August 2019 ~ The RSVP Story
Happy Anniversary, RSVP Floral Design! It’s here - we’ve completed our 10th year in business, and my heart is so full of gratitude and reflection today. I say “we” because it isn’t just myself who has come this far… it’s also those who helped me start my business, those who work with me now, my fellow wedding pros, my loving family, my solid-as-a-rock husband, and my supportive friends. Most of all? Every. Single. Client. Those who have allowed me the privilege of serving them. You’re the real rockstars and we wouldn’t exist without you!
2009. That was the year I made a decision that forever changed my philosophy on what it means to “work.” The year prior, I was having a hard time getting back out there after being a SAHM, and couldn’t even land a job at the local coffee shop. The economy was bad, and this was during what is now known as “The Great Recession.” My background was in Customer Service and Marketing - and there were too many way more qualified people looking for jobs. My husband’s position in Redevelopment at a local city was questionable, since the program was expected to be cut statewide. I went into panic mode and couldn’t just stand by - I felt like I needed to work. I needed to help out with the kids’ tuition. I needed to make sure I could contribute to the bills. Then I realized I was overreacting a little, and what I was really needing was to do something outside the home that I thought would be fulfilling.
After multiple interviews and rejections, I asked myself, what is it I actually love to do? Maybe I should be focusing on finding joy in a career, instead of just finding a paycheck I thought I needed? The answer was easy. I loved decorating for special events. I loved entertaining. I would make my own floral arrangements at home for parties that my husband and I would host over the years. I was that little girl whose Barbies got married over and over again just so I could stick a bouquet of Sweet Alyssum from the yard in her hand and put a piece of lace on her head as a veil. So I chatted with a co-worker of my husband's since she had owned a flower shop herself before, and she told me that if I think I want to get into the business, I should go work for someone else during the busy Valentine’s holiday. I walked into the flower shop across the street from my kids’ school, met the owner and told her I would sweep the floors, work for minimum wage, and hopefully use my love for customer service to enhance the face of her little shop. I was hired that day and was launched into the long, hard hours of the flower world - complete with throwing out my back the first week from schlepping 5 gallon buckets around (sad, but true!) I learned everything I could from the lead designer and started taking design courses wherever I could fit them in. I bought every floral book I could find. I was hooked! And when my son’s kindergarten teacher asked me if I would be confident enough to do the florals for her wedding the following September, of course I said yes!
I already had a business plan in place from all my dreaming, complete with the name. I had chosen "RSVP Events" because it was so personal to me. RSVP stands for “Répondez s'il vous plaît”… the French words simply translate to “please respond.” It’s something that so many people often forget (or ignore) but means so much to a host who is inviting you into their home or to their wedding - into their moment of celebration. It’s like they’re asking you to “please reply and accept this special gesture I’m extending to you.” It was the perfect reflection of what being a hostess means to me. So I spent the following week getting all of the proper business documents and licensing handled, and when those business cards arrived from that big online printing company, I was actually proud of my generic stock logo (oh how naive!) and seeing my name on them.
That first wedding came, and while the designs are now a bit dated (hellllloooo hot pink roses and baby’s breath!) it will forever be the moment I understood what it felt like to create something others loved, and to serve clients in one of the most treasured and memorable moments of their lives. Word got out, the inquiries started coming in, and I signed up for all the free listings I could on every online wedding business page available. Yes - I will admit I even listed my services on Craigslist. Ouch. I bought all of my supplies and set up my garage (and my kitchen) as a studio. I would meet prospective clients at the local coffee shop (you know - the one that wouldn’t hire me) and gave them my story while showing them a physical photo album of my limited portfolio. There was no Instagram back then - heck, Facebook was barely on the horizon! But it was amazing to hear how excited they were by the end of the conversation, and how much they trusted me. I learned what it felt like to “sell” something I was passionate about, and it was amazing! RSVP Events took off from there.
