Hailed as a floral mastermind, Edinburgh-born Philippa Craddock set up her business from her kitchen table in 2009 and is now lauded as the ‘Audrey Hepburn of florists’. Self-taught, she has worked with the world’s biggest brands and, in 2018, was chosen to design and create wedding flowers at Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
Craddock’s Flower School originally launched in 2014, with studio courses for beginners and experienced florists. These online masterclasses are now world renowned, with interactive creative business courses set to be launched this year.
“It was a tough, brutal industry when I first started in recruitment and executive search in the City. In a strong male world I did sales calls and development work. I was thrown out there and I always felt slightly uncomfortable as I had no real influences.
I got a job with Holker Watkin (now ZRG Partners) recruiting high-level strategists. Anna Persin was one of the founders and for the first time I came across someone who inspired me. She was incredibly gentle, kind and taught me to be myself in a tough role where I had previously found it difficult to let people down.
Anna had a real smile and warmth about her. She was always positive, never got flustered or raised her voice and had huge respect. It was the opposite of what I had seen previously in that world.
As she spoke quietly, everyone seemed to stop and listen. Her smile could be seen as quite scary but she succeeded through her kindness. I was in my mid 20s and it was like a lid had been lifted.
I saw a lot of people setting up their own businesses around the same time. Anna was a young mother, hands on and was still able to run the business. Before that I was trying to work out how to have children and have a career. Anna gave me the confidence and belief to run my own business – which I now do with husband, Tony – and be a mother.
I originally set up as a plant gifting company in 2009; I was being brave and just getting myself out there in the beginning.
From the interview technique in recruitment I learnt from Anna and how to match candidates, I could then apply my creativity to speaking to wedding couples or clients and what they wanted from briefs.
It led to us running a big flower school in London, a concession in Selfridges and a studio in Sussex and London. There was a lot going on and so we wanted to move further west.
Our school always sold out and we couldn’t help all our students, who were coming from far and wide. But a few years before the pandemic we had decided to move our flower school online and this was now the clear answer.
Watch: Philippa Craddock on 9 ways to make fresh flowers last longer
As much as I love working at weddings and events, I enjoy teaching creatives – everyone from home arrangers to businesses – and wanting them to feel empowered and have belief in themselves.
Several years ago I approached The White Company to ask to do the floristry side and I built up a strong link with the brand. Its founder, Chrissie Rucker, now leads Women Supporting Women at the Prince’s Trust. It’s a team of women who support younger women through training, education and business opportunities.
The thread here is that there is a real softness and quietness to all these leaders and ambassadors. Everyone is an incredibly gentle and careful listener and it shows that you can be highly successful by doing just that.
In this regard, understanding what people are looking for has also played a key role in our business when working with brands like Givenchy, Chanel and Alexander McQueen.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the head strategist of the board or producing flowers for a press event, it’s just as important to understand the brief.
I can’t stress it enough but you can be really successful in business if you are gentle and kind and be yourself. It’s exactly what I now want to share and promote – and these are the feelings I garnered from Anna.”
Phillipa Craddock is launching a Creative Business Course and interactive masterclass this autumn for florists or any creative
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