Start DC catches up with Michelle Samson, woman-about-town and founder of Taffy Floral.
Virginia-based business Taffy Floral is unmistakable. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, I know before even glancing at the profile that a bouquet is Taffy Floral. And I’ve seen even more Taffy bouquets lately as Michelle Samson, founder, has been busy creating workshops with other DMV entrepreneurs, including JRINK Juicery and Ice Cream Jubilee.
Samson admits that florist is only one of her three jobs. She balances her growing flower business with full-time work in an office and also as a mother. “I slept in today!” she exclaimed when we met. “I woke up at 5:00 a.m.”
Samson typically starts her day at 3:00 a.m. and heads to her favorite local farms to get flowers, returning home before her two children go to school. (“This is the life I’ve chosen. Things have to get done,” she explained.) Samson generously shared her time and the path to Taffy Floral with me.
You already have two full-time jobs—what made you want to start Taffy Floral?
Since high school, I’ve always played around with flowers. I went to college for fashion merchandising, so I didn’t think I would be a florist back then, but I had always had an interest in flowers. I used to bring flowers into my old office and just give them away. My colleagues started to tell me that I should sell them, and I realized they were right!
I officially started Taffy Floral in early 2014, when my husband was going to take a job out of the area. I was training my replacement at work, but then my husband didn’t take the position. Essentially, I was out of a job and had a chance to think about what I wanted. I decided to take a temp position because I still need to work, and I also started Taffy Floral.
How were you getting business when you first started, and has that changed at all?
Yes! When I first started, there was a girl in my old office who was getting married. I worked her wedding and then Taffy Floral just grew by word of mouth. I’ve been lucky.
At first, I thought I was too cool for Instagram, but now that I’ve figured it out, a lot of my clients see my work on there and reach out to me. My niche market is the young, creative community. Right now, they probably can’t afford to buy arrangements all the time, but hopefully they are seeing my work and will remember me when they get married!
So that’s my niche market but I was also lucky to meet a woman who works for a nonprofit. I did a benefit fashion show for them and that allowed me to meet older, more established clients. She found me through Facebook, so maybe Facebook is a way to connect with an older crowd.
Well, my grandpa’s on Facebook, so I agree that it’s pretty multi-generational! Switching gears, I’m curious to hear about how you fund Taffy Floral.
For me right now, it’s just my revenue. Instagram has helped a lot and I’ve booked a lot of weddings this year through it. Honestly, when I first started, I wanted a certain aesthetic on my Instagram and I didn’t post a lot of wedding photos, but then people would reach out and ask, “Do you do weddings?” Anyone who does flowers does weddings!
I haven’t had to do much cold calling. I’ve been lucky. I’ve met other local creatives and reached out to them. It doesn’t always happen right away, but people remember you! I also have a short list of businesses that I will partner with on sort of a barter system, or at a reduced cost to get marketing and exposure, but I’ve learned to be careful. People always want free flowers! Both parties need to benefit from business partnerships.
“I’ve learned to be careful… Both parties need to benefit from business partnerships.”
What are your plans for Taffy Floral in the future?
My goal is to teach people. I really like doing workshops. As more people get interested in flowers, it’s great for florists because wholesalers will buy flowers that they wouldn’t have otherwise. If you go to the grocery store now, there’s a really good selection of flowers. Whole Foods carries garden roses now because people always see it on Pinterest!
I enjoy smaller workshops—not even for profit, but more for community. I enjoy meeting the people who follow me [on Instagram] and like my work. So they can put a face with the name. I get emails that are like, “Hi Taffy! It was nice meeting you yesterday.” Even though Taffy’s not my name, it’s cool—I just go with it!
Where did the Taffy Floral name come from?
Actually, I don’t have a great story for it. I just wanted something that sounded approachable and fun because I feel that florists have a bad reputation for being snooty. And I’m not snooty at all!
I also wanted something short. Nothing like “Flowers from the Lavender Fields of France, by Michelle Samson.” [Laughs.] Definitely not for me! I wanted something short and to the point, like me.
Do you have a favorite flower or type of arrangement?
I’ve always liked the garden-style look, which is kind of loose and has more foliage [it’s the signature look on Samson’s Instagram page]. That was really hard to sell to people before—they thought it had too many leaves. But now, people have been pinning it on Pinterest and it’s in everyone’s heads and brides are requesting it weddings. They don’t want a fluffy, round bouquet of only peonies!
“I try to make it perfect, but you have to know when to stop!”
So now I’m going to try something new. I want to master Ikebana, which is the Japanese style of arranging. You need a lot of patience because the branches and stems have to be angled a certain way. I look one lesson with an older lady, and I was getting so frustrated!
I want to master it because that’s the direction I think flower arranging will go. People will get tired of the garden-style, maybe, and want something more structured again.
That’s interesting—I lived in Japan and heard about Ikebana from older ladies there!
Yeah, it’s kind of a dying art. I want to learn it so I can teach younger people about it and help revive it.
You mentioned anticipating trends within the floral industry. Do you think your background in fashion helped with flower arranging?
Yes. I think if you have a design or art background, it helps with the color palette and you just know what looks right. You can kind of feel it. People ask how I know when to stop, when an arrangement is finished. I just know!
You could keep going and going, but you have to stop at some point. I try to make it perfect, but you have to know when to stop! At the same time, there is a right way to do things and if it’s not right, I’ll do it over—take everything part and start again.
ARTICLE BY GENNA BYRD. LEARN MORE ABOUT HER HERE & CONNECT ON FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, AND LINKEDIN. Photos courtesy of Taffy Floral.