Taking Risks with Stone House Creative
Stone House Creative is a locally based boutique floral and wedding design business specializing in botanical, natural-inspired designs and intimate events. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to dig deep with owner and founder Lauren Wiebe on entrepreneurship, risk-taking and not settling. I am continually inspired by Lauren’s drive and dedication to her work. There is no doubt she has put in the time and paid her dues in the Winnipeg wedding industry to gain the entrepreneurial freedom she now relishes in.
What was your first job in the wedding industry and how did you land that position? I started working in the wedding industry in my last year of university, in 2009. At that time, a local bridal magazine called Weddings In Winnipeg (later, called It’s Love) was just starting up. I was an Honours English major, and saw how desperately they needed a writer. I worked there for about 3 years, most of that time as the Editorial Director. That solidified my plans to work in the wedding industry, as well as helped me connect with plenty of people throughout the industry. A few years later, I made the move into florals by working as the wedding coordinator for a retail florist.
What ultimately led you to the decision to become an entrepreneur? I always knew that I wanted to own my own business — it was just kind of in the back of my mind as something I knew I’d be good at. I just didn’t know what I wanted that business to be about. For a time, I was sure that I was intended to be a wedding planner. Woah nelly, am I ever glad that I didn’t go down that path! I’ve assisted a few wedding planner friends on day-of coordination, and I’m just not cut out for it. Let me tell you, ladies — your wedding planner or coordinator needs to have a very specific temperament to be good at what they do! One day, I came across a florist in North Carolina who was hosting a flower design workshop, specifically for wedding designers. I was so intrigued — I loved her style and work, and thought that I would go just for the fun of it. While I was there, the whole thing that is Stone House Creative just came into being! It was like a pre-formed entity had just floated down into my brain and I loved it.
From there how did you start Stone House Creative? On the plane ride home from that workshop, I mapped out my entire website and business plan. I officially launched my company in spring of 2014 — aside from my husband, I hadn’t told a soul. Not even my parents!
Were there any lifestyle changes you had to make in order to make the leap? One thing that you have to be willing to adjust to when you work in the wedding industry is not having any weekends to yourself. This summer, I had one Saturday off, and it was at the end of September! But I never doubt my decision. I love what I do, and the fact that I get to do it while working for amazing clients and owning my own business makes the lack of weekends more than okay!
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before launching your business, what would it be? I wouldn't change anything about the way that I started my business, but if I were to give myself any piece of advice, it would be to tell more people about what I was doing when I was getting ready to launch Stone House Creative. To brag a little more, and be a little bolder. And learn more about SEO from the get-go.
What is one thing we would be surprised to know about you? Floral design was not on my list of career options! I originally intended to go into orthodontics until university chemistry got in the way, and that would have been a much different career path. I’m also a classically trained singer, so you can expect your wedding flowers to be designed in a very musical environment.
What does a typical day look like for you? Wedding season in Manitoba takes place from May through October. So, a typical workday during those months looks like an early morning wakeup call and a pair of sweatpants. You will pretty much never see me in real pants or makeup if I’m working on flowers! Early in the week, I trek out to my wholesaler to pick up all of my product for the week, or I accept a delivery of locally grown flowers. Those days are devoted to cleaning stems, adjusting the pH of water in buckets, trimming stems and thorns, and getting everything into my cooler. I typically start to design wedding flowers on a Wednesday, pulling all the ingredients for bouquets and centrepieces, lining up vases and again, trying to find a place for everything in the cooler.
On a wedding day, I wake up even earlier to get everything packed properly. You’d be amazed at how many things I can pack into my Honda Element. I have hung garlands from the ceiling! I typically have 2-3 weddings per weekend, and I’ll first deliver all of the bridal party and family flowers to the bride’s getting ready location, and then head out to her ceremony and reception venues to instal all of the decor items. My favourite things to design are the bridal bouquet and really unique ceremony decor.
Wedding season is full of long hours, lots of thorns, and an achey back. My studio is an oversized, double garage in my backyard. It’s the reason we bought the house! It was already set up as a workshop and it’s perfect, so during the summer, I keep the overhead door completely open. I get so much sunshine and fresh air, and once in a while a bird accidentally flies in so I have a little freakout while the bird swoops around trying to find its way out again.
There’s also a lot of emailing back and forth with my brides, planning my flower orders and figuring out stem counts, sending invoices and scheduling consultations, and coming up with great flower plans for new clients.
What advice would you give to aspiring florists looking to start their own business? First off, everyone interested in flowers must to pay their dues by working in a retail shop. You learn so much, have to work so quickly, and have to do all the crumby jobs like bleaching buckets and packing vases before you get to move on to designing flowers. There is a misconception that floristry is all about the pretty. Of course a big part of our jobs is the flowers themselves, but there is also a lot of blood, sweat, and tears- literally. I snipped off a tiny sliver of my finger this summer while setting up a wedding and it was quite an experience!
I’d also suggest that people consider whether what they really want is to work in their chosen industry, or to own their own business, because these are two completely different things. Just because you might be a good floral designer or a good wedding coordinator doesn’t mean that you are capable of running your own business, and that’s okay. Just be aware of what you’re actually good at, and allow that help you make the decision.
What is the best moment of your career so far? There are so many good moments. When first I launched the company, I had so much positive feedback from people. Booking my first wedding was amazing. Sending my first delivery out the door was thrilling. This summer, I completed my largest wedding to-date and I couldn’t have been happier with how it all went down. There was a moment when I looked around at my setup crew, who were placing all of the centrepieces, and I was just so proud. That was a really great moment.
Isn't she something? Thank you Lauren!