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Curious Lola

Floral Business Pricing Foundations.

Okay, do this with me. Shut your eyes….. Tighter.

The tighter they are shut, the better your wish will come true.

Okay, now say this with me, “I wish, I wish, I wish, I could just make pretty things and create memories and the money part will just… work out.”

(pause…. did it work? ya, me neither.)

Aw crap, well, so much for money magic. I guess we’ll just have to do some real work to make sure we are making a profit and covering our butts.

Raise your hand if you’ve searched for pricing formulas and financial advice with dismal to so-so results? (woosh) Whoa, I need to reposition my eyebrow hairs from that breeze you created. Ya, me too.

And I get it. PRICING IS PERSONAL. It’s based on so many tangible and intangible things. It’s in some ways math, in some ways marketing and positioning.

The only real thing your pricing and financial plan has to do is cover YOUR needs and your businesses needs.

For the first 7 years of my business, I searched and searched for the golden nugget of a pricing plan for a business as weird as wedding floral and event design.

And then it occurred to me… I have 7 years of details expenses and price data and can directly relay those into what they yielded in money to my pockets. I can figure this out.

Hindsight is 20/20, right? so I literally can go back, see if there were any “purty deeds done dirt cheap”, revise to my preferred scenario, and apply that data to what is going on now.

Boom.

So I did. And, well, I like it.

Everything I’ve found is oversimplified, incomplete, or just irrelevant.

“Just multiply your materials by 4.5X” they say…. Ya well, what do I charge for that botanical armature thing that is made from what’s in my recycling bin that will take forever to not look like trash?

What about the linens and vintage furniture I am renting for my client? That’s a lot of money that looks like my revenue but just flows through my business?

What about the hours I am spending figuring out what this is even going to look like.

What about the people that I am going to hire last minute but didn’t charge for because I am so freaked out that I don’t have enough setup time and would rather pay more people than allow more eyeball twitching stress than is absolutely necessary?!

Ya, I get this pricing formula is set up to reap massive profit but that doesn’t help me determine sales goals and whether or not I can experiment with that new high end wedding show.

Where’s THAT pricing plan?

Well, there isn’t one. But now I see that there is YOUR pricing plan.

Because what’s success looks like for you is different from the other gal who has three kids under school age.

Success for the farmer-florist isn’t going to look like the success of an event designer and producer.

And success for you now isn’t going to look like what success will be for you later.

But there are some shared foundation principles that we can all agree upon. AND surely for all of us. Success is NOT being in survival mode.

And HOLY FLAMING FIELDS OF FRUITFUL FREEDOM FLORAL FRIEND, when you know YOUR pricing, so much of the mental gunk that causes uncertainty and doubt just goes away. And your hustle has direction.

Your beginning of the year looks like this…

(more…)

Overwhelmed? Maybe you DON’T need to deal with it.

I came across an interesting insight the other day: the idea that not all problems need to be solved right now– or ever.

Maybe sometimes it’s okay to let some things that are confusing or ambiguous just ‘be’ so I can either work on some more important tasks or give myself more time to develop clarity on those confusing problems.

And in letting them ‘be’, I can liberate my brain from dealing with the emotional strife of not being able to get to them.

How do you know the difference?
The big ones are the things you just cannot tolerate in your life. If you simply cannot stomach another day in your soul-sucking job, if you cannot tolerate a toxic client, if you need to pay the bills.

The little things are urgent but not important. Maybe things that you feel that businesses like you do, but that don’t get you the outcome you need right now. (ehem, social media).

So much of my business journey has been learning to manage stress. And by manage, I mean let it go. Because I’ve found that it really is a choice. I am not a better business owner by being worried all the time. There’s a difference between alert, fully aware, intense even vs being stressed out.
One is positive and constructive, the other is just not helpful- or healthful for that matter.

