Author: Brittany Wong, BSU student
Bella Flora is a flower boutique and wedding event planning business run in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. It is owned by Alexis Conley of Brockton, Massachusetts. Bella Flora is becoming more exclusive as it receives more requests for weddings. Alexis is looking to cut it down to ten to twelve weddings each year.
Alexis Conley attended Bridgewater State University as an English major. She had gotten an internship in finance as an incoming freshman which piqued her interest in business. Through this curiosity, she earned a management minor before the college created a full-fledged business school. Alexis adds, “I went to work in finance when I graduated. While I was there, I realized I wasn’t really doing anything creative. I always did art, designing and event planning throughout my years. I was interested in floral design [and] got the opportunity to take an adult education floral design class at Massasoit Community College in Brockton. I ended up taking a certificate program on how to be a florist. As I took the class, I realized that I don’t want to work for somebody. I was already working full-time [at State Street], so no matter what, this was going to be a part-time situation. I didn’t want to work in someone’s floral shop. I wanted to start a small wedding and event business.” Alexis received her flower arranging certificate in 2003 and started Bella Flora in 2004. She is now making her way up to seventeen years in the flower arranging and event planning business.
Bella Flora was quick to hit the ground. Alexis deliberated, “I worked for Putnam Investments and then I worked for State Street. I had just started at State Street for three months along with starting Bella Flora. I had mentioned my flower business to a few of my coworkers and my boss’s boss was getting married and wanted to talk to me about doing flowers for [her] wedding day.” She adds that the toughest part about starting the business was finding resources to figure out how to do it correctly.
When asked what she would have done differently if she had the chance to start her business over again, Alexis responded, “I guess I would have researched a little more or talk[ed] to someone. There weren’t a lot of people who had businesses the way that I did back then so there weren’t a lot of people to access. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t have wasted my money [at bridal shows]. You can put your name in any magazine you want and… someone might see your name in there but really the way a studio wedding florist like me is going to get a job is through word of mouth or if a venue is pushing your information.” The primary way she is currently bringing in new customers is through word of mouth.
Running a business in 2020 is no small feat. Alexis remarks on the stark competition, “There’s so much out there. It’s over-saturated. First, there are people who want everything but don’t want to pay the money. The second piece [are people] who think they are a florist [without the qualifications]. I don’t know how you would get longevity out of that.”
The flower arranging business is cutthroat in this day and age. Alexis remarked on her awareness of the fact, “I think what makes mine different is I take the time to actually get to know the people. Many of them don’t. A good portion of getting the job is clicking with a person. I’m a pretty good judge of character. I can have meetings with people and have a good sense if they are going to book with me or not.” The main way companies tend to promote their business in the age of technology is through online ads and social media. Alexis admits she is not the best at using social media but has created channels for Bella Flora across all platforms. “I mostly use Instagram, but if you went on it you would see that it hasn’t been updated in quite a while. That’s really a challenge for me because I do have a small business,” she discloses. “So many things have changed [with technology.] You can do things like FaceTime now… I think 50% of what makes a business [work] is being a people-person and a business-person.”
Alexis beams as she discusses what is to come for Bella Flora in the upcoming seasons. “I would like to make Bella Flora more boutique-y. I really want to promote the fact that I’m only going to do ten to twelve weddings a year. That exclusivity will hopefully draw more customers in.”
Running a business while working full-time comes at a cost, however. Alexis admits to being overworked and professes, “Sometimes having the revenue stream to hire an assistant is difficult. Or if I was doing Bella Flora full-time and I wasn’t doing it ‘part- full-time’ and I didn’t have a full-time job that was really demanding, I would have more time to focus on that… I would like to have Bella Flora [to fall back on] when I retire.”
Alexis also offers flower arranging classes where she teaches the basics from how to arrange your own bouquet to designing your own wreaths.