Girlbosses of Great Britain : Stopping to smell the roses with Ali Langlay-Smith

Free flowing and artistic is the vibe that you can expect when you buy flowers from Sissinghurst Flowers, a brand created by the creative genius Ali Langley-Smith. [...]

Free flowing and artistic is the vibe that you can expect when you buy flowers from Sissinghurst Flowers, a brand created by the creative genius Ali Langley-Smith.

Ali remincises about picking flowers when she was a kid and it’s those early memories that lead her to the path she is on today. Here, we spent some time with her to find out more…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching Sissinghurst Flowers.

Sissinghurst Flowers has gradually evolved over many years.  As a child I loved picking flowers from the garden and arranging them and making rose petal perfume – I even used to dig up wild ferns and put them in pots in my bedroom. Ferns are so very now, I obviously was before my time 😊.  I studied interior design and the two professions are very similar in many ways.  When my children were at school, I found myself organizing the floral aspects to school functions and events.  The events gradually were getting bigger and more schools were coming to me for advice, so I decided that it would be good to do professional qualifications. From there the business started growing, doing the odd wedding, funeral or bouquet, until now where we have been very busy doing lots of events and also many teaching courses throughout the year which are very popular.

You have a really distinct style, how did you hone in on this and what sets you apart from other florists?

I really like my flowers to look natural together.  I love combining textures, shapes and colours and a feeling of whatever I am creating to be completely full and overflowing.  I do use greenery of course depending on what the client would like, but generally not very much as I really like the flowers to stand out.  Many florists put lots of greenery in their designs so that they don’t have to use too many flowers and cut costs.

How have you pivoted during Covid19?

I have found it almost impossible to source flowers as the wholesalers have remained shut.  New Covent Garden Flower Market has only re-opened today (15 June).  We have been shielding our daughter during this time and I haven’t felt safe – even if I could have bought some flowers to do deliveries, and obviously events are not happening.  The situation is now opening up a bit, so I am sure we will start doing socially distanced deliveries very soon.  We have been thinking about how to do our courses, as in my studio I have a maximum of 8 students and it really isn’t large enough with the two metre socially distancing rule, so we will probably have far fewer people, or we will send out the “ingredients” for the course and then have a zoom meeting which would mean a lot more people could attend safely.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

As a family we have done a lot of travelling around the world, but I have always been absolutely fascinated by ancient Egypt and have never been there.  I would love to travel down the Nile in a felluca visiting all the amazing archaeological sites.

What do you do when you lack creativitiy?

We have an amazing cockapoo dog called Lily and we do live in a beautiful part of the British Isles, so if I take her out for a long walk, the beauty of nature and her wonderful character will generally restore my thoughts.

What does self care mean to you?

Looking after yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally is so important for everyone, particularly at the moment during this pandemic.  It is so good to go out into the fresh air – regardless of the weather and do some exercise, bike ride, walk in the beautiful countryside or a picnic on the beach.  I do love a yoga class – which sadly hasn’t happened apart from on-line – a face mask, lovely bath and scented candles all help along with lots of talking to friends and family.

Looking back over your career, which moment stands out as a highlight?

I don’t have any particular moment that stands out, but every time I deliver bridal flowers and the bride is speechless and cries with joy is a wonderful moment.  Also, when I have created sympathy flowers and the client sends a note or phones to say thank you they were wonderful, it is all worth the effort.

For any aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to launch a brand in your niche, what advice would you offer them in order to build a successful and profitable business?

The floral industry is very hard work physically, so you must be fit – there is so much lifting, carrying and moving heavy buckets full of water and flowers as well as all the mechanics of how you make everything.  You also need to be able to think outside the box as things do go wrong and you have to be able to fix the situation before the event.  It is difficult to run a floristry business by yourself, so if you can find a helpful, “can-do” assistant (which I did), that will really help.

How much does social media play a role in your company?

Social media is a hugely important part of the business as it enables people to see exactly what we are doing day to day.  Whatever medium you choose, people will find and follow you.

Outside of work, what do you do for fun?

I love seeing family and friends, (my nephew has just had a baby boy and I can’t wait to meet him), taking our dog Lily for a walk, playing tennis, and going for bicycle rides.  During the lockdown we have become obsessed with playing croquet on the lawn!

How has Covid19 affected your day to day business?

It has completely changed the entire business as there are currently no big weddings, parties or events and I can’t run courses.  People are still booking online for courses later in the year, although we will have to see how things look nearer the time.  We will also need to wait and see how many people are allowed to be together for weddings and events for things to start moving towards the normal we are used to.

Where can people find out more….

We can always be found at www.sissinghurstflowers.co.uk

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Laura Bartlett
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30/10/2020
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