And it IS possible. We’ve all been there when we are be-bopping along in our lives, with whatever stress we are dealing with when BAM! Some emergency happens with our family and suddenly- there is only one thing that matters. On the positive side, I remember being stressed one morning 10 years ago, my husband proposed to me that day, and WHOOSH, only one thing mattered. All the stress was gone. So much in fact, that I didn’t show up to a consultation with a potential client. Yup, I stood them up. And that just doesn’t happen in my brain.

So you know it can happen, but you can also choose to make it happen with practice. You aren’t forgetting them exactly, just healthily procrastinating on them- but also wiping out the emotional baggage they carry.

So if you are dealing with crushing overwhelm, I am giving you permission to let some things go.

  • You don’t need to stay on top of your social media if there are pressing things.
  • You don’t need to respond to that email NOW,
  • You don’t need to go to that fourth open house this week.
  • Hey, you don’t even need to grow your business if something else matters more right now.

You and your business will be just fine.

We’ve all heard that word ‘balance’. Blech.
I’ve got a growing business, a growing family, a team of employees, and some pretty ambitious goals. It’s a lot manage and balance seems like something always out of reach. The word balance makes my eyeball twitch.

To me, balance isn’t the goal, it’s meaningful progress and support to what matters to me: my family, my business, my employees, and my person creative fulfillment.
It’s not a static place to get to, it is constant adjustments in a never-ending process that lights me up and generates its own energy.

I cannot juggle, but I can throw one ball up in the air and catch it. The kind of juggle I deal with now looks like this:

  • fully switching attention to one focus,
  • making meaningful progress,
  • transitioning to a new focus by fully mentally releasing the last focus,
  • and being present on the next area of focus. 

So I can switch between about 1-3 focuses a day before I need some good ole rest, but I’ve got a bag full of other things to juggle when it is their time.

And when it is time to juggle something else, I have to put the current ball away to take out a new ball. Because if I spread my focus over two things, I’LL LOSE MY BALLS!

Here’s the important part though, While focusing on one thing, I cannot let the weight of another focus leak into my current focus. That’s how overwhelm and stress creeps in.

And every now and then, lots of balls have to be out of the bag. For example if I’m on site and sh** is goin down! Moments like these I have the strength to handle it. And it doesn’t crush me. And I can wrap up a job and be excited about doing it again. Because it’s not about being stressed- I just have to focus on throwing and catching my one ball.

PS, if you were wanting to catch the webinar but didn’t get a chance- you can check it out here! In it, we will go over how we make a fast floral wedding design proposal that is super effective at landing clients. Sign up here:
http://bit.ly/curiouslola-webinar-signup

Because making proposals should NOT be one of those things that stress you out.
Take care!

Emily

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Why Live Events are Important

It’s a new year and about the time I start reflecting on my business. Here at Curious Lola we share our experiences building things AND an event business with the hopes of helping you with yours. But I’m about to have our first ever Lola Summit at which our team sits down and talks about all things Lola. What we are doing, what we want to do, and how we want to go about doing it. Part of that is thinking about my biz Lola Creative.

At Lola Creative, we create live events. Parties and gatherings. Both terms however are just utterly inaccurate in describing the fullness of the experience we are trying to bring to people. It sounds fun, frivolous even. Sounds like, well, party time.

We’re known for hand crafted events. Bold, sculptural features with well thought out coherent significance. We’re known for creating a more sustainable event, events that are imaginative, and, well sometimes takes a client with guts to allow us to make.

But what we are doing is greater than crafting a great party.

Businesses are created to solve people’s problems. Our problem we are trying to solve is not “Gee, I wish I had the funnest event, the most original, artful décor. We don’t do this so that we can fulfill our desire to make amazing things that inspire and delight (mmmmm, okay that’s part of it).

Utter connectedness. This is what we are aiming for. I’ll explain.

I live and work in Seattle, most of our events are Seattle based. I don’t know about you, but the drive here to achieve, do more, and be more is strong. The amount of overwhelm and distraction people face each day is immense. There is a myriad of decisions and stimuli to pull us away from what is most important. (psst, it’s each other in case you were wondering.)

