My lightbulb moment: Florist Whitney Bromberg Hawkings on how advice…

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My lightbulb moment: Florist Whitney Bromberg Hawkings on how advice from Tom Ford inspired her to launch her own business

  • Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, 43, launched her florist company three years ago
  • She was inspired after struggling to buy elegant bouquets online
  • She revealed the challenges of expanding her flower business  

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, 43, set up flower company Flowerbx three years ago. She lives in London with her husband and three children.

I worked for designer Tom Ford for 19 years. I was hired to be his PA straight out of school, and worked my way up to become senior vice-president of communications.

Tom always said everyone needs a ten-year plan. When I turned 40 I knew I didn’t want to be seating fashion editors at fashion shows for the next decade, being bawled out by 26-year-olds because they weren’t on the front row!

At the time, I was pregnant with my third child and buying groceries from Ocado, clothes from Net-a-Porter and everything else from Amazon. Flowers were the one thing I couldn’t buy in an elegant, consistent way online.

When I sent them on behalf of Tom, I was always asking for single-stem bunches — no baby’s breath, no mixed bunches.

But bouquets of one type of flower were hard to find and expensive. I realised there could be a totally different way to buy flowers.

A traditional florist sells you an off-the-shelf bouquet or whatever they have bought from the flower market, which will have sat around for a few days. My idea was to go straight to the grower with the customer’s order. So, if you want only red lilies, you can have really fresh red lilies, without the markup of the market and florist.

So, at evenings and weekends I contacted growers and found drivers and a warehouse. On launch day — with a baby on my lap — I sent ten bouquets as a test to friends, one of whom was Graham Norton. He tweeted it, and fashion editors Instagrammed it. The single-stemmed idea made us a big hit on social media, driving business. I knew I had to leave Tom — the hardest break-up of my life.

Things haven’t been all plain sailing. We were developing our website when the firm went bankrupt, taking our money with them. However, that gave me the time to engineer the perfect flower boxes, so expansion was less painful.

My young kids muck in, too. On weekends, they help load the vans and they love it. My next decade, it turns out, will be hardest in terms of work, but the most exciting. 

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