Flower Café: helping you unleash your inner florist
Megan5 Oct, 2022
As I stepped through the doors of the Flower Café, I felt like Lucy stepping into the wardrobe that transported her to Narnia. The bustle of the busy Woodstock street faded as the door closed behind me, with the quiet of the café magnifying the sense of wonder I felt.
Chandeliers and fairy lights cast a soft glow over event furniture that’s been arranged into various seating areas. Artificial grass covered the floor, while white flowers hung above my head. The theme of the decor changed as I moved from the initial greeting area into the space where the workshops are held. Here, the space was furnished with prop sunflowers and yellow Chinese lanterns, giving it a warm feel.
The decor, I’m told, changes all the time. “We want people to feel as though they’re discovering something new each time they come in,” says Veronica ‘Vee’ Yankelowitz, the brain behind the Flower Café. “We also use the decor for events, so the café is decorated with whatever is not in use that month.”
I sat down with Vee to learn more about their business journey, and how they managed to grow their business at a time when everything was shutting down.
Coming up roses
The Flower Café was created by the Petals Group – a florist turned events company established by Antoinette ‘Flower’ Walker. In 1967, Flower started selling Proteas to ships that passed through Cape Town Harbour.
Over the years, the small florist shop, which had its roots on the Cape Town Foreshore, blossomed into a large-scale events company that employs 20 people. “We would oversee the look and feel of an event,” explains Vee. “We put together the decor and the flowers.”
Along with doing the decor for local events, the Petals Group coordinated events around the world, including Zambia, Zurich and Mauritius. “We would pack everything – our decor, staging, the entertainers – everything would go onto one plane. We were so incredibly fortunate to be able to do the work we were doing,” says Vee. “And then COVID happened, and our world stopped.”
Grow through what you go through
As in-person events shut down across the country, the Petals Group found themselves without their primary source of income. “There was no money coming into the business,” says Vee. “There was no money to pay anyone.”
Like flowers growing through cement paving, the Petals Group was forced to bloom through the harsh conditions they found themselves in. “We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we knew we had to survive,” Vee explains. “Part of our responsibility was to ensure that our 20 staff had a roof over their heads, food on the table, and their kids could continue going to school.”
The events company tried everything to earn an income – everything from making masks to selling hand sanitiser – but none of it took off. “We couldn’t even sell flowers,” says Vee. “People wouldn’t order from us as they were concerned about contracting COVID.”
But Vee and the team were determined to succeed. They decided to use what they had on hand to create a space that would become a refuge for all those who walked through their doors. “We didn’t think this would work,” says Vee, “but we had the space, we had the people, we had the knowledge of flowers and how to make things beautiful.” On 6 August 2020, they opened the Flower Café.
In the two years since they opened, more than 12 000 people have walked through the Flower Cafe’s doors. Along with hosting a media event, the team relied on social media marketing and word of mouth to attract people to the space.
They also hired a marketing specialist to guide their social media strategy. “We were very conscious of being authentic,” says Vee. “It was a time when people were sad, so we had to be conscious of that.” They focused on highlighting the transformative experience of their workshops while ensuring potential guests understood they would feel safe in their space.
Bloom where you are planted
The Flower Cafe now hosts three workshops daily during the week and one on Saturdays. These workshops run for two hours, during which guests can unleash their inner florist and put together their own Tassie Massie.
“We’re not trying to be a florist school,” says Vee. “The aim isn’t for guests to create something perfect, but to spend two hours pressing pause on their lives. They’ll leave here with something that looks professional, but the lesson isn’t in the doing. It’s about stepping away from your busy life and grounding yourself in the experience of working with flowers. I find that creativity opens a different side of your brain, and people often leave here with a new perspective on life.”
It’s this transformative experience that’s led to the popularity of the Flower Café. Even with the various levels of lockdown, the social distancing rules, and the mask mandates, people still felt secure enough to experience the workshops at the café. “It made me realise that people were craving something they weren’t getting. From a business perspective, that’s your golden thread – find what people need and give it to them. It sounds simpler than it is, but at the end of the day, that’s the baseline for getting people through your doors.”
Everyone is welcome at the Flower Café, whether you’re a group of friends, family or even a company looking to do some team-building. “We’ve become a real hub for teams who want to reconnect in a non-cerebral way,” explains Vee. “We once hosted a group of colleagues who had forgotten how to connect with each other because they’d been working from home since the start of the pandemic. Once they returned to the office, they just didn’t know how to speak to each other. Coming here helped them push the reset button, and they were all the better for it.”
Along with the daily workshops, Flower Café offers a monthly masterclass hosted by a different expert every month. “It’s a class for beginners, but it’s run by someone who is a master in their field. The idea is to allow people to experience something they usually would never be able to. This way, we’re also helping entrepreneurs build and showcase their businesses.
With the addition of Flower Café to the Petals Group’s business, Vee needed a new way to accept payments for the business. “I needed a quick and easy for people to pay for their workshop upfront,” she explains. Vee discovered that customers were more likely to attend the workshops if they had paid beforehand. Having already used SnapScan in her personal capacity, it was the first thing that came to mind when Vee was deciding on a payment method.
After booking their workshops, customers get sent a SnapLink, which they can click to pay. “I love that the payment is instant, and I get to see the POP as soon as they’ve paid. It’s such a great alternative to cards, especially now with loadshedding. Sometimes our card machines are down, but we’re still able to receive payments via SnapScan. It’s really made our lives easier. I’ve never had an issue with it; even signing up was super quick.”
With customers paying for their workshop upfront, it leaves them to enjoy the workshop without worrying about sorting out the payment. “The only thing they pay for here is if they decide to have refreshments.”
For those who don’t want to attend a workshop, the doors to Flower Café are still open. Whether you need a new place to work for the day or just want a place where you can read in solitude, Vee and her team are always there to welcome you. “We have art clubs and crocheting clubs that come here to gather in peace. I never want anyone to feel as though they can’t come here just because they don’t want to or can’t do a workshop.”
Ready to stop and smell the roses? Book a workshop at Flower Café here or pop by to work for the day. There is always a range of treats on hand, as well as a coffee station, so your refreshments for the day will be sorted. For now, follow them on Instagram to see what they are going to do next.
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