Flowers have always fascinated Rini Harrington, so much so that she turned her back on her teaching career and decided to found her own flower shop. What started in a small garage is now the exquisite Stalk of the Town. Rini’s creative flower arrangements pop up all over the city, particularly at big corporate events such as the J&B Met. Flowers can change the entire atmosphere of an office, or a home, and Stalk of the Town’s mission is to invite smiles and stares at the beauty and marvel of flowers. As Rini and her team say, a few petals can go a long way. EduConnect chats to her about a typical day in her colourful, blossoming work.
- What is a typical day in your life as a florist?
|Time of Day||Activity||Comments|
|07:00h||Wake up||I usually have a coffee|
|08:00h||Get to the shop and meet with the flowers suppliers who drop of fresh flowers every morning – unlike Joburg, Cape Town doesn’t have a fresh big flower market.||We get fresh flowers, because we don’t believe in keeping flowers in fridges (many florists do)|
|09:00h||Start doing flowers, attend to customers who come in, arrange deliveries, other admin|
|10:00h||Have some breakfast (This is always on the run and sometimes happens… and sometimes doesn’t!)||We drink tea throughout the day whenever we feel like it|
|12:00h||Start making flower arrangements for orders that came through the website||Sometimes last-minute orders come through during the day|
|14:00h||Do a function||We also need to be ready to help out in case our drivers need help with deliveries, etc.|
|17:00h||Close the shop||We clean up everything nicely so it’s ready for the next day|
|18:00h||Get home and relax from a long day at work||Sometimes I’ll meet up with a friend for a glass of wine and light dinner|
|22:00h||Go to sleep.|
- What do you love most about your job?
Creating. Having total free range when I make arrangements, especially when a client has a big budget. It’s quite challenging when there is a tiny budget, but then again, sometimes those challenges require creativity in specific.
- What do you enjoy least?
Dealing with difficult customers. I generally prefer being behind the scenes.
I also don’t particularly like dealing with staff issues, and other tedious things that come along with owning your own business – from broken down delivery trucks to staff not showing up for work.
- Do you need a qualification to be a florist, or to open a flower shop?
There aren’t many formal qualifications where you can study floristry or flower arrangement in South Africa. I think there are more opportunities overseas.
Having said this, you don’t need a qualification to be a florist. If you work for someone, they will surely have a specific way of doing things, so you will learn from them directly. They would, however, expect you to have a basic knowledge about plants and flowers.
The most important thing is to have a good sense about flowers and flower arrangement. You need a good feeling for colour, for shape, and for design. In my opinion, you’ve either got it or you don’t.
In the case of wanting to open your own shop, though, a qualification or good understanding of Business is very useful.
- What did you study before becoming a florist?
I didn’t study anything formal with regards to flowers – I actually studied teaching, specialised in Special Ed. I taught for 2 years, and did a bunch of other stuff too, like being involved with teaching kids about road safety.
I also went overseas to aupair for a year near the border of Germany and the Netherlands. When I came back, I started with some studies again, but during that time, I began to get involved with interior decoration. I didn’t study it, I just did it in my own time. It had always been a passion and I have a knack for it.
- Please tell us a bit more about the humble beginnings of Stalk of the Town.
Shortly after I started getting into interior decoration, I decided to start my own company. Back then I was living in Joburg, and a together with a few girlfriends, I did some flower arrangements and interior decorations for private clients.
In 1998 I came to Cape Town, and since I had to leave the business behind in Joburg, I wasn’t sure what to do here. I didn’t know anyone. When you open a business, you need to have good networking skills, which isn’t necessarily my forte. I’m not a social butterfly.
I ended up starting over again with my flower arrangements. I had no money, but I managed to rent a small garage in Vredehoek and… I just began. I did weddings every weekend and worked my butt off. From there, things just grew.
You make contacts and build relationships. In 2001, I opened Stalk of the Town inside the Weylandts furniture store at the V&A Waterfront, which went really well. At that time, it became quite trendy to have a flower shop in your store, especially in a furniture store. We were pretty much the forerunners of this trend here, offering an open plan flower shop where people who came to Weylandts could see how we did the arrangements.
- Why did you leave Weylandts and relocate to your own space?
Things took off really fast, and we had a lot of contracts, so I felt like it was time to branch out. We first moved to a studio space in Woodstock, then Salt River – but it was a little too far removed from the city buzz.
If people don’t see you, they forget about you. Even though we had steady clients, we felt we had the capacity to do a lot more work. And so we relocated to Kloof Street, which has been a very good move.
- Why do you prefer to specialise in corporate contracts and not weddings?
Selling flowers in retail is extremely seasonal. I don’t think you can survive as a florist without having contractual clients.
I also like having more freedom to be creative with the corporate flower arrangements, because for weddings, the bride usually wants something very specific, and it’s often the same, soft feel. It can be quite challenging though, because you can’t use any flowers for corporate contracts, since they need to last for at least a week. With corporate functions and events, on the other hand, I can go wild and creative something funky, because it just needs to last that night. It can get very creative.
- What type of person makes a good florist?
You need to
- Be teachable – be open to receive instructions and methods
- Think fast – be able to take initiative in stressful situations and make good decisions, and find solutions fast
- Be friendly – you are working with customers
- Work hard – you’re on your feet the whole day, so you need to work hard and have physical and mental endurance, as it’s practical work
- Be daring – don’t be scared to try out new things
Can this be a lucrative job and allow someone to live in financial comfort?
It’s definitely possible to make a living from this work, but you shouldn’t expect to become rich. Of course there are florists who make big bucks with lavish weddings, but in general this job is less about making lots of money, and more about being creative and passionate about what you do.
- Is there anything else you would like to add about this line of work?
It’s an extremely fulfilling job. The fact that I work with flowers is simply amazing to me – having that energy around me. It still makes me excited to get to work each day.
Ever wondered how flower bouquets come alive? Wonder no more, and watch Rini do her thing.
It’s never too late to make a turn and follow your passion, even if you have started off in a different direction. If you love what you do and use your talents wisely, then you will find a way to make it work. Everyone deserves to feel fulfilled in the profession they choose for their one precious life.