Clare Davies has always been an arts and crafts guru. After an Art foundation course, a degree in Textiles Design and 11 years of passing on her passion as a teacher, there’s not much this modern-day William Morris doesn’t know about her craft. But it wasn’t until her wedding day that her passion turned into a truly remarkable and unique business idea…
In the run-up to her big day back in 2016, Clare was browsing flowers. She said: “I love flowers and I had lots of ideas how I wanted to incorporate them into our special day.”
But as the big day approached and Clare found more and more beautiful posies, a problem arose in her mind: she couldn’t stand the thought of seeing them wither after the wedding.
“I really wanted to hold on to as many memories as I could from the day, so I decided I wanted my flowers to last too. I started researching and discovered paper flowers. I fell in love with the process and did all the flowers for my wedding including buttonholes, table decorations and chair ends.”
Two years later, Clare hasn’t stopped. She now runs the hugely successful – and hugely unique – paper flower business Petal and Bird. Based in Chichester, it offers “unique handcrafted bespoke paper flowers for lasting memories for special occasions”.
It’s an offering that was hugely popular right from the start. Even before she took the plunge and started her business, her colleagues were making orders. “Before I left my teaching job, I had a few colleagues actually ask for flowers for birthdays and anniversaries so as soon as I advertised my business, people were interested. I began Petal and Bird through word-ofmouth and I’m developing contacts that way.”
Now, not long after Bird and Petal’s oneyear anniversary, Clare says personal contacts and word-of-mouth are still very important for promoting her business: “I try and make sure that if I’m exhibiting at a wedding fair, I always make good use of the marketing opportunity there. I try and acquire lots of contacts and – and hopefully orders – to cover the cost of exhibiting at the fair.”
Clare also says the wider self-employed community has been very important for building and developing her business: “There are so many people who are willing to help make connections and share advice, which I think is amazing.”
It’s not just personal connections, though. Like any businessperson, Clare has other ways of making Petal and Bird bloom. She thinks deeply about her marketing and how she wants her business to appear. She believes the key is: “Being genuine and honest about who you are.”
She combines her honest, down-to-earth marketing with an astute assessment of her customers and what exactly they are looking for: “My clients are often looking for something unique for their wedding day and want something that’s going to last.
“They tend to be interested in handmade items, and have an appreciation for craft. The alternative bride and groom – that’s my ideal client.”
Even paper flowers, though, have to move with the times, so as well as more traditional marketing, Clare also has a strong social media presence: “Instagram is very visual and that works really well for my flowers. At first, I thought showing actual final pieces – like my bouquets – would be best for it. But actually, people really like seeing what’s going on behind the scenes: the work in progress. I take pictures throughout the production process, and it’s often actually things like pictures of my messy desk set-up that get the most engagement.”
Authenticity and close customer involvement, then, are key parts of Clare’s business – from social media and marketing right down to the actual customer journey, when someone has engaged her for their wedding.
“When a client’s interested in my work, the first thing I do is share photographs of pieces that might be similar to what they’re after. And then I invite them over to my studio so they can actually see the product.
“I think it’s really important they get to see the quality and how good paper flowers can look. I feel that what I’m doing is producing a beautiful piece of artwork for someone, so educating them about it and its lasting quality compared to real flowers – that’s important for me.”
Just from hearing her speak, no-one can doubt that Clare Davies loves her craft. But what about freelancing in general – what about the lifestyle? “I think I’ve adapted to being a freelancer quite well. Teaching was very paperwork- heavy, with lots of protocols to follow. So now that side of freelancing isn’t a shock to me. I even quite like the nitty-gritty.”
Ultimately, though, the most important thing for Clare is her craft and helping other people preserve their special moments – just like her own wedding: “I love what I do, and the fact that I am making money out of it is fantastic.
“Seeing the bride’s face when she receives her flowers – that’s just awesome. It’s an amazing feeling.”