Pop quiz! What do meteorology, bank loans, and wedding planning all have in common? Truth be told not that much, except that these were three career paths Alaina Olive experimented with before finding what she truly loved—floral design.
After studying meteorology in college, Alaina graduated in 2008 and was met with a tough job market and lack of opportunities in her field of study. So, she took on two jobs: working for a wedding planner and at a bank loan-service center. It was while working in the wedding industry that Alaina discovered her love of floral design, which just goes to show that taking risks and dabbling in different opportunities can lead you to your passion! And when the chance to purchase a floral shop arose a few years later, she took the leap and ventured out on her own. Since opening Accents Floral Design in May 2013, Alaina has refined her design style and has learned a great deal about running her own business.
We’re thrilled to share Alaina’s story with you today. Business owner or not, we have a feeling many of you can relate to Alaina’s experience of searching for the right career path post-college. Read on to learn more about Alaina’s career, her business, and what she’s learned along the way. Alaina is definitely proof that “no matter the job you still need to do your best—you never know where it might lead you!”
Full Name: Alaina Olive
Current Title/Company: Owner & Designer at Accents Floral Design
Educational Background: Bachelor of Science degree from Western Illinois University
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
My first job after I graduated was working at a loan-servicing center for a bank. It was not my cup of tea but I met some great, caring ladies and learned that no matter the job you still need to do your best—you never know where it might lead you. Around this time I also started working for a wedding planner, which I loved! I was stuffing envelopes, hauling gifts around, and frantically calling vendors when something was wrong, and I could not get enough of it. This was also when I fell in love with flowers, and when I learned that it is possible to have a creative job. Since that moment, I haven’t looked back.
While working at the bank, you also worked part-time for a wedding planner. What did you do in this role?
I would attend meetings with brides, meet at venues, call vendors, put together invites, favors, and programs, and assist at the rehearsal and on the wedding day. If my boss booked two weddings on the same day, I would work one and she would work the other. This was the first time I actually enjoyed going to work and I am very thankful for the opportunity.
You are currently the owner and designer at Accents Floral Design. How has your business evolved since you first bought it in May 2013? What are your job responsibilities as owner and designer?
Since last May I’ve tried to put my own little twists on arrangements, offer new products in the shop (Stella and Dot Jewelry & Chicago Candle Co.—yummy smelling wine candles are my favorites), and slowly try to define my brand style. Every day is a work in progress, so I don’t try to rush too many new things at once. I know things will work themselves out with time. Timing, waiting, and patience play a big role. I tell myself to just have faith and the crazy, unpredictable timing will eventually leave me with clarity and a sense that it really will be okay!
From securing funding to writing a business plan, managing employees, and operating the day-to-day aspects of the shop, running a business takes time and commitment. How did you learn the ins and outs of owning and operating a small business?
I think you learn best when you just go do it and try it all out, and that’s what I did. I bought Accents Floral Design from a woman who had owned the shop for 30 years, so I learned a lot (and that’s an understatement) from her. I worked with her for a few months before and after I bought the shop. She’s an amazing designer who taught me so much! I’ll be forever thankful for her. But really, every day is still a learning process for me. Some days I get it right and others not so much, but I try to find joy in each moment.
When did you develop a passion for floral design? Was it something you always wanted to pursue?
It was not something I thought I’d grow up to do. For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to be a meteorologist, which is also what I studied in college. But when I tried it out, something was missing. That’s when I knew I had to go after what really moved me. While working in wedding planning I discovered a love for flowers and floral design. I do think that love was always hiding in the back somewhere, but it took time to find the courage to pursue it as a career.
How did you initially market Accents to draw people into the shop?
Social media. I love Instagram! I also had a new website designed and just recently got a spot on The Knot.com.
What do you see in the future for Accents? How do you hope to grow the business?
Oh the future—something I could dwell on all day. I don’t really like to plan everything out; if it’s meant to happen it will happen in its own time. I just have to keep working hard and praying even harder! I do, however, set short-term goals because we always have to keep moving forward and bettering ourselves. I would love to work towards expanding my floral business, hosting workshops, and inspiring others to know they are enough and can achieve their goals.
I used to play things on the safe side, only getting my toes wet. Looking back now, I wish I would have just pushed myself in! A lot of my best learning and growing happened when I took that leap of faith not knowing what would happen.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love being able to design an arrangement that’s carefree and in the moment. I put my heart into my pieces, so when I give an arrangement to someone and they see and appreciate what I see, it’s the best!
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
At first my challenges were learning how to create floral arrangements that I knew nothing about. But also, managing the business side as well was difficult. I didn’t go to design or business school, so it was really a day-by-day learning process. At times it was tough, but I found that everything came pretty quickly once I got the hang of it.
By far the biggest challenge has been defining my design style. Attending two flower workshops (Flower Wild Workshop hosted by Kate Holt & Team Flower Workshop hosted by Kelly Perry—both beyond amazing) this past year was an eye-opening experience. I realized that to find real joy in whatever you are doing you have to be yourself 100%, especially if you have a creative job. That can be a pretty tall order when you are first starting out, but now I know that it’s very important. It’s easy to lose yourself, so staying true to what you believe in will help you define your brand and overall will make life so much sweeter!
What advice can you give women who want to open their own business?
Be ready to work your little booty off because it’s going to be a lot of work, but it will be so worth it! Try to find balance between being too sensitive and too harsh because everyone has an opinion—whether good or bad—and you are going to hear about it.
Make a pro/con list to find the real reasons you want to own a business and keep going back to it to make revisions. Use the list as a reference point when you make decisions, because you don’t want to get yourself into something too deep if it’s not the right fit. But if it is right—go for it! I didn’t realize this at first because when you are in this process of opening your own business you can get lost in the dream of it all. Just know that not every day is going to be that perfect dream. Some days are not easy and that’s OK. You just have to stay strong and know you can get through anything.
What is a typical workday like for you?
A typical work day involves a mix of answering phone calls/emails, taking orders, designing arrangements, ordering flowers/supplies, cleaning, organizing, taking pictures for social media, and handling the business side of Accents. It varies each day, and I can definitely say I haven’t been bored for one minute!
Best moment of your career so far?
This moment is pretty great! The flower workshops have been great as well.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Five years ago I’d tell myself to take more chances, travel more, ask for what I want, and be OK with hearing no. Not everything you try for is going to be a “yes” and that’s OK! Take what you’ve learned, apply it, and move on to something else, or keep trying if it’s something you really want. I used to play things on the safe side, only getting my toes wet. Looking back now, I wish I would have just pushed myself in! A lot of my best learning and growing happened when I took that leap of faith not knowing what would happen.
Alaina Olive is The Everygirl…
Morning or night?
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Work hard for what you want and know that life isn’t all about the sparkly things—unspoken advice from my parents, which is the best kind because it’s real. Their actions have been my greatest advice.
Sundays are for relaxing. They are usually my only day off so I’ll either be going to church, taking a barre class, or going for a run. I love to sit on my porch swing with a magazine and coffee, nap, or go for brunch—anything to unwind and relax.
I wish I knew how to ________.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Ariella Chezar. She designs crazy gorgeous floral pieces, has a flower farm, and hosts an amazing workshop! Can we do brunch?! Any chance to eat waffles after 11 a.m. is a plus!