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Vocational Training for…Floral Design?


Let’s start looking at floral design for what it is: expert work that requires dedication and a clear path. 

If you’ve read my story about why I built Poppy, then you know I got my start in design by apprenticing with Laura Dowling in the White House floral shop. After informally training with her, I thought it was time to get some dedicated education. The best and least expensive option was for me to go to Germany. 

The European model 

In Germany at age 15 or 16, you pick a path for your future. That path could be a vocation like floral design. Then, there’s a five- or six-year period during which you become technically trained in the art of arranging flowers and learn business basics. By the time you graduate, you’re proficient in design and ready to start a small business. In fact, I met people in Germany who’d decided at age 16 to get on the floral pathway and by 30 had their own storefront. This kind of training and clear distinction of floral design as a vocation makes a real economic opportunity for creatives. 

What’s the U.S. equivalent?

There’s not a clearly defined training pathway like this for floral design in the U.S. People who are drawn to design are left to wonder, “If I love flowers and I’m really good at arranging them, what do I do next?” 

This is the hard part: putting the passion on a path. Beginning the path is straightforward enough for most designers. In my experience, wedding florists do this job because they love beauty and love. They enjoy creating something beautiful with their hands. There’s something really magical about that. Most designers are entering the industry from this place of passion and their love of doing the thing itself – not necessarily their love of building or running a business. 

So, if you don’t want your own business, where do you go next? 

The Poppy pathway

Poppy is the first company to create clear paths into the floral industry. Helping creatives find job opportunities isn’t just about empowering them to do what they love. It’s also part of Poppy’s business model. 

Poppy relies on a community of 420 independent designers to build arrangements and bouquets for weddings. These designers range from decades-seasoned professionals who’ve retired their storefronts, to hobbyists-turned-experts who need a virtual storefront to locate clients. 

That’s the beauty of Poppy. Independent designers get to do the best part of the job: floral design. Poppy handles everything else, right down to sending out jobs. This is a huge value to creatives. They can simply be creative and do the job without having to learn the ins and outs of the business. 

Without the clear vocational pathway into floral design that exists in Germany and other European countries, I’d call this the next-best thing to owning your own floral design business. And it’s certainly less risky. 

On-ramps and off-ramps into the industry

Poppy designers have contracts, but we don’t require them to sign non-competes or ask for their exclusivity. We recognize that Poppy is one income stream for a designer. Most designers average a Poppy income of $500 per job. 

Poppy can run alongside an existing business as a base level of income. It could also be an on-ramp into the industry for someone who has the desire to start a full-time business. Conversely, Poppy can be an off-ramp for someone who’s looking to leave a full-time floral job. Designers might be drawn to the industry, then realize how hard it is to make a profit running their own business – and how laborious it is to do all the work related to the business that has nothing to do with the actual floral design!

I’ll give two examples of real Poppy designers and how they’re making floral design their vocation.. 

A tale of two designers

A Los Angeles-based floral shop owner had two young children and was relocating to Sonoma. She’d run her business for a decade but knew how challenging it would be to establish herself in a new market, especially with her young family requiring extra time and attention. She came to Poppy with incredible expertise and experience, and now she gets jobs that keep her creative side flourishing without sacrificing her headspace to other aspects of owning a business. This designer is a great example of using Poppy as an off-ramp. 

Now, consider someone using Poppy as a potential on-ramp to a full-time floral vocation. A Washington, DC-based Poppy designer got her start in florals after insisting that her son have flowers at his wedding – and that she’d do them herself if necessary. She did, and she enjoyed the process so much that she set out searching for more design opportunities. She learned about Poppy when the business was still very young. I personally taught her how to make a bridal bouquet. Much like I did in the White House floral shop, this designer learned on the job as an apprentice. Two years of dedicated hands-on work later, she’s a really talented designer. 

Formalizing the pathway

We recognize that the DC designer and others like her have come to Poppy looking for a pathway into the industry. We want to formalize that pathway for people who have a passion and some experience, but want to get deeper into design. 

I was very fortunate to be guided toward the training I had in Germany. I want to offer newly minted designers vocational training, then give them the scaffolding of Poppy’s business support so they can start taking on jobs. 

The Poppy community and a promise for 2023

There are other advantages to being part of the Poppy community. Poppy is one of the biggest aggregators of floral consumer trends in the country. We can deliver information on trends and trend forecasting, and beyond capturing these trends in our ever-evolving designs, we can provide technical training to help people advance in their floral careers. 

For Poppy’s existing designers, 2023 is going to be all about delivering value to them and establishing community among them. We envision a future of in-person events, virtual events, and regular town halls during which we’ll offer curriculum and education for people who want to up-skill. I’m excited to be in a room with our designers and to build some really beautiful arrangements – and relationships.

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