Floral designer Liz Marsh: Why I swapped journalism for flowers

If there’s an air of flower power about your personality, then maybe you should consider this latest plum job that’s come to our attention. Floristry, that is.

Liz Marsh has been in the flower business for years, and as a floral designer, has worked at some huge events all over the world with her business Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design.

We caught up with her to find out about her passion, and found out she wasn’t always keen on the whole idea…

1. How did you know you wanted to be a floral designer? 

I thought I wanted to be a journalist and writer, but after some work experience on a hospital radio station I realised it wasn’t for me.

So being a florist was just one of several jobs I had to keep me going whilst I found my life-long vocation.

2. How did you get started?

As I didn’t want to be a florist nor did I want to own my own business but I was working for a company that I didn’t like at the time and decided just to leave and start looking for a ‘proper’ job. I knew a couple of people who needed flowers on an ongoing basis and thought that would keep me going whilst I looked around. Fortunately/unfortunately I was working opposite Harvey Nichols at the time and called them up to see if they would like me to do their windows. They said ‘yes’ and so I ended up being one of the last independent artists to design and install their windows, working alongside Mary Portas. After that all the regular customers from my previous shop called me up to ask if they could stay with me and so I found myself running a business!


3. What has been the most important moment in your career so far?

The most important moment was probably when I decided to take a break from work and spend some time with my young family. I gave up the whole infrastructure and kept a couple of clients on for whom I just bought the flowers and arranged them on site. After a couple of months the butler to Lord and Lady Black called me up to ask me to keep doing their flowers. At first I said ‘no’ but then relented. Working with them meant that when it came to buiding the business up, my design skills were still fresh and in touch with the market place and it was a case of saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’ to the requests that had been flowing in over the course of time.

4. Talk us through your day?

No two days are the same for me except that they all start at 5am with a proper breakfast and usually a walk along the river with my dog. Apart from that I might go on to write up some quotes, answer emails, check the flower market for inspiration for a photo shoot, go to a networking breakfast (I run a networking group), or help the team with a demanding job; after that the phone starts ringing and any timetable goes out of the window! But usually I spend a fair bit of time writing up quotes, seeing customers or potential customers, meeting people who might help us, or whom we might help (I believe in the power of giving in business) or going on a site visit for an event etc. Evenings usually involve networking on some level or another with a social life squeezed in for good measure…

5. What are the best and worst things about your job?

Floristry is a very demanding career. The hours are long, the work is physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding. That is both the best and worst aspect of this job. I love to go home feeling that I have wrung every last drop out of the day but not everyone does and a lot of people are put off by this.

6. What do you think people don’t realise about your job?

The most common comment I come across is ‘you are so lucky to work with flowers, what a beautiful way to spend your day!’ and this always makes me laugh. Make no mistake, I love my work and certainly don’t do it for the money but it really isn’t the idyllic job that a lot of people think…In fact it is probably one of the most stressful jobs there are, especially when things go wrong – which, with a live product is most of the time – and the customer’s expectations need to be met…

liz marsh floral designer florist

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given to make it work?

A very good friend of mine said to me that if I wanted to make a name for myself in the arts I would have to make bold statements and be prepared to take risks. This has been an invaluable piece of advice.

8. What advice would you give someone looking to do the same?

Don’t think that being a florist means you don’t have to work out the finances. It is ten times more important to do you sums in floristry than any other industry because the profit margins are so tight.

9. What are your career goals?

I want to take this business to the very top. Our vision is global, to become the Martha Stewart of floral design.

10. What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

Forget the writing career and do art ‘a’ level.

Liz Marsh runs her own floral design company, Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design, which organises floristry for hotels, restaurants, weddings and other events around the world

Now what?