From one girl boss to another meet Nik Southern, founder of Grace & Thorn – London’s go-to florist for contemporary and naturalistic bouquets that combine flowers with wild foliage for a totally unique bunch. On the 7th December, Social Pantry have teamed up with Grace & Thorn for a super fun terrarium bauble making workshop – I wanted to catch up with Nik ahead of the event to hear all about her #greenupyourgaff campaign, lessons learnt and female inspiration. Read on to find find out more…
Grace & Thorn were at the start of the jungle revolution, what was the inspiration behind the #greenupyourgaff concept?
When I started out, house plants had most definitely taken a back seat. I really wanted to bring this back and to encourage people to think about how to fill their homes with plants, especially when we’re all so limited on outdoor space. I find having plants in the home so soothing, they really breathe life into any space. I’m from London and gaff is a word I frequently use so when I was thinking of a hashtag it seemed perfect! It’s been used over 6.5K times on Instagram now! Plants are an inexpensive way to style your home, with rented properties we are so prohibited on what we can do with them, but with plants they can go with you when you move on and the landlord doesn’t need to approve!
What pushed you to take the leap from IT recruitment to floristry?
I had worked in IT recruitment for 13 years before deciding to completely change tracks. I had always toyed with different business ideas and never really could decide what to pursue. After taken a Myers Briggs psychometric test, the career choices which came up included a florist… I was like ooohhh yes as I had always loved gardening but has never tried my hand at arranging flowers just tending to them! After day one of the course that was it I was hooked! I was 35… it’s NEVER TOO LATE. It’s my passion.
In the first year Grace & Thorn shot out of the unknown to be one of the most in demand florist in London. How did you build the company profile in such a short period?
To begin with, I worked out of my sitting room, touting my bouquets on FB to my friends, a lot of them happened to work in the fashion industry and started giving me work for their brands and shops. This led to being asked to design the 6 windows of LK Bennett for Chelsea in Bloom which won the People’s award. There was quite a bit of press and traction that came off the back of that which really helped to get the brand and style out there. Social media was also a massive help. At the time I started using it, florists weren’t really using Instagram to showcase their work and I recognised that it could be a great platform to show off a more renegade floristry style as the audience would be more receptive to it.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
Having total creative control and being able to do what I want in terms of pushing the boundaries of floristry. In particular, using foliage and flowers to create layers of colour & texture where foliage had never been celebrated in this way.
From one girl boss to another, what advice would you give you other women wanting to start their own business?
The three G’s….. Grace, Grit and Gumption! Be prepared for how much how hard work it is. It will become your total life so make sure you build a strong support team around you that understands you and the business. Stay unique, make sure what you do you well.
What is your favourite part of working for yourself?
I only answer to myself! Where there are struggles at times, nothing beats being your own boss.
How do you balance work/home life?
I always make sure have 1 day at the weekend of doing NOTHING, just walk the dogs, watch Netflix and eat great food. Other than that there is no balance!
Five years down the line, what is the biggest lesson you have learnt?
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that you can’t know everything, there’s always stuff to learn and that you won’t know – be prepared to have to figure a lot of it out yourself!
What’s next for Grace & Thorn?
We’ve recently turned our Brick Lane shop into ‘Grace & Thorn Life’. I’ve always loved homeware and this is definitely an extension of the Grace & Thorn style into every area of your home filled with beautiful things as well as stunning plants and flowers.
Talk us through your day in food: do you have time for breakfast in the morning?
What is your favourite meal? The most I have time for in the morning is a banana, then usually an early lunch of lentils or chickpea salads. Being half-Italian there’s never a day I don’t eat pasta!
Where are your favourite places to eat out?
Campania, Luca or Bombetta – all Italian.
If we came over for dinner, what sort of food would you serve?
I am most definitely a one pot wonder – chillis, ragu or casseroles. I love anything that’s quick to prepare but cooks for a long time.
Are there any specific ingredients/foods you couldn’t live without?
Chopped tomatoes, pasta, garlic, olive oil, porcini mushrooms, rosemary, bananas.
A woman of inspiration to you?
Helen Mirren – she’s a strong, classy woman with an amazing work ethic. Always full of honesty, integrity and strength.