The stuff that matter is:

  • kindness towards each other,

  • celebrations of togetherness,

  • gratitude for what we have, what we have made for ourselves and gratitude for what we are just given when we are born.

  • commemoration and thanks for the achievement we’ve made by working hard together toward a common goal.

  • generosity of time, to stop grinding, stop trying to do more, and take time to be with important people and realign with what matters.

  • our connection with each other and the physical places we are in, and

  • excitement for the places we can go and the things we can achieve when we have locked arms with the people we choose to trust, respect, and accept.

We’ve all had an experience, a physical experience when we were in a place with others, sometimes total strangers, sometimes coworkers or family that might as well be strangers.  Something about what we experienced transformed us and the people around us. I’ve felt this at music concerts, at dance performances, at my own wedding, at other people’s weddings, during speeches and during stories. I’ve felt it observing acts of kindness. In these moments when I am moved, I know that I can turn to the stranger next to me, and smile because they are feeling the same thing. Hell, I could hug them and they would accept it. And in that moment, we are utterly connected. It is as if we’ve all dropped to an invisible plane where a force of love, passion, intention, and raw creativity is flowing through the core of each of us. A place where we can glimpse the potential of our collective efforts and focus. A place of total acceptance and well, love.

I love business, and I love people and I am constantly amazed by the leaps we can make together. Corporation and business can be a dirty word these days, but I still see it as groups of good people, choosing to work together to do work that is meaningful.

That powerful combo of mutual trust, respect, and acceptance can only can grow when we are together, physically together.

Connection happens through shared experience. Meaningful lives are a collection of memorable, physical experiences with each other and our surroundings. Meaningful businesses have built a team of connected people that give meaningful experiences to others.

Impactful businesses not only find away to connect with their audiences but also nurture that connection within.

This is what our privilege and obsession is, to figure out how to achieve that transcendent level of connection among our clients community- whether that is a personal family, or a business family.

That’s our highest goal in producing an event. What is a gathering but an expression of gratitude and a celebration of abundance and togetherness.

By stripping away the day to day, we can demand attention, eliminate distraction, and create opportunities for humans to do what they do best: connect, imagine, and grow together.

Here’s to the New Year and all sorts of connecting.

Hells yeah.

PS, you can connect with me by emailing me at emily@curiouslola.com or by signing up to our email community HERE!

Lead with Art- How to Become Necessary

When you become NECESSARY to your clients, trust and freedom come naturally. Here’s how I learned this lesson when I learned to Lead With Art.

When I left my professional career as a landscape architect I didn’t know quite where I was headed. I was running away from a desk job, away from a machine that I felt was producing less than excellent quality, and running toward all the things I thought I needed.

One of those needs was a feeling that I needed to prove that my artistic skills and gifts were something that people wanted to pay money for. This was a big one because I knew I was talented but had never experience it valued.

No one had ever paid me lots of money for my artistic talents.

For speed and accuracy? yes.

For quality work? Yes.

For the ability to get a job done? Yes.

But no one had ever wanted to pay me lots of money because they valued my work artistically. And I wanted it to be VERY valued.

Model Raven West getting ready for Bamboo Beats Soundtrek and Mac Fashion House Show. Our Mohawk helmet veil, of course 🙂

Because it wasn’t valued, I stopped offering it. Just stopped doing what I do naturally- find ways to bring different ideas and materials together artfully. And that’s when I broke down and broke out.

I wanted to support myself with my artistic talents and was set on figuring out how.

I’d never done it but I’d seen it done.

In college, I thought I would be a public artist so I got two degrees, one in landscape architecture and one in sculpture.  I had the opportunity to be the assistant to a successful public artist for a few months. After working for him, I approached the Seattle arts commission (I think now it’s the office of arts and cultural affairs). I started a special project that would evaluate public art projects by landscape architecture design standards. Through those two experiences, I got to see how professional artists are chosen, how tax money is managed for major civic art installations, and how an individual artist placed on a build team presented to and interacted with the rest of the design and building team- so architects, city planners, construction managers, civil engineers, structural engineers.

