Lesley Frascogna is a floral designer, the owner of the Flora, Mississippi-based shop Tulip Floral + Goods, a retreat founder and the multi-passionate woman entrepreneur I’m featuring in my interview series this month.
Lesley and I talked about establishing yourself as an entrepreneur at a young age, about balancing motherhood and business and about how her desire to have a more established, like-minded creative community led her to launch the Nourish retreat this year.
Read on to learn more about Lesley and her path to owning a successful business that provides her the money and lifestyle she desires.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I have always been the type of person to just figure things out on my own. I didn’t have any experience before I entered into the world of flowers at 22. I started cleaning buckets and taking orders at a local shop and, a year later, an opportunity came up to purchase a shop. I always knew I wanted my own store at some point – I just didn’t know it would be a flower shop.
At 23, I borrowed the money from my boyfriend’s mother [to finance] a portion of it and convinced the owners to finance the rest. The next thing I knew, I was a shop owner. They taught me how to run the books, how to place flower orders and what type of plants sold the best in the shop. I learned a ton on my own that first few months and the shop was thriving. I was actually good at this thing!
A couple years later, I met my husband and, a year after that, we got married and he moved us to Mississippi, where he was from. I held on to the shop for another year before I was able to sell it. I had hopes of running it from afar and returning one day, but things played out differently for us.
We still reside in Mississippi where Tulip was born in 2008 as a means to support us through my husband’s law school. We are still thriving almost 9 years later and have recently expanded into a new brick and mortar shop. So to really answer the question, I never really had much of a professional background, just an intense desire to create, succeed and be my own boss, which led me down the path of becoming a creative entrepreneur.
What drew you to entrepreneurship over a more traditional career?
I have never done well with authority, even when I was a young girl. I always knew that I could never work for anyone else.
What’s your official job title?
Floral designer, shop owner, purchaser of unique items, mother, part-time therapist, lunch maker and maid. I don’t know if I have an “official” job title, but this pretty much sums it up.
What does a day in your working life look like?
I honestly spend a lot of time in the car these days. From driving to market, to clients homes, to the shop and carpool line – yep, it’s pretty much where I live. We have a sitter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 3pm, sometime 5pm. Those are my days dedicated to off-site floral work and the shop. That can mean arranging flowers in someone’s home, meeting with clients, picking up what we need from market, running shop errands and popping in to the shop to make a mess before running out the door. Tuesday and Thursday, my older son is in school and my two-year-old goes to a program from 9am to noon. On these days, I work from home usually getting bills paid or proposals done. If I’m lucky, I can squeeze in a shower and actually dry my hair. After I pick Birdie up at noon, my day is pretty much being a mom. Then unless we have a wedding scheduled, I try not to work at all on the weekends so I can spend time with my family.
What are your greatest strengths as an entrepreneur, and how do they make you uniquely suited for your career?
I work really well under pressure, which also means that I am a procrastinator. It’s a double-edged sword I guess, but also one of my greatest strengths. In my line of work with florals and events, one must work extremely well under pressure.
In the early days of your business, what were your biggest challenges, real or self-imposed?
Managing money has always a struggle. I still struggle with this sometimes. Does anyone else wonder where the hell the money goes all the time? I swear – it’s a disappearing act. One second there is a lot of it and the next second you are keeping your fingers crossed that your receivables come in before that check clears. Every year, I have plans to bring a financial advisor in. Maybe this is the year!
The other thing that has been a huge struggle is comparing myself to others in my field. This has gotten better with age and experience, but with social media so being relevant in my field, it makes it harder.
How did you overcome those challenges to find your version of success?
For me, it really boiled down to growing up, realizing who I was and finding some real self-confidence. There are, of course, still times that I struggle with these things, but it has gotten much easier the older I have gotten.
What drives you to continue giving your time and energy to your business, even when it’s hard?
To be totally honest, money is a huge motivator for me. I like to make money and I’m just lucky I found something that I enjoy doing that can help support my family and afford us the lifestyle we like to live. Making clients happy is a bonus for me.
What does success in your business look like and feel like to you?
Drinking a full cup of coffee without having to reheat it six times – now that is success. Ha! But for real, thankfully my perception on this has changed so much over the past few years. I used to define success by how much industry recognition I received – how many magazine or blog features I could get, how many social media followers I had, how many people “liked” my post. This was SO mentally exhausting.
I was chasing things that didn’t actually matter to my business, things that mattered more to my ego. But that nowhere near defines success. If my clients are happy, if I’m making enough money, if my kids are happy and healthy, if my marriage is in a good place and if my dogs get a walk every now and then, that is success!
Let’s talk about failure. What has being an entrepreneur taught you about failure?
For me, failure is not an option in the sense that I will never give up. If I fail at something, which is inevitable as a creative entrepreneur, I will figure out another way to do it.
What advice do you have for women who are in the early stages of business and worried they’re going to fail?
Don’t be afraid of failing and don’t let it stop you. It is part of being an entrepreneur. If you fail, get back up and try again. You will learn so much along the way.
What has being an entrepreneur made possible for you?
It has allowed me to be in control, have a creative outlet and help support my family.
What’s your long-term vision for your business?
I’m really looking toward simplifying things in the upcoming year or two. I am not really sure what that means for me quite yet as I do want to continue to grow as well. I have so many moving pieces to my business right now – sometimes it just feels like too much. Maybe simplifying means eliminating some of our services. I would love to update you next year as I’m hoping to find the answers soon.
This year, you’re tackling a new challenge: retreats. Why did you decide to start hosting retreats and what can you tell us about your upcoming retreat in April?
After having two kids and running a creative business, I found it difficult to connect with other like-minded women in the same field. I wanted to create a community of creative business owners who understood the difficult dynamic of motherhood and business owner. In early 2016, I decided I was going to cultivate and host a retreat for these hardworking mamas.
Nourish is an all-inclusive restful retreat for busy “mamapreneurs” who are trying to find a work-life balance and connect with other industry mamas. The retreat is taking place this April 23rd to 26th in Watercolor, Florida. For more information you can visit www.nourishtheretreat.com
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have ever received was to remember that my work is unique to me and to remain authentic. Basically, you do you! This goes back to comparing ourselves to others. In a world with Instagram and Pinterest in the forefront of our industry, it is so important to remember this. Comparing your work to others can be paralyzing and overwhelming. I believe it is a huge reason why creative entrepreneurs give up or maybe never even get started to begin with.
What one word best describes how you work?
What is one influential quote that guides you in your business?
“It’s not life or death…it’s just flowers.” That’s me.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers or any requests you have of them?
Take time for yourself and try not to let your business control you.
Also, if you are a creative business owner and mother who needs to retreat to the beach for a few days, please join us at NOURISH this April – we still have a few seats available!
Also, shop small and local when you can. We rely on supportive communities!
Where can my readers find you and connect with you online?
You can visit both of our businesses online at www.ilovetulip.com and www.nourishtheretreat.com, and shop online on TULIP as well. You can find us on Instagram for daily inspiration and a peek into both my personal and professional world. Our handles are @tulipfloral and @nourishtheretreat. The best way to reach out to me directly is through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Lauren Kinsey and Tec Peteja