Five years later, in early 2014, I moved into a little retail studio and weddings were booking through the roof for our small biz. My family was happy to have the kitchen table back, and my then young teen kiddos would come work for me here and there. My husband even gave up his weekends to work with me, since he is much taller than I and can reach further from a 12' ladder. I had the most amazing team - mostly friends that I trusted - and business was moving at a good pace. But honestly, I was exhausted. I was spending so much less time creating, and more time managing operations. I hadn’t been feeling too great, and my husband kept urging me to take a break. I knew I could step back and let my staff handle things - and I did once in a while - but it was like I just couldn’t catch up. Business meant busy-ness, and the thought of taking a break felt like trying to jump off a fast moving train. We didn’t know why at the time, but my husband shared that he just had a feeling I needed to officially step back from weddings - he thought it was draining me physically and emotionally. We have another business he needed my help with anyway, and I could do that mostly from home. I had been dealing with some health issues off and on, which we kept chalking up to the physical demands of having a wedding floral business. So I gave in.
After so many discussions, endless prayers, a lot of tears, and even some bitterness at what my husband was suggesting, I stopped taking weddings and finished out what was booked the rest of that season. Things had been profitable enough to be able to continue paying the rent and bills even after we’d closed, so I told myself there was no harm in taking a break. We said I would go back to it when the time felt right, but I was torn over giving up what I loved and had built. I jumped into our other business and handled the heartache as best as I could. Little did I know that just months later, I would find out I had breast cancer. It sounds crazy, but in the midst of the chaos, everything came into focus like I had a new set of eyes. It all became clear. I was so thankful that my husband didn’t back down, that he had a gut feeling I didn’t at the time. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason - and all the time he spent praying for me finally brought answers (and I finally stopped being mad at him too!) What I came away with was this: the opportunity I had in starting my business was a gift. It wasn’t mine alone, it wasn’t possible only by my own two hands - I believe it was a gift from God, providing me with something I needed right when I needed it. And when that gift was done giving me what it was meant to in that moment, I received a new gift - the gift of taking a break - exactly when I needed it.
Being the creative type I am, I couldn’t be on break for long though. While dealing withe the cancer stuff for more than two years, I'd stayed in touch with my wedding pro friends and was always looking for ways I could get back into the industry without draining myself physically. (Is that even possible in weddings? Ha!) When they’d ask me when I was coming back, I would literally go home so excited and add business ideas to my journal. I may have even unintentionally burned a bridge or two by badgering others and over, picking their brains on wedding business ideas. (Oops!) Finally, after one really tough day, I decided I had enough. I wanted to do weddings again, and decided it was time to set that new plan in motion. A former venue coordinator and friend was getting married and asked me a week before if I would do the flowers for her upcoming wedding. I saw it as confirmation that it was time to hit the buckets again, so I called her back and said yes.
Just like the first time, I made sure I was doing things the right way and immediately took care of the business details which included updating my name, logo, and brand. I consulted with Laurie at The Creative Clique and ultimately decided I couldn’t let go of RSVP, but we would specify being exclusively floral. We re-launched the business during summer of 2018 as RSVP Floral Design under a whole new concept on how I would operate. I decided I would limit how many weddings I book, and will schedule no more than 1 wedding or event per week during peak season - less than that based on my availability. I operate from a home studio again. I spend a lot more time learning what my couples are looking for, and making sure I only say yes if I truly feel I am the best fit for them. I try to only book events that reflect the design style true to what I love or with couples I genuinely connect with. Not booking every single inquiry I get. I was able to take most of this summer "off" so I could be with my kiddos, and made sure I spent the best quality time with them first. I fully believe that by taking care of me, I can take better care of my clients. And when I book a couple now, I can give them my full undivided attention. I really do get as excited for their big day as they are! I am sincerely grateful for every client who allows me to be a part of their big day, and for every vendor partner who has supported and welcomed me back into this very busy industry.
So here we are, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of RSVP Floral Design. Yay!! As I reflect on this journey, here is a list of what I’ve learned along the way of being a creative, and turning my passion into a business:
~ Don’t just sit there waiting for the right opportunity to come to you. Get out there and create it yourself! Can’t find the perfect job? Start a business and take a chance. There IS a way if it’s meant to be. Don't be afraid to try.
~ Ask yourself, what truly brings you joy? Do that. Don’t spend your life doing what you feel like you have to do. Sure, we all have obligations - but there is always room for joy first. The rest will follow.
~ Life is short and can change on a dime. When things seem to be going wrong or the unexpected happens, find the positive in the situation. It's there, you just need to look at it.
~ Your career plan or business model should reflect your own goals and passion, not what others think it should be. Want to only take a limited number of clients or work a limited number of hours? Do it. It’s not just a “side hustle” if your effort is in it 100%. Just because it’s not the volume someone else’s business is doing, it's not any less valuable. You do you.