I love the looks I get whenever I say I’ve just opened a flower shop. They range from polite bemusement to well-meaning sympathy to unbridled “what-the-hell-did-you-just-do?”
And who could blame them?
Barely four months ago, I was an ad man. A fairly decent one at that (if I may be so bold), at a fairly well-known agency. I had just gotten a promotion and a raise, and all signs were leading to another one in a year or so.
I was doing well by all accounts; stable, on track, and on the money. Yet, it all felt like a sham.
For reasons best saved for another entry, my work had ceased to bring me the joy and meaning it once did. I didn’t believe in what I was doing. And I certainly wasn’t enjoying it.
What I did enjoy was a little website I started with Jac two years ago – bloomroom.sg
Jac had just left her job at a women’s magazine then. Having grown up around her mother’s neighbourhood floral store, she inherited a natural aptitude for flowers. Since I knew a little about selling stuff, we decided to peddle her floral designs online as a pet project.
It was a small endeavour with paltry returns. But it gave Jac a platform to practise her craft while I filled my creative void with something I knew next to nothing about. I learnt about the business as fast as I could, as best I could.
We juggled our writing assignments with flower orders through the chaos of Valentine’s Days, Mother’s Days, and Christmases. Somehow, we survived them all.
Our customer pool began to grow. More amazingly, a few kept coming back.
And so we allowed ourselves the fantasy of owning a physical flower shop. One different from the indifferent stalls found in malls and wet markets. The kind that actually cared about what it was doing, and how it was doing it. A Mom-and-Pop store, full of ideas, fun – and kindness.
As life would have it, we stumbled upon a shop space in a quaint little neighbourhood in Joo Chiat, where Jaclyn’s childhood home still stands. The rent was right. So was the location.
Fresh out and broke from our wedding, we huddled. We debated through a litany of pros and cons, getting inspired by the possibilities, and scared by the risks.
Naivety won in the end.
We rang up the agent a few days later. A deposit was made, and I quit my job. Thus began my journey from Mad Men, to just plain mad.
Not that I had time to complain.
Apart from worrying about P&L’s and Excel sheets, I now have to acquaint myself with the craft itself, learning the names of the different flowers, caring for them, and preparing them for arrangement and sale.
That means identifying the freshest batch from the suppliers’, removing leaves and thorns at the shop, and making sure the flowers are properly cut before Jac arranges them.
I’ve traded in power lunches, overseas shoots and award nights for a craft knife. And it feels good. Good to be using my hands again. Good to be producing work that means something to someone else. Good to be seeing a smile on a recipient’s face whenever I make a delivery. Good to be seeing a smile on mine.
Then there’s the liberation of having an idea and trying it out ourselves. No boardroom review. No focus group. No devil’s advocate.
I took responsibility for my decisions. Every failure was mine to bear. Every success, ours to celebrate.
It’s work that feels authentic, honest, and, above all, right; an adventure that puts me right at the bottom of the curve again.
And I couldn’t be happier.