Serial entrepreneur Bess Wyrick is not only our MF BOSS Senior Event Producer at Create & Cultivate, she also runs Celadon & Celery Events, her fourth business venture which has been successful and profitable since 2008. This doesn't come as a surprise to us at C & C (did you see the florals and stages in Dallas?). Bess' work ethic is imbued with a Millennial spirit, the kind that's convinced it's possible to be an effective part of something bigger. The kind that believes we can create our own change and be disruptive in our own niches. So that's what she's done-- created the change herself (and it's blooming beautiful).
Basically for Bess, the world is her Oleander.
Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you found yourself in the floral and events business.
During college I spent some time working on the catering side of events and always loved when the events we worked on had the budgets to hire florists. I thought they were magicians! So after college I spent some time freelancing as a florist with a slew of the best San Francisco Event Designers. I started out on the production floral side which meant early morning flower market runs, long hours of processing flowers, cleaning buckets and vases, cleaning out the cooler, and then sweeping. My god I was always sweeping since florists make a huge mess. It didn't take long before I was picking up all the insider tricks. Before long I was designing weekly flowers accounts, working on weddings, and being hired as a freelance designer.
Plants, nature, soil it all made sense to me and working with it every day was second nature at that point.
What has been the biggest discovery you’ve made about yourself as a small-business owner?
You have to have more than passion to keep you motivated and driven. I have found that the crew you hire is the key to success. I am only as good as the team around me and I am better with a team that works independently, creatively, and passionately. As a creative I am always finding new ways to encourage and inspire my team to work harder but smarter. Luckily we are surrounded by beauty all the time so I have to remind them to not take advantage of it!
What was your biggest fear in launching your own business?
Running out of MONEY! This is my third business and unlike my last two I was launching without a business partner, in a new city, and I was still green! It was 2008 and I had just landed in NYC before the economy tanked and before too long my job, housing, and the life I had built was pulled out from under me. So I took my skill set, got a part time retail flower job and started hustling. I also took a studio in the NYC flower market where I converted it into a live/work loft and started to make the dream happen.
I never ran out of money because I did three things that I think were critical to my success:
1. Freelance, if I did not have my own gig, I was working for someone else.
2. I lived and breathed flowers, marketing, networking. I was ruthless when it came to promoting myself and the brand I was building.
3. I was the first company to ever offer Flower Workshops on sites like Groupon and Living Social. They were a huge success and sold out every time I did an offer. They became so huge I started doing them in other markets: LA, Miami, Dallas.
By year two I was already becoming a nationwide brand name that people recognized. While that type of marketing had its downfalls it propelled the business to get through the years where wedding and event budgets were scare.
People see pretty. But behind the scenes is a lot of tough work and labor. What are some other elements people would find surprising about event and floral production?
I started my business on the ethos of buying only local flowers, which means grown and shipped in the US only. In 2007 this was a very hard thing to do and meant I had to find these farmers myself. I would spend hours and days driving around to meet farmers and understand what they grew and what their capabilities were. It set my business apart in NY since the market was used to importing from Holland or Asia. Having spent four years of my life as a marijuana farmer I knew how important it was to find flower farmers who took the time to grow seasonal and sustainably. It is what my brand is all about!
In addition, the physical labor that goes into creating flowers for events is hard on the body, very time consuming, and tedious. Florists work long hours, in extreme conditions and it is a constant balance of heavy lifting and stretching to reach large installations. But it's a high to work long days and then step back and see the beauty you've created. I am addicted to that feeling; it is why I keep at it.
There’s a time frame when you’re working with flowers that’s a little… scary. How do you make sure things happen in crunch time?
Ahh, yes this is a secret language between the flowers, the environment, and the style of the event. The way flowers look at an event are leaps and bounds above how they look when I receive them. Most people would be surprised to know that I often get flowers five days before an event so I can work on changing their shape, opening them up, or allowing them to bloom so they are at their peak on event day. I am not a nervous person so this process is more like a dance between me and the flowers.
During Create & Cultivate Dallas I got all the soft flowers on Tuesday (ed note: the event was on Saturday) and spent the time to process them, heat them up so they would open, then stabilize them in a cooler when they were perfect. It is an art but comes with all those years I worked production and stuck it out in rooms with heaters and trucks with coolers!
What are the long term goals for Celedon and Celery?
The beauty about being in the event world is that you can be as transformative as a space. CC has become a resource to so many other florists on large floral build outs, destinations flower planning, and sourcing flowers in regions. I continue to see it be a design house that consults with agency on larger activations, and brand ideation. We are more than florists here at CC and that is why it has been so successful in so many markets. We are creatives, designers, producers, and most of all collaborators, and I hope to see it become a staple platform for future visual artists to come.