Do floral classes simply give away the tricks of the trade? Or can you use them to attract a new type of customer and increase cash flow?
Florists have differing opinions.
What’s not in doubt is that hands-on classes are rising in popularity.
Should you offer regular hands-on experiences? We asked one designer who has successfully built a workshop business about her experience.
Here’s what works for her, what didn’t and what she plans to add next—and why she refers design work to other florists.
Mix social with instruction?
Following the lead of other retail industries like painting, baking, gourmet cooking and wine-making, some floral businesses offer in-store instruction for basic designs. Others offer workshops, private parties and company sponsored events.
Some entrepreneurs, who consider instructional events a separate concept from traditional floristry, have also begun offering the same or similar events.
“People are always looking for something interesting to do,” says floral designer Melissa Frontino.
When a business mixing a social hour with simple painting techniques opened near Mel, she thought the same creative experience could work with flowers.
She took that basic concept—having fun with friends and flowers—and expanded it into a handful of on- and off-site floral services.
From designing to teaching
Four years ago, Mel decided to follow her flower passion. She took classes from floral professionals, got a horticultural license and began making designs and small weddings.
She soon discovered this wasn’t her niche. What she really loved were flower classes.
She developed a floral design + wine workshop and became head flower chick of The Flower Social in Austin, Texas. It remains her most popular class.
“I don’t do traditional wedding business or daily orders,” she says. “That’s a separate segment of business. I refer those requests to local florists.”
Floral design + wine workshop
Mel offers beginner and level II classes but finds most people just want to enjoy playing with flowers.
“In the beginning, I served snacks and wine but found I was wasting my money,” Mel says. “People don’t eat or drink much because they are so focused on the flowers.”
She suggests customers bring refreshments if desired.
Pricing the parties
The flower social classes typically run $25 to $35 per person. “Obviously, the more people you have the more your pricing can go down,” Mel explains.
She always uses the same teaching format but adapts designs to seasonal flowers.
“I always include roses,” she shares. “There is so much to learn like identifying freshness, reflexing petals and flower care (see 33 Quick and Easy Tips to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh).”
“I close the RSVPs 24 hours before each class. I’m then at the mercy of what’s available and freshest from my local supplier. They typically have a great selection to choose from.”
“Overall Christmas is the busiest season so far,” says Mel. “It’s a hectic month of classes for wreaths, garlands and holiday arrangements.”
Local companies often request holiday workshops for employees.
“Wreaths work especially well for partnering on a project.” There’s plenty of wiring and taping tasks for everyone.
Wedding designs make popular workshops. For some students it’s a first experience with gluing (see Why and How to Glue Prom and Other Flowers) or wiring materials (Why and How to Wire and Tape Flowers) or using floral tools. Mel sells flower shears and strippers.
Attendance in these classes vary with the wedding seasons.
Sometimes Mel is asked to do instructional events for brides, bridesmaids and moms designing their bouquets.
She doesn’t feel her classes detract from local florists.
“It’s a different customer,” Mel explains. “These people are not going to invest in custom flowers. They’re only going to have what they can do for themselves.”
She feels that her classes help create a stronger awareness of flowers.
Galentine’s day gatherings
“Galentine’s day was hot this year!” says Mel. “We had five Galentine's day set-ups including one at a Beauty Brow studio.”
Galentine’s day is an unofficial holiday on the day before Valentine’s Day. The focus is on celebrating the special gals in your life by spending time with them.
Realizing that people spend a lot of money on their pets, Mel offered classes for doggy bouts. The classes were not very popular.
So when a pet photographer reached out to her to do a joint pet portraits project, she was willing to give it a try. They offered two options.
“If you wanted to own your flower collar, you had to buy a $45 ticket in advance so I would have the flowers on hand,” says Mel. Or, for $35, they could just have their pet photographed with one of the designs Mel made in advance. These customers get the photo, not the flowers.
These workshops were successful.
Mel wishes for a more consistent number of attendees. She likes a max of 12 for beginners and a max of 18 for skilled students.
80 percent of attendees are women and 20 percent are men. Mel wasn’t expecting that.
Sometimes couples take classes together or companies host workshops for a mix of employees. She finds it most challenging when a group comes together for fun. “They can easily get distracted.”
The business had to be relocated for male participants. “The first location had a low slanted room that was a problem for some of the taller men. I had to find a place with a higher ceiling,” laughs Mel.
Located in a succulent and cactus boutique
For the past two years, The Flower Social has used workshop space in the succulent and cactus boutique Succulent Native. Classes are held there Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.
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The new space offers more networking opportunities. Mel first reached out to restaurants and boutiques offering floral classes in their locations. Now she’s often invited to host off-site workshops including at private residences.
Flower Social subscriptions
Once a customer attends a workshop, they can register for her Flower Social subscription service. Flowers are available for pickup or delivery weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Club members use these seasonal blooms to keep practicing their craft at home.
Each paper-wrapped bundle includes the same flower forms students used in class: accent, focal or main blooms plus filler flowers and greenery. Prices vary according to preferences and budget.
How is the business marketed?
“Most everything is word of mouth,” Mel says.
She relies heavily on Instagram to showcase events and for inspiration. She also shares the work of florists she admires.
Mel has been featured in local publications and news spots and networks with other vendors.
Mel plans to release a program this year teaching workshop and online courses for The Flower Hostess, which will offer the design techniques and teaching skills to become a flower party hostess.
Her goal is to build a networking community that empowers women to create their own personalized flower business.
What new fresh flower experiences can you add to your floral business?