Considered to be the United States most influential farmer-florist, Floret founder Erin Benzakein has shaped floral design trends, redefined micro-farming and inspired thousands to grow, buy and design seasonal flowers.
Erin’s immensely popular blog, book, workshops, social media channels and speciality seed line have amassed fans from around the globe. Thousands of aspiring or established flower farmers and designers look to Erin to learn Floret’s secrets to growing gorgeous flowers on a small scale. Floret’s loyal fan base eagerly snaps up Erin’s recommendations and anxiously await the farm’s annual sale of speciality seeds and bulbs, uncommon dahlias, workshops and other garden supplies.
Erin and her two-acre flower farm have been featured in major media outlets and amassed prestigious awards including Martha Stewart American Made award for Floral and Event Design and Better Homes and Gardens’ 2016 blogger award. Her book, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms won the American Horticultural Society’s 2018 Book Award, set sales records at Chronicle Books and continues to inform, inspire and delight flower lovers around the globe.
Lou, being such a huge fan of Floret Flower, recently interviewed Erin to discover more about her, her passion for flowers and being a worldwide floral ‘influencer’.
PLEASE CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU AND THE BEGINNINGS OF FLORET.
My husband, Chris, and I wanted to be able to raise our family surrounded by nature, so we moved from Seattle to the Skagit Valley. We tilled up our tiny two-acre plot to first create a huge vegetable garden. Tucked in with all the vegetables was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in memory of my great grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age. As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the garden’s bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path.When I delivered my first bouquet, the recipient teared up as she buried her face in the flowers. Seeing the impact that flowers had on her and so many others who received our flowers was tremendous. After seeing the all the tears, smiles, joy and memories evoked by my flowers, I knew I had found my calling.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND, AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE FLOWER INDUSTRY?, WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION?
I had a background in landscaping, but after moving to the country I just wanted to find a way to build a small business that allowed me to stay home with my kids. I wanted to be able to connect with nature and my creative side while also contributing to our household income. I tried quite a few business ideas (including selling soap, growing heirloom apples, and raising chickens to sell eggs in rainbow colors) before starting the flower business.
YOUR INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT IS ONE OF OUR FAVOURITES, ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT, HOW DO YOU PLAN IT?
Thanks! So glad you enjoy it! I personally post all the images and write the captions. I take most of the photos but any of the shots that I’m in are taken by my husband, Chris. My strategy isn’t formal, per se, but I do try to post around 5 or 6 times per week (if I don’t post for more than a few days I start getting messages expressing concern). I also try to maintain a consistent aesthetic in my posts. There are a few outliers, but a primary theme of my posts is celebrating and showcasing seasonal flowers. I feel like there is a huge demand and hunger for positivity and beauty in our lives, so highlighting the flowers we grow has really resonated with people around the world.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF YOUR BUSINESS?
I adore being able to do what I love alongside my family and a wonderful team of people who all share my passion for seasonal flowers. I also love sharing the beauty of what we are growing and creating with the world through photographs and stories. There’s no sense hoarding all these pretty flowers for ourselves, so I share snippets of our flower-filled life on the Floret website and through social media, which has resonated with a lot of people.
In our everyday lives, especially during tumultuous times for our country or in our own personal lives, we must find activities like gardening that connect us with the natural world and bring us peace. I’m constantly amazed by power that flowers have to tap into our emotions. Flowers have an amazing ability to make us smile and bring us joy. They provide comfort and help heal broken hearts. They spark memories and stir nostalgia. The joy in growing and sharing flowers is pretty remarkable, really.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE TAKING A CAREER CHANGE AND STARTING UP THEIR OWN BUSINESS FROM SCRATCH?
Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of women who are considering a career change to flower farming through our Floret Workshops. The process of taking your passion and hobby and turning it into something that can not only sustain itself one day, but also generate a profit to pay you is an amazing experience, but it is no easy task. Farming is hard work and so is running and growing a flower business. Give yourself a huge amount of credit for even trying! If I had known how many times I would fail before I got the hang of it, I probably would never had ventured in. But luckily a few very wise and very patient souls mentored me in the early years. If you can find a mentor, someone who has actually done what you want to do, I highly recommend investing in this relationship and listening to their hard earned wisdom.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR FLORET?
In the near term, we will be re-opening up enrolment in the Floret Online Workshop this October. Over the years, I hosted hundreds aspiring flower farmers and established floral designers alike to Floret for our on-farm workshops. These 3-day events consistently sold out within minutes of going on sale and we simply weren’t able to keep up with demand, so we created an easier, more accessible way to share the beauty of what we grow by creating a comprehensive video-based course. We recently bought the farm next door (read more about that here) and we’re in the midst of a massive renovation of the barn. The new space will house our shipping department, (so we can move all of our seed inventory and supplies for our speciality seed line out of our garage)! We’re also expanding our flower production on the new acreage, trialling lots of new flower varieties with plans to expand our seed line even more in the future.
Erin’s first book: Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms is available to buy now.
Watch the video here:
Images courtesy of Floret Farm.
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and the founder of Sisterhood Camp.
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and can be found over on her blog Littlegreenshed, where she shares her life, loves and inspiration. Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.