Nontobeko Caluza’s floral design journey

Floral designers, also called florists, are people who specialise in creating flower arrangements in a myriad of ways in different containers, sometimes also using dried or silk flowers, ribbons and other accessories.

Whether it is a wedding, tea party or any other event, flowers help to bring the décor to life.

For Nontobeko Caluza, head planner and floral stylist at Blooms and Roses Avenue in Midrand, becoming a florist was inspired by her own wedding.

She says, naturally, she wanted only the best décor and flowers for her wedding. However, the quotations were pricey and that is when she decided to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route to keep costs down.

“I was planning my wedding and really felt like I could do the décor and floral arrangements myself after getting hefty quotations. Of course, I did some practice arrangements before the wedding, and everything turned out amazing.”

Image by Brandon

Caluza says it was then that she decided to pursue floral design on a full-time basis. She has been in business now for four years.

“Blooms and Roses Avenue is a floral design studio specialising in weddings, events, styled photoshoots, everyday use for home and office, as well as for gifting.”

Additionally, she says they do event and wedding planning, and they offer a house brand of home fragrances and bath products.

Flower inspiration

“I am inspired by flowers. Each flower has a story of its own and this guides my design journey. Some flowers always stand out, others are there to support, and the rest add texture and colour.”

She explains that working with floral design is an incredible experience. When you think you are heading in a certain direction, the flower story will lead you into a completely different design.

However, she says that well-known South African wedding planner Zavion Kotze’s bold floral designs are an inspiration. Internationally, she is drawn to the US-based Mulberry & Moss, known for their elegant aesthetic designs.

Moreover, Caluza finds travelling and exploring new places perfect for finding new creative ideas.

Building a floral design business

Launching any business is not always easy. Not everyone will have Caluza’s advantage of using her wedding as a reference for clients looking to see her work.

“My family and friends have played a large role in supporting my business from inception. Most of my clients reach me through word of mouth and social media.”

Caluza explains that her clients are a diverse range and include ordinary people to celebrities, influencers, as well as PR companies.

Access to funding is a major challenge for Caluza. “You need to constantly put out floral designs to showcase your capabilities and this requires a lot of money.”

Furthermore, she says, while it helps to have family and friends spread the word, marketing a business is very important. Marketing helps to build brand awareness, and to identify the right target audience who will be using the business services.

Covid-19 challenges

As with many businesses, Blooms and Roses Avenue has had to deal with the challenges of running a business amid a pandemic.

Caluza says securing event bookings is challenging, whereas before the pandemic, it was harder to secure dates, as they would be so booked up.

“Due to Covid-19 and related lockdown restrictions level, many events were cancelled, and in some instances, with no new proposed dates.”

For example, she says one wedding event was postponed at least three times, and others, such as baby showers and birthday celebrations also had to be cancelled.

Event budgets vary, based on the size and type of celebration. These range from about R10,000, up to R100,000 including floral arrangements, décor and planning.

Image by Blaque Smith

As clients’ budgets shrunk, Caluza shifted focus to the gifting side of the business to stay operational. “We have seen an increase in sales for our floral bouquets and gift boxes, for example.”

Lockdown restrictions have meant that some people are not meeting each other as they used to. As a result, she says, these types of gifts are popular with clients.  

“The pandemic inspired us to diversify beyond flowers and events. We wanted something that would make us present in every home, hence our home fragrance and bath products range, inspired by some of our favourite flowers,” says Caluza.

Tips for would-be floral designers

Until four years ago, Caluza worked as a projects coster for a facilities management company. Prior to this, she worked as a trainee civil engineering technician. 

Caluza holds a National Diploma in Civil Engineering from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Her project management skills and attention to detail now come in handy, as apart from designing, she works with different suppliers and stakeholders.

“I have to ensure that all items required for events are sourced at the right rate and are of great quality.”

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Caluza offers useful tips for those wanting to follow in her footsteps:

  • If you’re starting with zero funds, go on YouTube and watch floral design tutorials. Choose your desired style and go from there. Buy flowers from your local grocery and start trying out new things.
  • When you have money, enrol for a design workshop. Here, you should learn all the basics, be able to buy the required floral design tools, and start designing hands on with an instructor.
  • Keep a good record of your finances. We started seeing an increase in revenue and profits once we had a better understanding of how to manage the business finances.
  • Don’t spend your company’s money as though it’s your own. Pay yourself a salary and be disciplined. Use profits to invest back into the business.

Read also

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Edited by Gudrun Kaiser

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.

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