In Guelph, Ontario, Robyn Scott is courting customers ready to deck the halls with a series of design workshops.
Over the next three weeks, the owner of Blooms & Flora will offer hands-on lessons, priced at $95 to $135, for those interested in creating hand-tied bouquets, holiday urns, wreaths, wall hangings, mantle designs, and holiday centerpieces.
“This is only our second season offering flower arranging workshops, so we are still changing and learning as we go,” Scott said.
She started by hosting semi-private groups of six to eight people in the shop, which started to get cramped. Now she holds them in a restaurant around the corner. This lets her comfortably accommodate about 15 participants and makes it easy to offer refreshments (holiday goodies and mulled wine). “I also welcome any opportunity to support fellow small business owners,” she said. “ I love working with like-minded people, and this is a great way to do so!”
This year, workshops attendees will receive a coupon to use for holiday décor or gifts. “It is a new idea, so we will track how it goes,” Scott said. “Last year, we made many new clients by creating a personal connection at our workshops and many have become very familiar faces in the shop throughout the year.” Several, she added, sign up for a future class before the evening is through, “as they have enjoyed themselves so much and caught the flower bug!”
She looks for little ways to plug gift ideas during the workshops. “We burn candles that we sell in the shop and find ways to mention in a natural way a few items and services that we offer,” she said, adding that it’s more comfortable and effective than a hard sale.
The classes draw a mix; there are groups of women and others who show up solo. “It’s a welcoming and comfortable environment,” she said. “These are individuals who value community, continual learning, and a love for creating. Those who walk in the doors knowing no one leave with a handful of new flower friends. It’s so great to watch people complimenting each other’s designs and creativity and building up one another.”
Though attendees enjoy DIY projects, they still gravitate to Blooms & Flora’s professional services. “We’re only touching on the basics of a very particular design in a two-hour class,” Scott said. “They still come to us for cut-flower bouquets, arrangements for friends and family, gift items and gift cards, etc. By forming a connection with the workshops, we’re top of mind when they need a professional florist.”
Furthermore, she said, workshops help educate clients on the value and skills florists have that set them apart from big box stores. “I am able to touch on the importance of quality and freshness in selecting flowers, flower varieties and their costs, and flower care to extend the life of their flowers,” she said.
Workshop clients are mostly “career-focused professionals in their 30s through 50s—and definitely not seeking a career in floral design,” she said. “In a technology-driven world, I believe people are looking for a way to connect—without their devices—and learn a new skill. To take even a couple of hours to disconnect from their busy lives and work with beautiful flowers is such a refreshing change from their regular routines.”
She advises florists keen on starting design workshops to make sure they have adequate space to do so and a plan to market them. “We have an extensive list of subscribers from our website who receive our e-newsletter, which mentions upcoming dates. They had requested to be notified of workshops and, within a few days, many were completely booked up! Social media really helps to spread the word, as well. We use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with great success for building workshop interest.”