Gemma Wakerley, Owner of Booker Flowers and Gifts
Helping Liverpool-based businesses have flowers designed and delivered
There are three peak periods in floristry: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. If you’ve never worked in this industry, you won’t appreciate how crazy it can get. You’re looking at 20 times the normal order volume at least, but it takes balls to order the amount of stock that’s needed.
That’s why I count my blessings: I got to work for the previous owner of Booker Flowers for 18 months; then took over the business as a going concern. It gave me the opportunity to learn how everything works before diving in at the deep end.
Next year, I’ll be celebrating my 10th anniversary. It’ll also be 35 years since the shop first opened, so it feels like a landmark occasion.
Funnily enough, floristry was never my first-choice career. I studied to be an archaeologist and an anthropologist whilst living in South Africa. When I came back to the UK aged 25, I took a sales and customer service job in a slate quarry.
I then repped for the Swiss gift-wrapping company Stewo for five years, but I wanted to do something more creative that also combined my sales skills and knowledge of the gift industry. Floristry was the perfect fit!
After finishing night school, I put in an offer on a shop but got gazumped; then the UK arm of Stewo went into administration. After a couple of false starts, I took the job at Booker Flowers. The owner wanted to sell up within the year, so it was ideal!
Once I decided I wanted my first baby, I focused on growing the business so I could employ enough staff to provide cover. We’re now a team of five – handling five times the amount of trade from when I first took over.
If you’re not marketing, you’re either dying or standing still. I did it all myself on a shoestring budget when I started out until I learned to let go and outsource! Gift work and weddings are our bread and butter, but we’re also a trusted pair of hands for corporate and restaurant flowers. I’d love to grow that area of the business; it’s an exciting ambition for our big anniversary year!