Text by Ruby Goss
Collage by Enrico Nagel Photo by Steve Ryan for Four&Sons
‘Bloom where you are planted’ – a much pinned riff. Self-taught florist Florence Kennedy, however, chose to go another other way – blooming where she planted herself. In 2013, she left the reliability of an office job to set up her own floristry business, Petalon, whose seasonal creations are delivered London-wide on Kennedy City Bicycles (made by her husband, James). Based out of Hackney, today, their studio is a hive of activity. Along with the crafting of bouquets and the Tetris game of loading the bikes with their living matter, workshops are taught and a great deal of Great Dane petting takes place (Huxley, the couple’s loveable hound, rivals flowers in Instagram likes). But it’s out of this base that something more than flowers are gifted – giving back is done on a scale that stretches through Petalon’s locality – it’s a list, that when rattled out, doesn’t give pause for breath: seasonal botanicals, biodegradable packaging, no emissions transport, and donations to the non-profit Bee Collective. We find out more of the story from Florence herself.
What did you have to channel in yourself to make Petalon a reality?
Confidence. Luckily my husband had enough faith in me and the business idea to push me, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have had the confidence to go for it. Taking that first leap is the hardest part, but when you assess what the worst that can really happen is, it seems silly not to give it a go.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The happiness flowers bring to people is lovely and I’ll never tire of being a part of that. But, on a more personal level it’s been so incredible to watch my business grow, to employ people who like to work here, and for them to be part of that happiness too – whether it’s delivering a bunch of flowers to someone, making people smile as they cycle past with an overflowing bicycle of blooms or installing wedding flowers and making someone’s wedding day even more beautiful. We are very lucky to do what we do.
When do your best ideas come to you?
It depends if they’re business ideas or design ideas. With floral design, it is anything from the flowers themselves to the venue, the bride and groom’s character or the season that dictate the overall mood and look of a wedding. Business ideas come from chatting with James and the team or from when we encounter problems and need clever solutions – so much of it is trial and error and it’s the best way to grow.
A good salary is safe and nice but it can also consume precious time when you could be doing something that makes you so much happier.
What do you consider the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life?
That it’s not about the money. A good salary is safe and nice but it can also consume precious time when you could be doing something that makes you so much happier. Working out what would make me the happiest I could possibly be and then trying to accomplish that has been a journey of hard work – occasional tears – but so much joy and a realisation of what I am capable of if I just take the leap and try.
Meanwhile, what is the best choice you’ve ever made?
Choosing to quit my perfectly okay, well-paid office job and accept the financial uncertainty of starting a business. Marrying James was a pretty good choice too.
How do you recharge your batteries?
By taking the dog for a long walk and breakfast out in a cafe with him and my husband.
What keeps you awake at night?
The dog dreams really loudly.
Which book (and any other paraphernalia) is on your bedside table?
At the moment it’s books on babies. We are expecting one and I don’t know anything about them...
One last question before we leave you: When is bedtime, when is rising time?
It totally depends what is on the next day. If it’s a flower market morning then I’m up at 3.30am, if it’s a studio day I’m up at 6am or if we have a relaxed morning we don’t set an alarm. We are usually in bed by 10.30pm… rock and roll.