-up. Come get your mum something as beautiful as she is.
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