Two Wallsend entrepreneurs have swapped looming redundancy into a blooming new business after spotting a gap in the market for a floral designer serving the commercial and domestic market for artificial flowers.
Steven Ward, 29, and partner Sean Baker, 31, both from Wallsend, recognised the growing demand for artificial flowers in 2020 when a boom in orders for indoor plants, flowers and greenery led to an explosion in online plant delivery and subscription businesses during lockdown.
However, the relatively short shelf-life of real foliage and flowers made it an unachievable cost for many with artificial plants proving to be the ideal low maintenance alternative. Former gardener Steven had witnessed how the quality and variety of artificial flowers had vastly improved in recent years and decided to put his creative side to use creating artificial arrangements to sell locally.
Steven Ward, co-founder of Hauticulture comments: “It’s been a whirlwind 12 months. When I first set up the business, I struggled to get start-up finance as no one believed that there was any future in artificial flower arranging. I am now living proof that with hard work, quality products and wonderful customers there is very much a business for artificial flowers, so much so that we struggle to keep up with demand!”
Steven and Sean first came up with idea for Hauticulture facing redundancy during the first lockdown in 2020. After taking some time to consider their options, Steven used what little savings they had, as well as family investment, to purchase a selection of artificial flowers to create and sell his own arrangements for home decoration.
Steven said: “Initially, we were creating simple but creative arrangements to suit the home environment. The reaction from customers was fantastic and we used the profits to reinvest back into the business, buying more stock and widening the product range to include seasonal options. An anticipated three month’s worth of wreaths for Christmas sold out in less than one hour! It was definitely a moment where I realised there was a genuine opportunity to grow the business quite substantially.”
After selling products at a Christmas market held at Royal Quays Shopping Centre, Steven and Sean decided the centre would be the perfect place to launch a retail outlet and quickly set about agreeing terms for a lease on a 1300 sqft unit.
Steven added: “Having the unit really allowed us to expand operations. As well as creating arrangements to sell to customers, the business has expanded into event decoration and we have 36 weddings now booked in the coming months. We even have a boutique line in soap flower arrangements which are not only unique but have been very popular with customers looking for a different type of floral style gift.
“As we can create instagram-friendly flower walls as well as bespoke arrangements for corporate events that really last, we are also hoping to do event hire eventually too. To go from creating small arrangements to styling weddings and events in less than 12 months is a real achievement and I’m just so excited to see where the business will lead.”
Steven and Sean have worked with the North Tyneside Business Factory to set up and launch Hauticulture in the summer of 2020. The Business Factory is the business support programme from North Tyneside Council which is supported by the ERDF and delivered by TEDCO Business Support. Describing the support offered by the business advisors at the Business Factory as “invaluable”, Steven and Sean have been able to rely on the guidance offered by Paul Brown, his business advisor at every step of his start-up journey.
Paul Brown, business advisor at TEDCO and the Business Factory comments: “It wasn’t easy for Steven and Sean when they first began trading as start-up capital was hard to come by given the untested nature of the business. However, with my help and support and his unrelenting commitment to the hard work and demands of a new business, he has made Hauticulture a real success. In a short time he has not only launched the business and developed a loyal customer base, he has a new retail unit, new revenue streams through events and corporate clients and a new line in gift products. It is fantastic to see and I look forward to working more with Steven and Sean in the future as the business goes from strength to strength.”