SUCCESSFUL florist BECKY TAPPER followed in her parents' footsteps to start her own business
QHow did you come to set up Les Fleurs Florist?
A It is a bit of a cliche but coming from a family of business owners, I knew I hoped to start something for myself. I was quite used to watching my parents doing the invoicing and VAT returns on a Sunday afternoon whilst Formula One was on the TV, so I wasn't blind to the demands of running a business from a young age.
I fell into floristry after the sudden death of my step-father. I started an evening course as a distraction, and realised I had found something I was passionate about, my desire to learn more was addictive.
I then approached a florist shop in order to gain experience, where I worked unpaid for a couple of months. It was then I became employed and begun my training in floristry at Bicton College on my day off. In March 2012, I begun working from home, reaching out to businesses who might require my service and other companies I could form relationships with, particularly in the wedding industry. By the time July 2012 came, the demands of the business enabled me to move into our first retail shop.
Q What major challenges have you faced?
A Every day is a challenge! I love not knowing what the day is going to bring. We are all constantly learning and adapting, so if somebody comes in to ask for something new or experimental, we bounce ideas around and come up with something special. I haven't been beaten yet!
From a financial point of view, we have never had a loan or debt and have worked hard to be entirely self-funded, however, in 2013 we suffered a difficult experience when an advertising contract offered by a large firm went into liquidation which wiped out our still very delicate reserve and had nothing to show for it. Being cautious and careful, this didn't cause us any damage but did enlighten us to tread carefully in the future.
Q What has been the company's greatest achievement?
A I don't think I can put down one major event, the success and growth of the business in just two years is astounding. This in itself is our greatest achievement which we put down to the regularity of returning customers whether it be for a birthday bouquet, wedding package or sympathy tributes.
Being able to offer secure training and employment for others is also something we are proud of, and will continue to be an important element for us.
Q What are your aims for 2014/2015?
A We are currently in the process of recruiting a new apprentice florist to join our team to enable us to continue to meet with the growth of the business.
We have also recently gained a couple of new contracts with other local businesses who require flowers on a weekly/fortnightly and adhoc basis. The demand for our 'Blooms for Business' is growing and we hope to offer this to more businesses which we feel is great value for money and really adds that finishing touch to premises.
Q What is your background?
A I have had a varied start to my working life, including office work (residential lettings and debt solvency) and hospitality (silver service and bar work). As much as I can say I considered these jobs a stepping stone while trying to find my 'calling', I learnt invaluable lessons along the way, such as my employment in hotels has given me a real understanding of the preparations for weddings and functions which happen behind the scenes.
I also have a modern approach to business perhaps derived partially from my past employment in admin roles. I believe that we benefit from having an active online and technology based presence, including Facebook, twitter and the company website. A large amount of our clients choose to contact us via these methods and to email us regarding their requirements.
Q Who has been your most significant mentor?
A Perhaps you may expect me to say a famous floral designer or a college tutor. However, I do have to say my right-hand woman, 'my wing-woman' as she's affectionately known in the shop. My mum, Julie, has been a fair, and often fiercely honest support throughout the entire journey of Les Fleurs. What started out as my own mission – with her guidance and help, then became a joint venture at the beginning of our second year. It turned out she lost as much sleep and spent many hours late into the evening thinking of new ideas or ways to overcome challenges as I did.
Without doubt she has brought me up to stick at the things through the easy and hard times. Furthermore, that sometimes, you have to just keep laughing!
Q How do you keep enthused and keep ideas fresh?
A I can't answer that question! I don't have to try to remain enthused, I just am! I love what I do, and as crazy as this may sound, my favourite part of the job is making something beautiful at 2am in the early hours of Mothering Sunday, or seeing one of our girls master a new design in the shop throughout their training.
As for keeping ideas fresh, I just try to work by one mantra. We don't know everything, things are always changing and trends adapt with time. As long as we continue to be inventive and creative, trying new things, we will keep our designs interesting too.
Q What awards has the company won?
A We recently won 'Best New Business' at the Herald Express South Devon Business Excellence Awards 2014. A lovely acknowledgement of our hard work and dedication.
Q What other organisations are you involved with?
A We try to work closely with a number of organisations although we do offer our free time to the Paignton Regatta. Mum and I have been involved with the regatta for a number of years and have made some wonderful friends during this time, including our 'Allotment Duo' who kindly compost our green waste to help keep the world a nicer place.