Like any girly-girl, Chi-Town’s Malaika Martin and Ruckiya Ross are wild about flowers. And, the idea to grow a business came after simply taking a floral design class together. Malaika’s background in event planning, and Ruckiya’s fab experience in designing florals for her own wedding were the seeds that were needed to grow an elegant idea for a business to the next level. Cross what both these entrepreneurs bring to the flower pot: experience, enthusiasm and other business savvy essentials, and you get a hybrid of elegance that defines August Bloom, Haute Floral Design. These aren’t your typical florists. In fact, these ladies go by the title of “personal floral stylist.” Sounds luxe and pricey, but it’s August Bloom’s affordability feature that sets the business apart from the rest. Clutch gets Malaika and Ruckiya to talk all about their flower power.
Clutch: How did you become interested in and/or break into “haute” floral design?
Malaika: Ruckiya wanted to take a floral design class to help a friend with wedding flowers and she asked me if I wanted to take the class too. I had been playing with the idea of taking classes for a while since I was in event planning. So, we both took the class and loved it! We decided we wanted to offer great floral design that catered to the client who loved customized, high style, fashion forward, trendsetting designs. From there August Bloom was born.
Ruckiya: Well, the floral design part came into play because I enjoyed the design process of my wedding so much I volunteered to help my friend with her “Big Day.” And, in an effort to save her money, I decided we could totally do the flowers ourselves. In my quest to find a basic flower arranging class I came across the Chicago School of Floral Design. I shared my find with Malaika and the rest is history. The “haute” part came into play because for one, I personally appreciate an extra helping of style. Its kind of second nature that this would be the approach taken. Secondly, high-end stylized design is what we were taught. Our instructor, Mike Gaffney, trained his students to be of the industry elite.
Clutch: Is the educational path that one should take also by design, or is there a step-by-step process to learning the trade?
Malaika: I don’t think there is any one way to learn the trade. The class we took gave us a wealth of information that other classes would not give you in the same amount of time. So, we believe the path we took was best, but I am sure there are great designers out there who may be self taught. We happened to have been taught by a great designer, and we definitely received hands-on training. I think that is the best way to learn.
Ruckiya: From a technical perspective, there are many individuals who are self-taught and then you have those like us who are technically trained. As a testament to this step-by-step by process, I’ll be starting the Masters Floral Design program April 20th, so August Bloom is constantly training and taking the additional steps to learn the trade.
Clutch: What’s a personal floral stylist?
Malaika: A personal floral stylist at August Bloom is the designer/stylist who works with you to develop floral designs that compliment the client. We see our design approach as similar to that of a wardrobe or fashion stylist. We consult with our clients, discover their personalities and personal style and then translate that into fabulous florals for their needs.
Ruckiya: Let me start by saying “floral stylist” is a term that’s unique to August Bloom. Most of our industry comrades refer to themselves as florists (which we kind of dislike) or floral designers. But to answer the question a floral stylist is quite similar to a clothing stylist; one who takes the style of a client and amplifies it. We just style with respect to flowers. In our consultations, we use the time to get to know our client and from there we set out to style a floral event using their preferences i.e., type of flowers, colors, accent colors, theme and quantity of florals used. While there are many brides who do, all brides don’t want a floral explosion. Some just want the chic-ness of a few stems of callas in a cylinder vase tied with a ribbon and placed in the center of their tables. A floral stylist is the individual who is going to take your floral budget and make the most of it while making sure we don’t lose a bit of your style (and of course August Bloom’s) along the way.
Clutch: What’s behind the name August Bloom?
Malaika: Ruckiya and I are August babies. We are August Blooms, but we offer something different which plays off our name since August in not commonly known as a month for blooming flowers. We provide a design that is not common.
Ruckiya: We wanted to find something that represented us both. August Bloom popped into my head and it was like yes! Malaika and I have always relished the fact that we shared a birthday month, and the bloom part covers the fact that we are offering the world flowers. Of course we played around with a few other names, but after polling a few folks (friends and family) August Bloom was the absolute optimal choice. And so it was.
Clutch: How do you recession-proof your career?
Malaika: We never stop learning. There is always something new to use… to create. And, we strive to offer something unique to our clients. We set ourselves apart from other florists or floral designers through our design techniques, so we’ll be the “must have” floral designers.
Ruckiya: This is a good question. I would say the fact that we started the business in 2009 has been particularly suiting to us figuring out a way to recession proof our careers. Being that we were starting up in the midst of the recession made us realize QUICK the need to be recession friendly. I mean not only did we have to attract the buying public to a “new thing” (which we all know is no small feat), we also had to attract a public that really wasn’t buying a “new thing.” This is why we decided to do what our competitors were not doing which is offering high-style floral design at a lower cost. Those in the industry offering high-style design are generally only offering this at a la carte pricing and that adds up quick. But, at August Bloom, when you buy in “bulk” you win. We created our Fabuless Floral Packages that includes both wedding and reception offerings, with the recession in mind.
Clutch: If a client were to give you full reign over their event, what kind of haute-ness can we expect?
Malaika: Lots and lots of haute-ness! There’s so much we can do, and it would be hard to choose without any direction. But we love to use “bling;” metal and fabrics like lace and satin. So, you can expect shiny, luxurious, edgy arrangements all the while complimenting the client’s taste. The client is never really out of the picture even when they give us full reign.
Ruckiya: As always we would style the event to compliment the client as much as possible, so unless we were specifically given instruction not to share any details, we would still be informing the client of any decisions made along the way. But, when you say full reign, I assume that it’s a perfect world and that means budget restrictions don’t exist. ;-) That would mean the design would be sheer opulence, lots of orchids (my personal fave) hanging from the ceilings, think floral chandeliers, maybe a floral sculpture of some sort i.e. a swan or some other glorious and divine creature. Think added elements of crystals or maybe pearls would accent the flowers. Also, beautiful luxurious linens, and of course lighting to enhance the room.