It was fascinating.

What I saw was the power of maintaining a vision. Nobody wants to mess with the strange, mysterious artist’s vision.

In these meetings, after an artist is selected for a big project like a light rail station, The artist is on the design team to build out this project.

And what I saw was artists OWNING their art,  OWNING its purpose and importance, and acting as a protector and steward for the kind of impact their art would have on the community.

Understanding, collaborative, but unapologetic.

For the most part, the engineers, architects, budget managers, would do what they could to make the artists vision possible. City code was reinterpreted, entries and windows were reoriented, ground was regraded, structures reinforced. They knew they didn’t need to fully understand why, they just knew that they needed to trust and find a way to fulfill this strange person’s request.

 

When I started as an art minded landscape architect, I thought, hot dog, I know how this is done! Let’s start making some earth art!

What do you think happened?

Pfthlat!

Barriers!

Condescension!

Suddenly budgets were too tight, construction schedules were too far behind, it didn’t work with the engineering approach, some other component cost more so my budget would have to be reduced.

My perceived value was different because at that time and place, I was not considered an artist. I was a mere landscape architect who had to obey the boring laws of all the other non-artists.

I see the EXACT SAME PHENOMENON working in floral design, and I imagine, every profession.

So now I know this:

LEAD WITH ART

I’m not saying that leading as an artist will get you everything you want; that everything you propose is not still flexible to your client’s needs, but in my experience an effort is made to get you what you need because art has value… to some people… my kind of people maybe yours too.

And here’s a story about how leading with art played out in Lola.  

Early on I would really take anything. Even if I wasn’t a good fit. I could always do something creative with the job.

Now, Our big break project came in 2013 when we got a call for a tech celeb’s birthday party. He was eclectic and would need a lot of strange things made.

I would need to put together a proposal asap. I had minimal information about what was happening or who this was happening for. Oh and I had 4 weeks to concept, get sign off, build, and install this massive event. And I would never meet the actual client- the birthday boy.

I asked how I would be able to do this without some sort of info about the project- with no budget range. She said, give me a number that there’s no way this could ever go over, and that will be the budget.

I said 50K because at the time, I thought, there’s no way anything could ever go over 50K. (Palm to forhead…. Groan.)

I asked how they found me and they had said that they asked the catering manager at their venue and she had said that Lola Creative was the only people she knew that could pull it off.

And then it occurred to me….

….The reason for that is on all of those small jobs that were not quite right, I would make an extra piece that was totally represented our company.

I’d walk the catering manager, planner, anyone in the industry over to look at it, and say with joy why I loved it so much.

This catering manager didn’t see all the boring stuff I had made during my first couple of years.  She saw all the stuff I asked her to see, all the stuff I practically shoved in her face.

Because of that, I am now the only person that comes to mind when she had a golden egg to hand out!

That particular kind of golden egg, anyway.

Yes!

So whatever is your art. Whether that be an amazing service, or a unique technique- whatever you want the responsibility to be known for. Lead with that. Put it in people’s faces even when they don’t ask for it.

That way people will know, when they get YOU, they get THIS, and that is how it has to be.

That way when people want THIS, they know they have to have YOU. You are necessary for THIS.

Come with an artist’s mindset about that and start seeing a new freedom among clients who want that thing and trust you exclusively to deliver it.

Oh man I get pumped up about this.

Lead with Art!

If you’re struggling with leading with art. Sign up to our inner floral posse. We talk about this sort of stuff. AND we have an upcoming product  (September) that may make leading with art in your company a little easier 🙂

I want to lead with art too!

Ps, The images are not from that special break-through event. I was under a non-disclosure agreement and could not take pictures.

These are from the Mac Fashion House Fashion Show and Bamboo Beats Open House

The beautiful people that always lead with art include Jojo Dyckhoff  (Bamboo Beats) and Carlisia Minnis (Mac Fashion House).

I still love these photos so much 🙂 taken by Alante Photography


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