I don’t remember exactly where “Dave money” came from, but I do remember it was my husband who annoyingly coined the term. “How are we going to get that Dave money?” “When are you going to make that Dave money?” The Dave in “Dave money” is my friend and former flower farmer Dave Dowling. He is a big deal in the flower world, and he has been very successful selling classes online. Some people think I’m flower famous. I’m nowhere close to Dave. He’s the Tom Brady of flowers. He even created his own flower currency, “Dave Bucks,” when he was a vendor at the Dupont Circle farmers market in Washington D.C. “Dave money” is more figurative than “Dave Bucks.” “Dave Bucks” were tangible. You could collect them, put them in your pocket and use them for additional flowers in a loyalty program at his stand. “Dave money” is a concept. Kinda like the way kids say “gucci” today. To me, it means a high level of success as an online class creator. It is aspirational. I’m trying to get that “Dave money.”
Teaching floral design classes in my shop has been a stream of income for my business ever since I bought my building and diversified services beyond wedding flowers. In addition to revenue, teaching is fulfilling, and it has helped to establish me as an expert in my industry. Classes also provide an experience for my flower people – customers who want something more than picking out stems and ordering bouquets. These are true fans loyal to my business and eager to consume all the products, services and content I provide. Creating interesting opportunities such as teaching how to make floral head crowns on one of my growers’ farms is a perfect way to keep my customers engaged and connected with my business mission. Design classes are the kind of experience that builds a community among my flower people. Many friendships have been made in my shop. Students plan to sign up together for a class as a social gathering. Businesses, medical residents, garden clubs and other groups request private classes as a shared activity to build team comradery. Classes at my shop make money, but are also way of achieving my business goal of social entrepreneurship.
I teach floral design in my shop. The classes are typically part instruction and part hands-on. Students learn something new and leave with their creation. Some classes are focused on skills where the objective is to master floral design concepts, techniques, and proficiencies. My instruction for these classes emphasizes the design process. For instance, in my intro class, I teach the basics of color theory and artistic design while building an arrangement. Skills-focused classes also address the use of mechanics such as floral frogs or more advanced techniques to make a hand-tied formal bridal bouquet. Other classes I teach in the shop are product-focused where the goal is to complete a stunning floral arrangement. These classes feature a particular seasonal focal flower or will tackle a particular project like a Thanksgiving centerpiece or an evergreen wreath.
In-person studio classes are best suited for practical design instruction. Students can watch me first and I can critique their work in real time. It’s interactive and creative. There is variability and nuance. There are comparisons. It is heuristic and playful. There is no “right” way. These are also social events. They’re fun. There is music, eating, drinking and laughing. These are the types of classes and the kinds of activities my customers want when they come to the shop. I didn’t get into teaching other topics until I was invited to join classes led by other florists and farmers in the industry.
Teach What You Know
Despite my business background and my MBA degree, it took some flower friends to nudge me into in teaching about business. The first was Jennie Love of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers. She invited me to be a guest speaker in several offerings of her Business of Flowers workshop at her farm. This was an intensive, in-person, two day seminar to coach florists and farmers on how to build a business featuring local flowers. I shared all the avenues that were available for people to sell local flowers as well as the unique opportunities I use to market local flowers. We made a lot of flower friends in those classes who have all gone on to have amazingly successful businesses including Harmony Harvest, Little Acre Flowers, Cut Flowers by Clear Ridge, Midsommar Farm and many more. My next teaching partner was one of my growers, Laura Beth Resnick of Butterbee Farm. We co-instructed a multi-day course called Blooms and Bouquets for many years at her farm. It was a focused on business, farming and floral design for aspiring farmer-florists. These business classes were completely different from my design classes. I think I liked them even more.
Partnering with Jennie and LB expanded the subject matter I teach and the audience that has access to my curriculum. In my studio, I offer an experience. There are take-aways, but those students primarily value the time they spend with friends and flowers. My floral designs are nothing special. They are professional, but basic and natural. The designs let the flowers sing. Jennie and LB showed me that my business model, the sustainable practices I choose and my story are even more valuable teachable assets. I loved the role of a mentor and sharing my experiences. I saw a new audience who wanted to learn from my business history and knowledge and specifically about the business of flowers. I also learned this audience has different expectations. Classes on how to build a business and make money is not about having a good time. This is training. This is coaching. These students are expecting ROI (return on investment), networking, lessons learned and knowledge that can be applied for profit. I also saw the potential of creating my own classes based on my business experience. But how? My entire constituency was local flower consumers, not people seeking business training. I needed an new audience.
Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag
I love flowers and design, but developing my business is what really excites me. After all, I decided to start a business after taking an entrepreneurship class in graduate school. I knew I wanted to be a small business owner. To be successful in my venture, I had to be business savvy and passionate about my product. That’s when I decided flowers would be my business. They are certainly more than just widgets to me. My value proposition was a floral inventory that was 100% locally sourced (unusual in the industry), so my business was intentionally hyper-local. I didn’t ship anything. Everything I sold came out of my shop. I tried to keep my deliveries as close to the shop as I could. All of my marketing was focused on just the few neighborhoods around me. I had a small world and it worked for selling local flowers and services out of my shop. But, that limited scale wasn’t conducive for finding enough of the niche audience looking to develop skills in the business of floristry.
My own business training and years of working in the business world has made me a good networker. It is always awkward, but making business contacts is extremely valuable. I am not a farmer, but my close relationships with my flower growers and commitment to local flowers prompted me to join the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) where both Dave and Jennie served as president. I have been a member ever since I started my business in 2008. Through this organization, I have developed relationships with farmers all over the country, including Lisa Mason Ziegler who’s online platform, The Gardeners Workshop, hosts Dave’s class. If I was going to get that “Dave money,” I had do Dave things.
I first met Lisa after a presentation I made at the ASCFG national conference. I definitely knew who she was before she approached me. She was at least Dave level flower famous mostly from her book Cool Flowers. She told me she was impressed with my creative marketing (I used to send compost to our wedding couples on their first anniversary made from their flower refuse). Lisa started her mentoring right away: She recommended I write a book. Well that never happened, but we kept in touch and caught up at ASCFG events. Lisa became our regional director, and I learned more about her farm, business and media initiatives through her column in Cut Flower Quarterly, a publication for members.
Lisa was building a vast audience that trusts her through her success as a farmer, author, teacher and marketer. Her media empire was growing with another book, her own online classes and she now was beginning to recruit other subject matter experts to deliver content on her platform. Dave was her first target. Lisa recognized his deep flower farming knowledge and the potential to create a valuable asset. Lisa’s team recorded, packaged and delivered the expert knowledge Dave acquired over his career. The course is a huge success. It wasn’t long before Lisa next tapped Jennie for her expertise in design and wedding floral services. After Jennie, it turned out that I was next on Lisa’s list.
“Dave money!” It was a win-win. Lisa had the platform and the audience. I had the business knowledge and experience. We signed a contract for me to deliver 15-20 hours of recorded content. We called the course: “Growing Your Business With Local Flower Sourcing” (teach what you know). All I needed now was to create the content. The plan was to build a slide deck with talking points and images. I would then send those to Lisa’s team for editing on an agreed date. Later, I scheduled travel to Lisa’s farm for a weekend of recording. This was December 2019. I never made it to the farm. Honestly, looking back, the pandemic provided me the time to create the course. I did not realize the amount of work it would take to produce 20 hours of content. I don’t know if I could have met our deadlines if COVID didn’t cancel all my weddings and most of the other work I had planned that winter and spring. It allowed me to focus nearly all my time on building the course. I recorded at home.
As I’m writing this article on November 3 2022, I’m preparing to promote the launch of the fourth enrollment of this course. It is typically offered once per year, but we did it twice last year to take advantage of all the global supply chain issues. (We added new content as local flower sourcing became a first and sometimes only option for florists.) Lisa collects a warm email list for my course. These are potential students who showed interest by signing up for the waiting list on her website, responded to a campaign directed to Lisa’s main email list, or signed up from one of the magnets we created. (Magnets are freebies like additional content or a chance to win a free class in exchange for an email address.) The email list is the primary marketing tool, but Lisa also does some online targeted advertisements. I promote the course by interviewing on podcasts, creating magnets and marketing directly to my (much smaller) audience.
The course is self-paced and delivered in sessions to the students over six weeks. I join live at the end of each week to answer questions about that week’s session. It has been going really well. Like I said, I’m not that flower famous. Lisa a published author. Jennie has been in Martha’s magazine. Dave is flower OG. I’m also not a farmer, which is Lisa’s main audience. But, I’ve grown and learned. New content. New audience. I’ve even created an on demand workshop for Lisa for on farmers called “Preparing to Sell to Florists.”
I’m now working to develop my own audience outside of my shop with this blog documenting my “behind the scenes” antics. And I’ve got plans for more business classes online while still teaching design in the shop. Can’t wait!