Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Cioni.
Sarah, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Every since I was 5 years old, I dreamed of being a shopkeeper. I used to craft small trinkets of this and that and persuade my Mom to peddle them door to door to our neighbors. I would then collect my hard-earned (lol) nickels and dimes and stow them safely in my plastic, fisher price cash register. As a 5-year-old, I had never heard of the word entrepreneur, but I knew what it was like to create a product, hire an employee and make a profit and I was sold.
As a teen, I applied for a job with Chicago’s infamous Marshall Field and Co, where I was hired to work in the women’s wig department. Yes, at 17 I sold wigs. Well, I honestly don’t remember if I ever sold a single one, but it was retail and I needed to start somewhere!
Fast forward to Sept. 15, 2001, four short days after Sept. 11, and I am about to open my first retail shop. A lifelong dream. Mind you, I opened it during one of the scariest times of US history. But that’s how things went, as the ink was already dry on my newly signed lease and I had three years to make it work. Oh, and I had just finished a class on how to write a business plan, gave the plan to my local banker to read, and when I stopped by to ask her how she felt about it, she told me she threw it away. Ah well.
One day, as I was working in my beautiful new shop, complete with French perfumes, fragrant candles, soaps, jewelry and a bunch of tulips or two, a friend stopped by to ask if I could put together a few flowers for her son’s wedding. I knew a little bit about flowers, a tiny little bit as I had learned how to put together a corsage in high school and took a college coarse on Ikebana – the art of Japanese flower arranging, so I said yes. I can do that!
Well, it was the 2nd wedding that changed my life because three weeks later the groom passed away and I was asked to design flowers for his funeral. Shortly after that, my bride gave birth to a baby, and then her mother died. Flowers, flowers, flowers. What I learned from a single customer is that being a florist is not just about designing pretty flowers in a vase, but celebrating the circle of life.
Fast forward 18 years, 900 weddings, the successful sale of my first shop and a move to LA, where I have had the most incredible opportunities ever imaginable. I have worked floral freelance jobs for the Emmy’s, Grammy’s, Academy Awards, influencer parties, and for clients from the Dalai Lama to Kim Kardashian. I have built floral walls like there’s no tomorrow. Which is a good thing, because tomorrow there will be a completely different floral trend. But once again, I am an entrepreneur and owner of my newest company Belle Terre Floral, based in Toluca Lake, CA.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been the bumpiest road imaginable, at one time it was an earthquake. But I am soooo thankful for those bumps because those are what caused me to work smarter and evolve. There was a time years ago when I thought I had lost it all. I couldn’t figure out how to make a profit and I was running low on funds. I literally tried to walk away from my dream and felt like a failure. One day as I was talking, ok, probably crying to a friend about it and I told him that being a shopkeeper was all I had ever dreamed of. He then looked me straight in the eye and said: “dream it again.”
That permission, to dream my dream again, changed everything.
What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I specialize in being kind. I specialize in being responsive and having excellent customer service. My floral designs aren’t too bad either.
I had a husband once that told me that I was the best floral designer in the world. I didn’t believe him. But then, I started to think about what he meant by that, as there will always be a better designer than me, but will there be a kinder one, or more responsive one, or one who can turn around a floral wedding proposal faster than me? So, I set out to be the best at what I could be best at, and it worked.
What advice would you give to someone at the start of her career?
Work for someone in your industry. You will fast track your success this way. There is nothing more valuable than hands-on experience. in the beginning, if you have to work for free, do it!
- Address: 10153 1/2 Riverside Drive #648
Toluca Lake, CA 91602
- Website: www.belleterrefloral.com
- Phone: 818-445-0998
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/belleterrefloral
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/belleterrefloral
Swanky Fine Art Weddings, Lauren Miles Photo