For our latest featured business, we talked to Sushma Windsor of Lettuce Flowers – a florist with a difference!
1. What does your business do?
Lettuce Flowers provides living floral displays for events, weddings and gifts, as an alternative to imported cut flowers. The aromatic flower arrangements are designed using seasonal edible plants – flowers, herbs and salad leaves grown in the UK, mainly in Sussex. All of our delicious herbs, edible flowers and salad arrangements come with a Lettuce Flowers recipe suggestion to help customers on their way to an exciting new range of flavors. Each display can be taken home and planted in someone’s garden as a living reminder of the event. Our displays convey an important message of sustainability and symbolise perpetual growth as they make perfect keepsakes.
2. When did you start?
In August 2010, but did my research for over seven months.
3. How did you get started?
The inspiration came from our own wedding, when we had used edible flowers on our food, while all the tables and surrounding areas had UK grown wild flowering plants. Our guests saw how the bees and butterflies were enjoying the flowers as the venue was an open area in a conservation estate. The guests took home the plants and with my instructions planted them in their garden. I thought nothing of it, but the following spring they all called back to tell me how the plants have come back and all they could think of was the edible flowers on our food. I knew we had to introduce this simple concept to more people. With my husband’s help I started the search for suppliers of specialist plants.
4. Why did you choose this particular business?
Lettuce Flowers as a business has been born through a passion for enjoying fresh flowers with a purpose. We use living edible seasonal plants to create beautiful displays for Corporate Events to Weddings and Private parties as an alternative to cut flowers. An industry which is worth over £2 billion per year in the UK, it is not surprising to find the environmental cost, from the intensive monoculture farming to heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers and from carbon cost of flying to waste disposal of the cut flowers.
The aim is to have truly sustainable business which will only use UK grown seasonal plants for the arrangements and gifts online. This unique concept encourages people to use the plants in the display with recipe suggestion attached and care instruction on the plants. This is to entice more people to use fresh produce, even if it is to impress their friends. We have even gone as far as sourcing containers, pots and baskets which can be easily composted, after the plants have overgrown or been transplanted into the garden.
5. What’s been your best moment so far?
When I turned up at a wedding with a delivery, the groom introduced me to his best man as “their saviour”. They had been let down by local florist and they were keen on using someone ethical and local, so when I showed up with my service, they were simply delighted to have found me.
6. And the worst?
It was not very easy, when the long winter kept the flowers in bud and I had a wedding to adorn with wild flowers in early April. In the end I had to convince the bride to accept some replacements. Weather is our worst enemy. Our online gift service got delayed due to the packaging supplier, taking more than five months to resolve our design issues.
7. Anything you wish you had known when you started?
If I had known how difficult it is to borrow money from the banks, I would not have started this business.
8. What’s your biggest challenge going forward?
Expansion, due to lack of funding, weather patterns, and the economy will be our biggest challenge going forward.
9. Do you have a top tip for someone starting out in the wedding business?
Do your research thoroughly, do something with provenience and make sure it is unique.