For many Singaporeans, leaving a comfortable or respectable job for one with plenty of uncertainties will probably lead to a lot of nagging and sighs of disappointment from parents and grandparents.
“Study engineering, it’s a stable industry to get into,” said a friend’s mother to him.
“Study business, become an accountant or a banker! They earn a lot of money,” another mother told another friend of mine.
Harmless but irksome additional comments from well-meaning relatives at family gatherings elicit another round of grimacing from you, but you just nod and agree.
But that’s a story not for us; this is a story of how two friends left their cushy well-paying jobs in the banking sector for a rather competitive industry.
Girls Over Fleuriste
Friends Joan Chua and Sarah Ching, were colleagues at UOB. Joan was in the product development team while Sarah was in the sales and marketing department, but connected over their love of flowers.
They began taking floral arrangement classes in their free time as a hobby and even while holding down their fast-paced banking jobs.
After working in the banking sector for over seven years, the friends decided that it was now or never.
Sarah trained professionally with the Raffles International Floristry Academy, while Joan trained with the Nobleman School of Floral Design.
Not letting distance douse their passion, Sarah went to London and Paris for classes at Judith Blacklock Flower School and Catherine Muller Floral respectively. Joan was certified in the London Covent Garden Academy of Flowers.
Both of them juggled full-time work and pursued their courses locally, arranging to take the overseas courses on planned holidays.
When they quit, they funded Fleuriste with their own savings, investing a mid-five figure range on their floral management system.
They came up with Fleuriste’s tagline, “Saving your skin, one bouquet at a time,” as they noticed an increasing number of last-minute orders for customers’ special dates.
Fleuriste pride themselves on their personalised consultation service that comes with signing-on of their year-long service.
Based on each customer’s details for the intended recipient or recipients, Joan and Sarah would craft each of the five bouquets for each of the five dates.
For example, a guy would like to send flowers to his wife on their anniversary date, Valentine’s Day, and her birthday. He also plans to send flowers to his mother-in-law on Mother’s Day and her birthday.
He will give details like, his wife likes pastel colours, prefers flowers like roses and violets, while his mother-in-law is an elegant lady with no strong preferences to the types of flowers but vivid colours makes her happy.
Joan and Sarah would then get busy suggesting flower combinations for each occasion. Upon approval, they’d proceed with payment and prepare the five messages for each of the bouquets. The guy will then receive a text message three days before the scheduled delivery to remind him of the delivery.
According to them, other florists offer weekly or bi-weekly subscription services that are usually short-term services that would be fully consumed by the second or third month.
In comparison, Fleuriste offers a timely delivery service for five times in a year, a meticulous consultation service, and a discount on retail prices for individual bouquets to sweeten the deal.
100% Pay Cut, But 100% Job Satisfaction
Joan and Sarah actually took a 100% pay cut starting Fleuriste.
But what kept them going on top of their passion was the support of their families and friends.
Recently, they attended a radio talk show, doing a live stream on floral arrangement and noticed that their parents, friends, cousins, and even aunts and uncles specially taking the time to watch the livestream to show their love for them.
Since starting in 2015, they’ve received closed to 2,000 orders with many loyal customers returning for their specialised bouquets and convenient service.
Back then, they began in a humble studio in an industrial building doing Fleuriste part-time. After leaving their corporate jobs, they established a retail shop cum studio in the Tiong Bahru area.
From drawing stable, attractive salaries, to only taking nominal salaries to cover daily expenses, the friends are happier that they have better control over their work-life balance, as they can spend more time with their loved ones now.
A typical day sees Joan and Sarah at the wholesaler early in the morning to pick their blooms for the day.
Afternoon is reserved for daily operations: replying emails and sending the bouquets to the courier for deliveries the next day. Meetings and site visits for clients’ events usually happen during this time too. With the recent surge of urgent deliveries, they would personally deliver these bouquets to make their clients’ days.
On busier days with urgent deliveries, they would only be able to reply emails at night at their personal time after dinner with families. The pair are constantly on the ball as soon as they are awake because an order may come in at any time.
Even though they can get really busy, they make sure to give their customers a prompt reply.
Despite the erratic day-to-day schedules, they are happier than before.
Since leaving their paper-pushing jobs in 2016, they’ve both gotten pets who occasionally join them at work and act as their unofficial mascots.
While most of their customers are currently male, they hope to eventually target females as well. For example, girls can send flowers to their mothers (and mothers-in-law), sisters, and girlfriends, given that this service allows up to five different recipients on five different occasions!
Featured Image Credit: Fleuriste