Through Vision, Daring, an Entrepreneurial Venture Took Root
Business Is Blooming
Christine Adams tells of a trip she and her husband, Chip, took to the White Mountains in New Hampshire many years ago, and a sign that caught her attention along a scenic hike.
“We walked by this rickety old bridge, and I looked up and saw a sign that said ‘Badger’s Realty,’” she said, adding that the name struck her for some reason. “I said to Chip, ‘that’s going to be the name of my store someday.’ It wasn’t just the name — the look of the building was ratty, and I loved it. I just love rustic. And it just stuck with me.”
Fast-forward to Adams’ current business, Florence-based Badger’s Flowers & Co., where she creates floral arrangements for weddings and other events that are anything but ratty; in fact, she has won awards from WeddingWire and the Knot for her work with clients. But she took a circuitous route to entrepreneurship.
“I was a bookkeeper for an architecture firm in my single days,” she said. After she got married, her husband, a TV producer, wound up traveling quite a bit, and she stayed home with her two children. When they reached school age, she worked part-time — mother’s hours, as she put it — at a local florist for the better part of a decade.
“When the kids went off to college, it was time to reinvent myself,” Adams told BusinessWest, and she again looked to the world of flowers, but as her own boss this time. “I thought, why not try doing this? So, about three years ago, I had a website made, and a friend of a friend told a friend getting married, they called me, and it just slowly started trickling in.”
Helping clients decide on everything from bridal bouquets and boutonnieres to table centerpieces and outdoor arbors, in styles ranging from rustic to garden to classic elegance, Adams has taken her passion for design (she attended Rhode Island School of Design, and holds a degree in business management) and married it — pun intended — to a desire to provide brides and their families with what she calls ‘wow’ moments.
“I love the experience of meeting with people. I’ve had brides, grooms, moms, and dads spend hours here, chatting over coffee or wine,” she said, explaining that she takes on no more than one event per weekend, often traveling to New York or Boston during the week — as well as local flower farms — for some hard-to-find flower or specialty ribbon. “It’s a boutique style of business. I pride myself on bringing something with a specialty touch. I’m always looking at how I can make it a little different.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t the floral-design element of Adams’ business that challenged her at first. It was the decidedly 21st-century business models she had to get used to.
“It’s funny — at one point, I noticed I was getting nothing, so I hired a guy to take a look at my website. He said, ‘whoever did your website didn’t fill in your geographic information, so you’re located in New York.’ Since he tweaked it, I started getting hits again.
Flowers come easy for me. My learning curve has been social media and having to learn, at this point in my life, how Instagram works. I met with a marketing consultant, and as soon as I did what she suggested, my visibility doubled.”
“Learning technology and social media is so new to me, but it’s such an integral part of this business, because that’s where everyone goes for their information,” she went on. “Much of my demographic is out of state; I get calls from San Francisco, San Diego — people whose parents live here, or they went to college here, and they’re coming back to get married. I don’t feel like I’m competing with local businesses, with so much of my business coming from out of state.”
She did, however, recently join the Berkshire Wedding Collective, a group of wedding vendors that provides an online information portal for people seeking such services in Western Mass., and also got involved with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, through which she has taken classes in Google AdWords, Excel, and other business tools.
“Flowers come easy for me. My learning curve has been social media and having to learn, at this point in my life, how Instagram works,” she said, before opening up her account and scrolling through dozens of examples of her work that potential clients can peruse. “I met with a marketing consultant, and as soon as I did what she suggested, my visibility doubled. I wouldn’t have guessed that.”
As someone who was once very shy, business networking is new for her as well. “But at the same time, I can see the benefit, and I’m slowly growing more comfortable.”
It’s the one-on-one sessions with clients where she feels truly at ease, though. It’s in those discussions where she can formulate a vision. Sometimes the budget doesn’t match the wish list, but when everything comes together and the client gets that ‘wow’ feeling, it’s gratifying. “It’s a collaboration, and I want people to be happy.”
She told of a bride from San Diego coming back to Western Mass. to be married near her parents, who live in South Hadley. She loved patriotic colors, but didn’t want a bright, gaudy red, white, and blue design. Adams found a ribbon featuring a motif of American flag colors, but more subdued, and when she showed her the ribbon via Skype — and how it could match with ivory fabric — the client loved it.
That give and take is the heart of the business, but an element she wouldn’t have as much time for if she operated a storefront flower shop rather than working out of her home, a restored 1800s farmhouse that’s been in her husband’s family for five generations. “When you have a flower shop, you can’t take all this time with people.”
Bursting to Life
Adams delights in hard-to-find flowers to pepper arrangements of more traditional choices. “I might hit Boston or New York for those specialty stems that say, ‘wow.’ You don’t need a lot of them. Even few items like that gives it a special look, and really sets it apart.”
The challenge doesn’t always end with the order, however.
“It’s in my contract that Mother Nature is a variable,” she said, recalling one wedding where cafe au lait dahlias were a featured item. When she went to pick them from the wholesaler a few days before the wedding, inclement weather had rotted those particular flowers. But while her heart was racing, she called local farmers and ended up with smaller dahlias that were just as striking, and visited a market in Boston for some other unique pieces. “When I delivered them, there was a ‘wow,’” she said.
Indeed, weather that’s too hot, too wet, or too dry can mess with the best-laid plans, she said, but scrambling to replace an item and still coming up with something impressive is an oddly gratifying experience.
Adams’ satisfaction isn’t priority one, of course; her clients’ happiness is. And the comments on her website testify to that.
“She is truly a floral artist with an eye for design like I have never witnessed in my life,” one bride from Westfield wrote. “She is so extremely talented, but most importantly so extremely passionate about her work, and her clients. When I first saw her stunning work, I was truly taken back. I witnessed her hard work first-hand — the time, effort, and passion she put into every arrangement, like a piece of art.”
Reactions like that provide a ‘wow’ factor of their own.
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]