Monday, 20 January 2020
ANNETTE MARCH is the proprietor of White Garden, the florists in Hart Street Henley, which she acquired six years ago. She was born in Nottingham but her family moved to Ascot when she was six. She left school at 16 and then studied floristry and botany at Merrist Wood College, near Guildford. She worked in a florists at a garden centre on Saturdays while she was still at school and continued there in order to pay her way through college. Annette is now a level five national certificate City & Guilds florist and a Dutch master florist. She moved to Henley when she bought the shop and now lives in Albert Street with her chihuahuas, Angel and Pixie. She is a keen runner and has completed the London Marathon twice. She also enjoys swimming, watching polo and boating — she has a small boat called Little White Garden for weddings at Temple Island.
Describe your business
We are a florist catering for every occasion with impeccable service and providing our customers with high-quality design in both natural and artificial form. We enjoy exceeding our customers’ expectations.
How many people does it employ?
As well as me, there is a full-time member of staff, Alice Murphy (who is wonderful), and I have a pool of four others who I call upon regularly.
What did you do before you started this business?
After leaving college I continued to work as a florist but wanted my own shop. Two became available, one in High Wycombe and the one here in Henley, which I chose. I was aged 23 at the time.
When did you start your business?
What was your objective?
I had wanted to live in Henley since the first time I drove down the hill and saw St Mary’s Church. It’s such a beautiful, small town but has so much going on. There’s no better place to be. And having worked in a floristry business, I thought I could do it better. You tend to think you’re an expert when you’re 23!
Who or what influenced you?
I’m very close to my dad and he has been self-employed for many years. He gave me confidence.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I’m inspired by Dame Stephanie Shirley, who lives in Henley and has had the most amazing life and career.
What would you do differently if you could begin again?
There are a few aspects I might have changed with the benefit of hindsight but nothing of any major consequence. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the journey.
How is your business doing?
Very well. It’s evolving massively. Floristry has changed a lot.
How do you market your business?
I advertise in Guides for Brides magazine. I go to some wedding fairs, having researched them first. Being a preferred supplier to Phyllis Court Club brings me a lot of business from members. The shop’s prominent location is also a benefit.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Making my own rules, the freedom to run my business the way I want to and being able to bring my two dogs to work.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
The paperwork. It’s not one of my strengths. Fortunately, I have a good bookkeeper to whom I give a carrier bag full of receipts every week.
Where is your business headed?
There are so many different routes it could take. Everything seems to change so quickly. Perhaps when the current economic uncertainty settles down we may all have a clearer picture.
How important are online sales?
We do make sales from our web shop. It’s a bit unpredictable and gets busier when the weather is bad and people order online rather than come to the shop.
Do you have a five-year plan?
When I first started I did and then soon realised that things don’t always go according to plan. But I have a clearer idea now as to where the business is headed.
Do you set any goals for your business?
Yes. I continually set goals. If you don’t have goals you don’t have anything to aim at. I’m very competitive and keep a diary to maintain a close eye on everything and I’m always trying to beat what I’ve done in the past.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
To expect the unexpected and to keep calm.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Know what you are getting into. Know it inside out.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I think it would be my initial inexperience in employing people.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Being open to ideas, being willing to learn and having enthusiasm and lots of energy.
What’s the secret of your success?
I’m a people person and have lots of enthusiasm, which is infectious. I love being in the shop and flowers spread happiness.
How organised are you?
In my personal life I’m probably a bit of a disaster but in my business I’m totally organised and pay huge attention to detail.
How do you dress for work?
I wear practical clothes that are smart and casual. I need to keep warm as we can’t have heating in the shop.
What can’t you be without every day?
The people around me, my family and my friends.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
It depends. Sometimes I need to take a walk in order not to lose my train of thought and creativity.
Do you continue to study?
Yes. There are so many new varieties of flowers.
How are you planning for retirement?
I’ve plenty of years before then.
13 January 2020
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