Kieran Andrew Khan
“I love making people happy – I see it as an opportunity, every day,” explained Nandini Maharaj on her work in The Flower Workshop, a business she started while pursuing her undergraduate degree in International Relations. “I’ve always had an artistic side and it was somewhat easy for me to look at something and create it with my hands – whether it was drawing or painting, but I never listed owning a flower and gift shop on my list of business ideas,” she noted.
“Like most people I thought I would tend towards law or a profession; a 9-5 that is societally acceptable. But to create something that was my own and become my own person just wasn’t part of the thought process,” she recalled. “I started out in this space at a floral shop and stayed there for three months as a temporary job for summer. When someone came in and requested an arrangement, I tried my hands at it – a combination of yellow roses, lilies and local shrubs – and it turned out really well!”
Ever the go-getter, she later used that passion and experience to create a Facebook Page and populated it with photos gathered from Pinterest that reflected the work she could and would create based on her experience at the shop. “I never expected the response I got. Almost immediately someone asked me to create something with a dozen roses for their mother and they loved it,” she detailed to get her start. “I was scared to do it of course, but there was something telling me that this was for me. It was as if the Universe was pushing me to do something of my own, so I did. And I worked; starting first by sharing the Page and then going to all ends of the country to source the flowers I needed for the requests I started getting,” she pointed out.
Sometime after that, Maharaj’s cousin asked her to handle all the floral work for her wedding and once the photos of that were published, the florist was literally, in business. “My cousin got a number of requests and referred them to me. Since then I’ve done over 200 weddings,” she highlighted.
This August, the wedding florist would become the client and bride-to-be; as she plans to marry her longtime fiancée Rajiv. “Rajiv and I have been together for about six years; we don’t exactly keep count of it – we’re not that kind of couple,” she said with a laugh. “But he would help me bring in the exotic chocolates and cigars I needed to create man bouquets that I started creating long before it became an in-thing,” she said of their relationship dynamic.
Along her journey, she expanded from her home base of operations to a small space that was finally her own to work from. “My dad and uncle helped me to secure a spot where I was finally able to open The Flower Workshop. That dream I had when I first worked as a temp at the florist was exactly this – to have a space that went beyond flowers, that customers could come in and experience my work,” she pointed out. And her same work ethic applied – she hit the ground and sent samples of her work to businesses and schools in the area and did work for several media companies to help her work get even more exposure.
For the florist-turned-bride-to-be, she has simple advice for brides and wedding planners: have a budget and stick to your budgets. She elaborated, “Planning a wedding can be a bittersweet experience, because you are essentially planning your once-in-a-lifetime event that you want to remember, but realise you are really planning it for everyone else who is going to be there and not so much for you!” she said light-heartedly.
“It’s a lot of work – but knowing your budget can help guide you. Flowers can add to your costs but nothing can replace having them at your wedding and in the photos you would have forever. And you can do so affordably if you outline a couple realistic expectations to your wedding planner or florist and explain your budget, they can identify the trends in terms of the colours and flowers that repeat in your sample photos and find creative solutions. You can go on-trend with botanical bouquets that include a lot of shrubs and greenery to lower your cost and include chrysanthemums and spidermums that are beautiful and more reasonable additions to still have an authentic feel,” the florist advised.
In the midst of the wedding season and a slow economy, the challenge is to find the right balance. For this entrepreneur and bride-to-be, balance means being able to build a brilliant business and pursue the life and the person she loves too.