Business is blooming for Carly Cylinder. The Insta-famous “Flower Chef” turned her part-time passion for arranging flowers into a thriving brand. As the owner and creative director of Flour LA, Carly and her team create dramatic, beautiful arrangements and floral installations for galas, weddings, and special events. She also boasts an impressive client roster chock-full of celebrities and major companies like Disney, Condé Nast, and Samsung, and the Super Bowl (NBD). In between it all, she’s managed to publish a book on flower arranging, writes and hosts The Flower Kitchen web series, and teaches pop-up classes.
We asked Carly for her advice on how to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig —and keeping the creative juices flowing while you do it. Read on to learn her entrepreneurial—and actionable!—tips and tricks.
Take your dream seriously.
When you’re trying to pursue a side hustle, treat it like a career. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Carly says that she considered Flour LA as “a business from day one, although it took four years to make a living from it. I was on unemployment for some of that time and also had other jobs, like being a receptionist.”
Seize the day – even if you’re scared.
Carly’s first big gig was arranged by word of mouth when her father mentioned to someone she was a floral designer. “I don’t even think my website was up at that point,” she recalls. “I was a nervous wreck! It was for a wealthy family’s Bastille Day party – I did 10 arrangements in all different styles.” Even though the timing wasn’t perfect, she jumped at the opportunity and it ended up launching her career.
Be OK with imperfection.
Entrepreneurs have to juggle a lot of responsibilities, and being a perfectionist can lead to disappointment and frustration.”I’m a ‘good enough’ type person for nearly everything and it has allowed me to work on multiple projects and not obsess,” says Carly.
Change is inevitable – and good!
“Every new level of success brings new challenges. I’ve changed my business model nearly every year,” says Carly. “These days, I have freelancers who are very capable and do the actual arranging. I work with my clients and do the buying. I’m more of a business person than designer at this point.”
Know your strengths.
“I enjoy arranging, but I have a short attention span,” Carly admits. “I like to make one arrangement and move on.” So she delegates multiples of the same arrangement to her designers, while she focuses on projects she loves, like large-scale installations – think flower walls and window displays. “I enjoy it more now than when I started out!”
Keep moving to stay creative.
Carly finds that working every day is the best way to keep the creative juices flowing. “I have so many projects and ideas and it’s hard to keep up,” she says, “but creativity begets creativity.”
Enjoy the triumphs.
Nearly a decade after that Bastille Day party, Carly now works with big brands on major events, including the 2014 Super Bowl. “That was a big moment – one of those times when you think, I can’t believe I get to do this!” she says. “I designed flowers for Honeywell, a Super Bowl sponsor. It was a three-day event and we had to make all of the flowers four days before.”
Get support where you can.
“A lot of it is still on me because if a concept is my idea, then really only I know what to do,” says Carly. “But I recently hired a studio manager who has made a world of difference. I try to outsource things too. I found a great virtual assistant from the Philippines who does research for me.”
Learn more every day.
Carly keeps her skills sharp by not being afraid to try new things – she considers “trial and error” a virtue. She’ll also solicit advice from florist friends, her freelance team, and, of course, Google. And don’t forget the books: “When I first started out, blogs were new and Pinterest didn’t exist, so I read a lot of books. That’s why I wrote my book, The Flower Chef, because it’s the book I needed when I was starting out.”