The Queen of Flowers sits down with us for a fireside chat!
This month we decided to reach out to Toronto-based creative and Feed the Juice follower, Andrea Johnson, or the queen of flowers as we like to call her! We caught up with her to learn more about her story from account manager to small business owner!
Who is Andrea Johnson? How did you discover your passion for flowers?
Simply put ... I don't really know who 'Andrea Johnson' is. I kind of feel like I am in an endless search to figure out that question, and I like to believe that is where my creativity comes from.
Growing up, my family remembers me as a child that was always making something, always trying to create something different. I had a craft table that was never clean (except for the small corner where I would construct all of my ideas into real-world creations), the glue was usually in my hair, and paint or cake icing was pretty much permanently on my clothes. Somewhere along the way of growing up, I stopped walking down that creator path and pursued a six-year career in advertising as an Account Manager in New York City.
It was July of 2019 when I decided to take a much-needed vacation, and while most people head to a beach somewhere, I decided to do something that took me back to my childhood - creating something. I made a conscious choice to try something completely new that I had never done before; I chose to practice floral forms with the New York Botanical Garden. During this four-day intensive workshop, I rediscovered my passion to create, and I found my medium, all at once!
Like, right now, as I am answering this question, I want to buy new flowers and make something!
When did you realize you needed to pursue this as a main hustle?
I immediately fell in love with the workshop about an hour into my first class with the New York Botanical Garden. My gut told me then that this was going to be my main hustle. However, I didn't decide to make the leap until August 2019. Serendipitously, I woke up one morning, turned to my husband, and just said, "I think I am going to do flowers. I want to try this as my career." He simply responded "Ok. Go for it." I am so thankful for him being my number one supporter!
I felt this moment coming after turning down my dream advertising job in Toronto. I found a totally perfect job on paper - a great team that gave us time to move. But, when I thought about going to work every day to another ad agency, it honestly made me sick. I then forced my husband into a deep conversation about this decision in terms of its impact on our family finances and our big move to Toronto. The rest is history!
Did you always want to start your own business?
Yes. 100% yes. But I felt this goal was infeasible since I could never fully commit to what I wanted to do for a living. I had never felt a feeling of "I could do this forever." I have a ton of creative passions (if you couldn't tell by the picture I painted of my youth, drowning in sparkles, markers, construction paper and more) but every time I tried to think about doing one of those things day in and day out, I was turned off. Once I found flowers though, all bets were off. I crave them every day! Like, right now, as I am answering this question, I want to buy new flowers and make something! I will do anything to get my hands on fresh stems. These feelings validated my decision, and I knew flowers were my ticket to being my own boss.
Who is helping you build your empire?
Right now, credit goes to my husband, friends, family, and the abundance of free information on the internet!
Seriously though, everyone close to me has been beyond amazing. They are helping in the obvious ways like sending leads my way, sharing my content, coaching me through decisions, being my muscle on photoshoot days, processing flowers, etc. I also want to give a special shoutout to Oscar Saylor of Estudio Bodega, who owns the brand design. He donated his design skills to create my brand aesthetics and to set up a skeleton version of my website.
BUT ... they are also helping in the less obvious ways that are just as important. Some examples include, being patient with me when I am super frustrated with an administrative hiccup or giving me the space to go through my creative process. Sometimes my process is so enjoyable that I'll be singing and dancing while I work. More often, the creative process is actually quite painful. It takes a lot out of me to create my pieces and my husband is incredibly supportive of every new project. Each design is completely unique, requiring a different artistic perspective for every wedding or commissioned piece!
Since July 2019, I have dug into an odd creative world that's pretty tough. Each time I'm immersed within it, I'm thankful for the people who support, nurture, and embrace my new lifestyle. These are the helpers that are building my empire with me.
What services and products do you offer? What are your initial customers saying?
I specialize in floral art pieces for just about anyone, including brands, production teams that are looking to design a set for a video/photoshoot, events, pop-ups, and launches, or individuals that want to send a fresh arrangement to their home or to a friend/family member. I do also create for weddings, but only a select few each year.
I also teach DIY tutorials for corporate teams, which is an awesome way for businesses to give their teams a creative outlet! It's a win-win as the teams experience something new and I get to share all that I love!
So far, my customer feedback has been extremely positive and supportive! I have a fan base that offers up such kind words out of the blue and those messages help push back all my fears and refocus on what could be!
How have you been building up your brand?
Slowly--and by listening to God and the universe. I am faithful and believe that I have a path which I need to follow. The only way to make sure I stay on that path is to reflect on everything going on in my life and pray. I make a very conscious effort to be mindful of my previous decisions and those that I will have to make in the future.
This soft skill is key to building my brand slowly each day. I didn't just wake up one day and think, "I'm just going to call this thing 'Andrea Johnson Floral Design' and my core brand color is going to be Green." No. After careful reflection, I made my decision based on wanting my business to be a complete artistic expression of me. I want my clients to feel as if they are getting a piece of the floral art world that exists within my head.
After I made that decision, I made decisions for my brand that were rooted in a truly artistic expression of myself. Every time I post a photo on Instagram, it has to be authentic to my personal brand. Sometimes, posting can take me a few hours because I think through the content in order to create art, not noise.
How can the Feed the Juice audience see your brand and reach out to you?
The Feed the Juice audience can check out my work here!
What inspires you daily?
Nature. The world of color. Different textures. And the idea that 'nothing is just what it seems'.
During the past few weeks in quarantine, I've actually been able to re-imagine a lot of our household items into different scenes. Before all of this, I would get grumpy that I don't have X, or Y is too small to work with, etc.. Being forced into a state where you have to work with what you have is a far more exciting and inspirational environment. I was being too closed-minded to see the opportunity in common objects.
What are some hard lessons learned that you've already realized?
Firstly, do not just start using QuickBooks without going through a tutorial. I've had to wipe my account within the 90-day window because my books were a mess. I have had to back-track and it's a complete nightmare.
Secondly, I am not going to be able to do this alone. While I want to be an individual artist that creates for a small, but loyal client base, I need to hire someone that can manage the business side of my shop. I cannot be both the creator of art and the operator of the business once our client base grows.
Do you regret leaving your full-time job to launch your small business?
No way! While I might have daily panic attacks about making the right decisions and worrying if I'm good enough to sustain a legitimate business, I feel great about my decision overall! I love the feeling of working for myself. I know I can do this! I just have to be patient and work hard.