Based in Essex, Sapphire Bates is the female entrepreneur behind The Flower Arranger, a floristry business that’s different from the rest. Taking inspiration from a variety of mediums, the Flower Arranger strives to create beautiful flowers for weddings or events with that extra special touch. Aside from this, Sapphire also runs the Essex Flower School, with a range of great courses targeted at helping aspiring florists to break into the industry for themselves. Among Sapphire’s adventures with floristry, she’s also the founder of The Coven Girl Gang, an online community dedicated to encouraging female business owners from all walks of life to connect, grow and thrive! For the third instalment in our Females In Focus series, we spoke to the Coven queen to learn a bit more about her background, creative process and tips for those thinking of launching their own brand.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background with Floristry
Hey! I always struggle when people say tell us a bit about yourself.. I’m not that interesting! My name is Sapphire (yes that’s really my name!), I’m 24 and I own two businesses. Bill Murray is my idol – I’ve even got him tattooed on my ribs in a love heart – true dedication. I also have a pug called Tilly, who funny enough is tattooed on the other side of my ribs, ha. I have peach hair and I am obsessed with reading. Hopefully that gives you a small insight into me?
When it comes to my background with floristry… WHAT A RANDOM STORY. I never set out to become a florist, nor did I ever have a burning love for flowers – I thought they were way too girly for me. I grew up wanting to be a zoologist (like Steve Irwin, before Bill it was Steve for my entire childhood) and then a doctor, however, I got kicked out of sixth form and never finished my A levels, THUS no medicine school for me. I studied fashion and business in London for two years before deciding that the competitive industry just wasn’t for me, why dress fashionably when you could dress comfortably!? My mum suggested helping out in a friend of a friend’s wedding florist, sweeping the floors and making teas etc. At first I thought I would hate it because weddings made me gag and florist studios are freezing. Turns out I make a pretty decent florist and after a few months I got an official job and trained to become a florist. After a couple of years I quit and went to Thailand to live in a hut for a bit and experience life with absolutely no responsibilities. When money ran out I panicked and spent a long time on skype to my mum trying to decide what to do next with my life… I ended up creating The Flower Arranger and here I am now.
Can you tell us about the creative process that goes into each flower order?
So I create a bespoke flower quote and brief with my clients at the very beginning of our journey together. We hunt through images and magazines for inspiration. Together we compile a list of flowers they love, and designs that suit them right down to the ground. It’s funny because I have been creating flowers for so long now that I don’t tend to notice the creative process.. I just do it and create.
The Coven is such an amazing online space for women in business to connect, did you expect the group to become as successful as it has?
No, and this is before the business has even launched.. I haven’t even finished the website yet! It definitely took hold very quickly. I can remember being sat in New York last winter and checking the stats of the group and thinking “f*ck! There’s so many women in here!”
If you could design the flowers for any famous couple’s wedding (dead or alive) who would you choose?
YO BILLLLLLLLLLLL! If Bill Murray suddenly decides to get married again I would so do the flowers. Wes Anderson? That’d be incredible, I imagine it would be an amazing process creating flowers and colour palettes etc. Dreamy! Also maybe Dolly Parton or Elvis?
Where do you find the majority of the inspiration for your work?
Absolutely anywhere that isn’t the wedding industry. I am most inspired when travelling new countries, eating new foods and reading new books. I try not to focus too much on what is going on in the wedding industry because I don’t want to create designs that look remotely like anyone elses. Film is a big place for inspiration.
With so many projects on the go, do you find it hard to separate your work and personal life? And if so, how do you work around this?
My work essentially is my personal life. I don’t have any personal accounts on social media or any separate areas, I work from home and also in my flower studio which is decorated just like my home. Many of my closest friends run businesses and thus are involved in my world of work.
The only time I am not working and am able to switch off and relax is when I am exercising or reading – I love yoga and boxing to distract me from my hectic work schedule. I usually read a new book or two a week, I always try and have a fiction book on the go so that I can use that reading time to unwind.
I love what I do and that’s why I spend so much time working, if I didn’t enjoy my job I definitely don’t think I could cope with working every single day of the week.
One thing I think is important to note is that every single person’s needs and capabilities are different. We are all able to work at different speeds and for different lengths of time before they need a break. Never push yourself to work more than your body can cope with. Burn out is NOT FUN!
What are the 3 main things you think a brand needs to be successful?
Wow! That is a difficult question but a good one.
Firstly, a brand needs a good understanding of what it means to be a brand. A brand is more than just a logo and a pretty colour palette. Your brand is everything – every email sent, every business card, every social media post, every word written on your website, every image you take. This must flow and work as one, all giving out the same brand message and same tone of voice.
Secondly, I think a brand needs a strong USP (Unique Selling Point). The stronger your USP the easier it will be for you to create a strong brand. If there are another 7 brands all very similar to you then you are not going to stand out from the crowd.
Thirdly I think a brand needs to be authentic and true to the owner/creator. Love what you do and really believe in it, I think that can take you far. You can know everything there is to know but if you don’t really care or you aren’t being honest then I think this can end up showing to your audience. Embrace it, love it, believe in it!