Introduction & Interview by Caroline Skou
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It’s hard to avoid the inevitable spring fever that has taken over the city this time of the year; picnickers descend upon Central Park and you no longer blink at the thought of walking over 20 blocks downtown. After the past year that we have all had, it’s these small shifts in behavior seem bigger than before, and make me want to literally stop and smell the roses (or, in my case, the tulips right outside my apartment).
I’m not the only one who is taking ‘flower-smelling’ seriously this spring. For this week’s MMXXI Story Series, I interviewed Nicole, Syracuse alum and co-founder of Buds of Brooklyn, as she talks about her career shift from designer to florist, her advice for blooming creatives, and how she's looking forward to the 2021 wedding season!
I would love to start with you describing what Buds of Brooklyn does and what your role is?
Buds of Brooklyn is a floral design studio - we focus on creating floral arrangements & floral installations for weddings, events & dinner parties/brand launches. Our studio is based in Brooklyn, we are not a florist retail shop with a storefront. We work mostly in NYC & also love to travel upstate NY, NJ, Long Island, etc for events as well.
I am the co-owner & co-creator of buds. My partner, Connie, and I wear many hats as the owners: we design, we manage our books, we schedule, we do our social media. Her and I basically do it all!
How did you get into flowers? Has floral design always been a passion of yours?
I got into flowers while I was working as a full time fashion designer in the garment district. My company at the time gave us a stipend to put towards educational classes. I took a few floral design classes & became hooked. My job as a fashion designer kept me behind a computer, outsourcing overseas and I really missed being creative & working with my hands. Flowers was an easy transition for me because it involved the same principles of design: color, balance, movement, proportion, etc.
How does your previous career in fashion influence your floral designs now?My 10+ career in the fashion industry influences everything I do with florals. From the designing aspect (mood boards) to the pricing (we really break down the costs for how something is created for a wedding). I even apply my experience working for a large company to the culture of our small company. We respect & trust our team to implement our designs & we also give them the freedom to work their magic with florals. I left the 9-5 work environment to pursue a career with flexibility & also immediate satisfaction in watching flowers create a whole vibe for someone's event.
I left the 9-5 work environment to pursue a career with flexibility & also immediate satisfaction in watching flowers create a whole vibe for someone's event.
I saw that you started to sell your tie-dye merch during the pandemic. I would love to hear what inspired this?
When NYC & the world shut down due to COVID, our business as an events & wedding vendor came to a full stop. Connie & I had talked about launching some merchandise years past (but never did because we always got so busy) and this felt like a good time to try it out & see how it would go for us. We did a "soft launch" via our instagram stories & we sold out in 2 days. It got us more excited so we pursued creating more merch. Tie-dye, I guess as ex-fashion designers, felt like the way to go because it is such a big trend. We focused our colors to be soft, pastels & multis - trying to keep it in the "Buds look". We just released our 3rd launch, selling through our website. We plan to keep it up online until we sell out as a place for those who enjoy tie-dye, the Buds brand & support for a small business to shop.
How did your time at Syracuse influence your career choices?
Syracuse holds a very special place in my heart. I studied fashion design there. I also think being upstate in the coldest winters created an entrepreneurial spirit within me - facing challenges head on & digging deep for new solutions. Also my friends & peers were hard-working & inspiring people in many diverse fields - we all supported each other in many ways. I loved being in the Visual & Performing Arts school but also appreciated taking business classes & EEE - this exposed me to different ways of thinking & not just focused on art & design alone. I also graduated during the recession & the first job I landed I was hired by a Syracuse alumni - people see Syracuse on your resume & there is great pride shared among us alumni. We all remember the Lake Effect!
Being kind is really important and it helps to build good, lasting relationships with people who you work for & who work for you.
What is a great piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career?
I think the best piece of advice I have received is to talk to & treat people with respect & to be kind. When I was communicating with factories overseas (with people who spoke English as their second language), I always made sure I talked to them as human beings. Being kind is really important and it helps to build good, lasting relationships with people who you work for & who work for you. I take this with me when I am on a job and I expect this from the people I work with. When an event is coming together, there is extreme pressure to make it perfect for your client, under time constraints with many other vendors & moving parts. It can be a pressure cooker of stress. We create our best work when we are all focused & there is good energy in the room.
What advice do you have for the current 2021 graduating class? Especially young women looking to pursue a career in design, let it be fashion or floral?
My advice would be to never give up, even when it feels hard & uncertain. This past year certainly threw a curveball at us. At times I wasn't positive our business would survive. Connie and I kept our focus on keeping our brand going & communicating every week, moving at a snail's pace, but moving. We got creative with trying new things: customized merch & weekly flower deliveries. it kept us sane during an insane year. It's good to be creative & to pivot when everything seems out of control, you can control what you want to put out there as a small business.
Our Little Luxuries campaign focuses on celebrating small victories with the level of enthusiasm typically reserved for big accompaniments. What is a ‘small victory moment’ you’ve had recently?
A small victory for me at the moment is having a cleared inbox!
What are the things that make you most excited about 2021 and this next generation?
I am most excited to open back up with a thriving 2021 wedding season. I miss the physical work & I miss the flowers. We have so many awesome clients who booked us this year and we are doing things that I cannot wait to see come to real life. Also working at some new venues this year, makes me excited to travel a bit & try new things. I am excited to see how this next generation overcomes this past year & channels their creative energy into good for the world. I think there will be a huge fire lit under the next generation's butts & I look forward to seeing what they do & how they keep pushing the envelope for better brands & companies.
Thanks Nicole for taking the time to interview! And don't forget to check out Buds of Brooklyn & follow them on instagram!