We’re highlighting one of our florists from The 1st Charleston NotWedding today! Suzie Lombardo of Statice couture florals & event design has answered a few questions for us about her career as a small business owner and her ups and downs throughout it. I had the pleasure of meeting Suzie at the Charleston event, and I can’t praise her work or her attitude enough. She was super helpful to all the vendors, had some of the most beautiful flower and table arrangements I’ve ever seen, and approached the whole event with a chill, collected attitude that seemed to affect the whole atmosphere. Have fun learning about this outstanding Charleston vendor!
Describe a highlight or pivotal moment in your career.
When I started going to Clemson University was when I had the realization that I could start a business and finish college at the same time. I went back when I was 23 to pursue a degree in Horticulture. I was a little late on the college track and I felt out of place sometimes, but I was determined to finish school and earn a degree. I would only be the second person in my family to go to college, so it was important. I needed money though. No one was paying my way, so I started offering to do my friend’s wedding flowers (at little to no cost). Once I did my first wedding out of my 4 bedroom college apartment with three other roommates there, I thought, “If I can do great work here, I can do it anywhere.” My business grew from that small college apartment. My sweet roommates helped me whenever I had weddings — they loved it! Most of all my brides were so happy with my work, and that’s when I knew I could make it work no matter where I ended up.
Describe a time when you thought about giving up in this business but then didn’t.
I don’t think giving up on my business crossed my mind, but hiding under a rock did. I was hired to do flowers for a corporate Christmas party for a fairly large PR firm in Greenville. I had it all planned out and was going to do these elaborate centerpieces! I can still picture them in my mind, but unfortunately they never came to fruition. I had been corresponding with the event coordinator for the company for months. Everything was set and the event was to be on a Friday, or so I thought… Thursday afternoon I went to my wholesaler to pick up all the flowers. As I’m pulling out of the parking lot I get a call from the coordinator asking me if had arrived at the event venue yet. I froze. Confusion, terror, more confusion, tears welling up! I asked her if the event was that day, she said “uh yeah!” Without saying anything else, I told her I would call her right back. I pulled my car over and began to sob. Honestly, I thought about just not calling her back. I knew that wasn’t reasonable, and I also wasn’t raised to be a coward. I needed to face this head on, so I called Mom for some quick, but very sound advice. She said to just be honest and tell the woman I got the dates mixed up but that I was on my way. I did just that. Once I got to the venue, which was 40 minutes from where I was when I was on the side of the road crying, there was a sweet faced curly haired girl there waiting to help me. Her name happened to be Morgan Young aka Miss Wyolene. I didn’t know her then but she had collected all the vases she could find at the venue and we sat quietly on the floor of the ballroom and frantically stuffed flowers in vases. To date they were the ugliest flowers I’ve ever done, but before the event started there were flowers on every table. Morgan handed me a check before I left with the full payment for the event, I tried to refuse to take it because I felt so awful, but she insisted. She was gracious, and I was grateful… and exhausted. I went home and cracked a beer. I sat down on my front porch and thought about how this mess-up was going to hurt my business. All of my friends and people I knew who worked for that particular company were going to see my hideous flowers and then hear of my awful mistake. I was pretty mortified. After I calmed down a bit I looked through my emails and realized that the coordinator had given me the wrong date all along. I was not going to bring it to her attention because the truth is, I should have reconfirmed the date. It was my inexperience that made me so trusting. People make mistakes and I was pretty sure she hated me, so there was no way I was going to call her and say “You know that train wreck was actually all your fault.” No way! I was leaving it alone. Luckily she emailed me the next Monday morning, apologizing for the mix up and taking all the blame for what happened. She realized the same thing I did, and she informed everyone at their meeting that morning that it was in fact her mistake and not mine! I was grateful for that, but still sad that it happened. I learned a valuable lesson through all of this: In situations where you feel like the biggest jerk that ever lived, you must still hold your head high and do your job. We are all human, and we all make mistakes, so it’s better to be humble and ask for help and forgiveness, rather than being prideful because you are embarrassed. If you do this there will be little angels like my friend Morgan who will extend a helping hand. These angels make life easier, and make a difficult situation easier to bear. Also, never forget to confirm your dates!
List three good decisions you’ve made in your business.
1. Remaining a “small” business. Everyone always asks me when I’m going to open my own flower shop. I don’t see that as being the next step. I still work from the basement of my house, and I’m happy there. I like weddings to be the main focus of my business. I don’t think I would enjoy running a shop every day. I’ve chosen to stay small so I can provide quality custom service to my clients. I don’t want to be so busy running a retail store that I don’t have time to focus on my brides. Now, if God blesses me with a studio space that would be great!
2. Moving to Greenville. I love Greenville brides! For the most part they are so laid back and easy to work with. The wedding industry here is growing and there seems to be an abundance of business.
3. Sticking to my motto: Make every client as happy as possible. That sounds simple but every bride is an individual, with her own sense of style. They all want something different so you really have to design with them in mind. When your job is to design, it’s easy to form your own style and execute that style for every single client. I think you will find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. It’s important to get to know the bride, and find out what she likes, and try to design with her in mind. Some brides are traditional, some are modern. It’s key to make sure you are creating florals that they would make for themselves if they had the skills and time.
What has been your favorite part of The NotWedding experience?
My favorite part of the NotWedding experience was getting to meet all of the other vendors. I just respect entrepreneurs of any sort. It’s hard to make something out of nothing and that is what we are all doing. We are carving our own path and figuring out how to make a living on our own. I just loved the opportunity to meet so many talented, innovative people.