Student Stories

Florist – Rabbit and the Rose

Stephanie Dunn

Which course did you study at Tallulah Rose Flower School?

I completed the Intensive 2 week career change course in January 2017, and then the wedding retreat at Sparkford Hall October 2018. As soon as I can I’m itching to book another course!

What did you enjoy most about the course?

The career change course was like a massive breath of fresh air. I came with a lot of doubt and anxiety about myself and my abilities, but walking through the doors and smelling that familiar fragrance of flowers on mass, tea and coffee on tap, gorgeous Lemmy running around our feet, and the friendliest like minded people completely put me at ease. In fact all of the students on my course set up a whatsapp group keeping eachother up to date as well as giving each other continued support long after the course finished.
I commuted by train from Hampshire every day and felt my shoulders relax every time the train arrived in Somerset with the rolling hills and into beautiful historic Bath (I can only imagine how amazing arriving into scenic Lake District would be, it’s on my bucket list!) Then getting to ‘play’ with the most exquisite variety of local and dutch ingredients whilst soaking up inspiration and knowledge from the Tallulah team.
Then the wedding retreat was just a complete joy, to be honest it was like a holiday for me, 4 days of complete self care in the countryside, what a dream! Aside from everything the course entailed it was just wonderful getting to know everyone, the food was delicious and the location delightful. The team; Rachel, Verity, Saffy, Emily, Elaine and I’m sorry I forget the name of the cook, were all so welcoming and it was wonderful having that time to get to know them as well as the other lovely people on the course.

What was the most important thing that you learnt?

Undoubtedly it’s the freedom you can have with flowers. It was like a huge relief! With a background working for a florist as their ‘Saturday girl’, I had learnt, I suppose, the college foundation of floristry, but without actually completing any formal qualification in floristry. And then I had also completed a degree in textile design, a very different but at the same time similar craft in many ways. I felt like there had to be ‘more’ with floristry, through various circumstances I had come to a path where I was a bit stuck in my work, wanting to do something more creative. I had got to a ‘make or break’ situation, whether to pursue this floristry thing I had on my heart, or if it just wasn’t meant to be. Though I had learnt many technical skills from my time at my childhood job, I didn’t know if I really had what it takes, whether my abilities and skills were enough, or if it was really what I should do. This course genuinely quashed all my doubts and it gave me a new love for flowers. Learning that I could use the creativity I had and putting my own personality and style into the arrangements opened up a whole new world of possibilities. It gave me the confidence and the push I needed to just go for it.

What was your first big break or most memorable moments so far?

The last day of the career change course I set up ‘Rabbit and the Rose’ on social media platforms, instagram being my most useful page, a tentative start just to see where it could go. A couple months later I advertised for Mother’s Day and worked from my parents garage whilst juggling still being in my previous job at a jewellers. I’m not sure if it can be classified as a ‘big break’ but Mother’s Day that year was certainly the ‘breaking point’ for me, I had over 30 orders which doesn’t seem like many but at the time felt massive! The interest I had blew me away, it wasn’t just friends and family supporting me but I had orders from STRANGERS! Ha, it seems silly but to know what I was doing, people liked and wanted filled me with confidence and reassurance. I quickly realised this couldn’t just be a side project and so I gave up my job. 4 months after that I opened a shop, had a launch event and started taking more and more work. No looking back now!

Describe a typical floristry day…

I’m not a morning person. There, I said it! Even with a 1 year old, early starts are and I think will always be a struggle for me! I know this doesn’t seem to marry with being a florist, and don’t get me wrong I still do the 5am starts when needed, but I tend to structure my days a little differently to make sure I’m not needing to do them too often! There’s really no typical day. But I have a bit of a rhythm for a week with a Saturday wedding; I try to keep Mondays and Tuesdays as George days (my 1 year old), though I’m never completely switched off from emails, planning, stock ordering, marketing etc. Wednesdays tend to be conditioning days, when most of the flowers and foliage gets delivered from my wholesaler, I also get stock from a couple local growers where possible. Thursdays tend to be table centre days, and as much prep as possible for arrangements that can be done in advance. Fridays are bridal party days, all the bouquets and buttonholes and anything remaining. I often bring home the wiring and fiddly bits to do in the evening (once George is in bed!) or ready to do early the next morning. Then Saturday is set up day; packing my car to the brim, delivering bridal flowers to the bride and groom, and setting up the venue. Taking down will happen either late Saturday night or Sunday morning. Then I have to find time at some point during the week to clean the vases and buckets ready for the next event (by far my least favourite task!).

What are you doing now? 

3 years on I feel a lot more established and settled in what my business is about, I still have a unit but I call it my studio now, no longer running it as a shop, I’ve gone open by appointment. This gives me the freedom to focus on event work and I’ve also since had a baby who’s just turning 1, so being able to fit my work around being mum is so important. I predominantly focus on weddings, and have slowly built up my following on social media. Rather than just being this new girl on the block playing with flowers, I feel more known in my hometown as ‘the florist to go to’, with a database of customers that get my style and like what I do.

What’s been your highlight to date?

That’s a tricky one as it’s more an amalgamation of many mini highlights. Working mostly on my own I am my worst critic, not many people to get feedback from, or to bounce ideas with (apart from the super helpful digital network of Tallulah graduates!) Since doing the career change course and setting up, I’ve twice won ‘Best florist’ in the Muddy Stilettos Awards for Hampshire and Isle of Wight. This has given me a real boost that my work is thought of as good! Then there’s nothing better than hearing from couples lovely reviews that I understood their wishes and produced something even better than they imagined. That still gives me a thrill! I suppose less of a highlight (as it was really quite stressful!) but more of an accomplishment I had my biggest wedding to date when George was just shy of 4 months old, strapped to my chest he joined me during the week leading up, delivering to the bride, and setting up the venue. 6 bridesmaids, countless buttonholes, 14 tables, ceremony and backdrop flowers… I had one freelancer help me as well as my husband on the day of set up. It was tight – we’d just finished setting up and I remember sitting on the grass round the back of the venue nursing George as the guests were arriving on the other side… It was a beautiful wedding and the couple were very happy – not till after the event did I look back and think, how on earth did I manage that?

What advice would you give to a new student starting out?

Do it, just do it. It honestly felt like therapy, whether you’re pursuing a floral career or not, being able to spend a dedicated time to work on your own creative style and develop new skills, whilst meeting like minded people, and gaining inspiration, it’s totally worth it. A floristry career is hard graft, it’s not glamorous (most of the time), but once you’ve got the floral bug, there’s no going back. There’s no ‘floristry by numbers’ here, the mechanics can be learnt, but don’t worry about what techniques you do or do not know, your creative self is more than enough.

Click here for more information about Rabbit and the Rose