Terrible service from a local florist forced Marion Wambuiout of her comfort zone to set up a business she is proud of, Beautiful Bouquets.
On Valentine’s Day evening in 2018, Marion Wambui was stuck at work waiting for her bouquet of roses instead of having dinner with her now husband.
The vendor would arrive with wilted misarranged flowers in a tacky vase.
At dinner, her boyfriend was besides himself on seeing the flowers and realising that accompanying gifts; wine and chocolates, had not been delivered.
On calling the vendor, they took no responsibility. They never got the wine and chocolate, a refund or even an apology.
Marion was so frustrated and unhappy with the service that she entertained the thought of being a florist.
She believed no one should be frustrated, especially if all they want is to make loved ones happy. That was the genesis of Beautiful Bouquets, her flower business.
At this point, Marion had a successful career as a community manager in the hospitality and music industry.
With her degree in Journalism and Media Studies from University of Nairobi, she had worked in the media and public relations space, slowly carving a niche for herself in the industry.
She had an 8-5 job with a firm in Karen, so her time was already tied up with work.
“I decided to research on the flower business every time I got any free time. I was always looking up flower bouquets and flower arrangements online.
I started walking around on weekends looking for a flower supplier. I met Florence, Peter and Margaret at General Mathenge Drive in Westlands.
The three gave me a thorough internship into the industry. I would research online on what I needed to learn, then go to them with the questions, which they willingly answered.
They also had vast knowledge on the flower industry, especially in the Kenyan context, something you cannot find in books or online.
They empowered me enough such that I grew confident enough to start creating my own arrangements,” Marion explains.
In preparation for Mother’s Day in the same year, Marion jumped in and started flower deliveries.
She started with Sh7,500 carved off from her salary. She was overwhelmed by positive reviews from customers and decided to inject any money she got from the business back into it.
She was also more intentional about saving with the aim of opening a physical store in future.
Three years later, Marion was able to make her dream come true by opening a physical store at Nairobi Mega with half a million shillings’ worth of savings she and her husband had been relentlessly stowing away.
But the road was not necessarily straightforward. As with any journey, there were challenges to surmount.
“My knowledge of the flower industry in Kenya was the first obstacle. Despite spending innumerable hours on Youtube, my designs never truly came out the way I wanted.
I decided to get formal training in floristry to elevate my designs and differentiate them from the rest.
Looking and getting a good floristry school in Kenya was hard. But luckily I stumbled on Accol Floral Design where I took a full course in floristry and gifts.
I still wanted more knowledge and to have a bigger differentiating factor, so I joined New Skill Academy UK and got my floristry certificate,” Marion explains.
The other obstacle was getting quality flowers locally. Marion says she did not anticipate this problem, as Kenya is one of the leading suppliers of quality cut flowers.
She would learn that most flower farms do not sell flowers locally, and those who had a list were unwilling to add anyone else to it.
Marion had to work overtime to develop the right contacts to keep high quality of bouquets she envisioned from the start.
The highlights have been equally many with her main one being getting to see the joy and impact of her deliveries.
This lights up her day and motivates her so much so, that whenever she is having a bad day, she does the deliveries herself. Getting to see the joy on her clients’ faces is an indescribable experience she says.
“Knowing there is a bigger picture and a bigger impact to what we do, from a partner being forgiven to the celebration of new life is quite validating and worth the hardships that got me here,” Marion explains.
To entrepreneurs, she had this to say.
“I would tell them to do it scared. It was scary jumping from something I knew into something I knew very little about.
But I prepared myself through extensive research and even going back to school to learn more and did it anyway.
No entrepreneurial decision worth taking will be made in comfort. Do not sit on your idea. Just do it. You will learn everything on the go,” Marion says in conclusion.
- Marion has a degree in journalism and Media Studies with a Public Relations Major from the University of Nairobi.
- Beautiful Bouquets is one of the businesses that grew and flourished during Covid-19. Part of the reason was that they went big on digital marketing and everything had sort of shifted from physical to digital. They were able to serve more customers in this period than they had in the two years combined.
- Marion says making that leap from having a salary to having none is never easy. You have to persevere and have some serious discipline. You also have to learn to be both invested in the business, but separate yourself enough to learn from your failings rather than take them personally.