On this week’s Studio Veil Spotlight feature, I had the privilege of sitting down with Sandra from Silks & Images! We had such a great time sipping some Caribou Coffee and talking about her business!
Tell me about you and how Silks and Images came to be.
“The pastor of my church commissioned 6 large, seasonally appropriate silk arrangements that could be used in the entrance of the church as people came in, and somebody said “you should go into business” and I thought “I’m a chemistry professor and I’m really busy, this is enough…” Most of my summers I wasn’t terribly committed, and I had built up a clientele of people who liked the idea of something for their home, so as people were telling me I should go into business for this, my business plan became doing silks for people’s homes.
In February of 2009, I started my business, but it was during the time that the banks were failing, so people weren’t buying arrangements for their homes because people were worried about losing their homes. I was chatting with a friend one day and she told me that during the Great Depression, people died and people got married, so I thought there was my target market. So I shifted over to learning about the wedding industry, which is when I joined TCWEP. Since most weddings were happening in the late spring, summer and early fall, it was easy for me to pull this off while I was a professor.
When I retired from teaching was when I was given a lot more freedom… and that’s basically how I got into the business end of it, but I had been working with flowers for a long time.”
Where did the name Silks and Images come from?
“The name comes from the fact that I started the business with silks. My husband and I also did photography on the side.
Since I do largely just fresh flowers now, it’s kind of misleading, so I think I may have to legally change the name to Silks and Images Florals. I use that just to make sure people can identify me, but when they’re looking for silk flowers on Google, it gets to mine right away.
I do handle a lot and I have a tremendous inventory of really classy silk flowers, so if somebody wants a wedding that’s all silk flowers, they are the best of the best of the best!”
Is the wedding industry your biggest customer or do you see a lot of business elsewhere too?
“Weddings are the biggest, but I also do funerals and events.”
What sets Silks and Images apart from other florists?
“Obviously the silks, and I don’t have a shop, I work from my home. That has good things and bad things… Good things are, I’m not paying rent on a shop, I’m not having to staff it, and then I can pass those savings onto my customers. I can make the same profit margin and I don’t have to charge the customers extra.
The downside is space. We have this 1,000 sq. ft. in-law apartment in our lower level, but it is so full of my stuff that my husband says we’ll never be able to downsize! He’ll talk about all these places he’s like to move into, or it would be so convenient and every time he mentions it, I know he just wants me to quit! So that’s the downside.”
Another thing that sets me apart is that I am really, really picky about the flowers I will use. I only work with flowers that have a natural color in what you want. So that’s another thing that sets me apart.
What does the process look like when couples come in to order their wedding flowers?
“I ask them what their wedding should look like, and I ask them all the details like where is it, the timeline of the day, if it’s indoor or outdoor… I get all the little details because I’m framing an image in my mind of what kind of mood they’re trying to set. And then I ask them about styles, their budget, as well as the number of flower arrangements they’ll need. From their we create the flower arrangements they want.”
Do you have any tips for couples choosing their florist?
“They need to be aware that the number of people in their wedding party will affect the floral budget, also the number of people they’re feeding matters, because of the number of tables they want decorated will matter. They should also shop around. They should be confident enough to work with me, understand that I’m listening, and communicate.”
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
“I think it’s the moment that I deliver the flowers and make that presentation to the bride. Seeing their reactions when they love it, sometimes they cry, I don’t quite understand why, but it ensures me why I do this.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I like to work construction! I have hung sheet rock I’ve painted, done wallpaper and ceramic tiling. The reason that I did it is because when I teach, I pour myself into it, but I never know if it’s really sunk in. There will be some people that criticize, but they’ll come back 10 years later and say I’m the best professor they had. I can’t always wait 5-10 years for that! So when I do a really good job on a wall, I can look at it and say “this looks good”… I also maintain our lot which has a prairie garden and a 5 level water feature, and lots of perennials and lots of gorgeous things. So that’s what I do with my spare time.”
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“I’m not sure I want to give advice to my younger self because it took my younger self all this time to get here… I was a woman in science when women were not welcome in science. What I fought through to get here is something that if I had less perseverance, I would have just sat down and cried. But I didn’t!”