Zoreslava Matskiv, originally from Ukraine, has been living in Chicago for 22 years. There she created a successful floristry business with unique patented designs. Zoreslava told our magazine about her path and various aspects of her business.
When and why you decided to become a florist and open a flower boutique?
I started my business in 2016. At that time, I opened a store with my sister, but now she is on maternity leave and basically I do everything on my own. Why did I choose flowers? Well, firstly, this niche in Chicago was not well developed. At that time, there were no shops where one could order beautiful bouquets in the European format, even approximately similar as it was already in Ukraine and Europe. I remember then there were no flowers in boxes at all, and we were one of the first to start making such arrangements. And secondly, before that I worked in the wedding industry and there I intersected with floristry. We had a girl who worked with me and she often said that flowers obey me. She repeatedly told me to try myself in this industry. Although at that moment I still did not believe in myself, and did not understand what she meant. But now I know for sure that the flowers obey me and I remember her words that she told me in 2015-16.
Why did you choose this line of work?
Continuing the previous question, I can safely say that at one time I just fell in love with flowers. I realized that flowers can express everything, emphasize any event, you can express any emotion – love, sympathy, and respect. When bouquets are ordered from me, I always ask about the character of a person and I can choose flowers so that they will symbolize this particular person. I do it very well. I love what I do. Not one of my mornings begins with the words “Oh gosh, I have to go to work”, but rather I rush to work to create something new and unique. It is unlikely that I can describe in words what I feel when working with flowers. Perhaps it was not only I who chose them, but they also chose me.
Did you study to be a florist or did you choose a profession by the call of your heart?
I chose it by the call of my heart. When we were little, we grew up in a village near Kolomyia, our grandmother planted a lot of roses and different flowers. Our father also has a great love for flowers. He worked in the Zelenstroy (enterprise for the improvement and landscaping of the city/town/village, – Ed.) and studied at the Faculty of Agriculture. So that’s how it happened in our family, my grandmother instilled a love for flowers in dad, and dad instilled this love in my sister and me. Since childhood, we grew among this beauty created by nature. I still remember the smell of yellow roses from my childhood, they smelled like honey, which is, probably, why my favorite flower is a yellow rose.
Bouquets and flower arrangements live only a few days. Is this the charm of floristry? Or is it more of a disadvantage?
Yes, flower arrangements do not last long, from three to seven days, sometimes longer and sometimes less, but it all depends on care. Apparently, for the client, this is a minus, because many people would like all the arrangements to live for a long time. But unfortunately, a cut flower will not last or grow like a flower pot in an apartment. But flower arrangements give an incredible atmosphere, a certain mood, unlike the vase to which you are already used and which you have had for many years. The charm of the arrangements is in their uniqueness and creation of atmosphere. Girls often come to me just to buy a composition to lift their spirits. Different arrangements create a different mood, they can be bright, gentle, exotic and each carries its own energy, its charm, giving the owner a range of emotions.
Can floristry be called art?
Undoubtedly, floristry is art. You can play with flowers, create whole stories, convey mood, character. You can paint the whole world with flowers. You have no idea how many textures there are in floristry, flowers are small, large, and differ in petals and stamens. Each flower has its own shape of a leaf. And it helps to create a floral masterpiece every time. The most important thing in floristry is that there are no completely identical arrangements. So they can be similar, but it is almost impossible to create an identical one.
Where do you think the line is between an ordinary florist and an artist florist?
You should understand that an ordinary florist is a person who comes to work with no passion and just puts together bouquets and ties them with ribbons in the same way every day. A creative florist wants to make each bouquet unique. I always teach this to my girls, I always say that even if the client asks to make the same bouquet, it is necessary to explain that each bouquet should be special and unique, that it is just for you. Therefore, it is immediately visible when a person just comes to complete a working day and when a person really loves what they do. It is very important for me.
How developed is the flower business in Chicago? Is there much competition?
When we started in 2015-16, this industry was practically not developed in Chicago. But starting from 2017, the development of floristry began, now the competition is very big. Every year it becomes more and more difficult to work, but I still try to be different from others. We have many unique things that can be bought exclusively in our company. Especially if it concerns different boxes and designs. We have boxes in a form of a diamond for our arrangements, together with a welder we designed stands to hold that heavy and beautiful creation of ours, we have boxes in the form of clouds and moons, specially made for children. Many unique developments that we created together with Ukrainian colleagues are patented. That is why they can be purchased exclusively from us.
What do you think it takes for a company to stand out from the others?
The main thing is to love what you do, to constantly create unique things, to learn, to be inspired. I talk to flowers all the time, they need to be understood. I worked very hard to deliver some flowers to the USA. We deliver flowers from all over the world. And this is also incredibly hard work and not an easy task. I feel every flower. They enchant me. Velvet peony… Just imagine how it feels to touch, imagine this tenderness of flowers, their smell. All this is very important, even such subtleties as the aroma and its combination in a bouquet are crucial. It is important that the aroma is special and that each flower unfolds but does not mix into a single unbearable smell.
How do you recruit your staff?
The most important thing in personnel selection is that a person loves what they do. Before hiring someone, I first study the person. I need to trust them. It is necessary that the person loves flowers very much, treats them responsibly, and knows how to take care of them. Because behind the beautiful bouquets in our salon there is a backstage where flowers need to be taken care of, constantly cleaned. In our business, it is very important to take responsibility for your work, because flowers that are not taken care of will fade very quickly, and this will bring great losses to the business. That is why recruiting is a very important part of my work. And recruiting staff is actually difficult, but if you find such people, it will make your job many times easier. Because there will always be a responsible attitude towards the client, and the flowers will be taken care of, and this is very important.
Would you like your business to become a family business in the future and be inherited?
I can say that today it is already a family business, because we started it together with my sister, although I have been working alone for the last three years. Of course, I would like it to be inherited. I would also like it to be not just one store in Chicago, but many stores around the world, a whole network. And, of course, I dream that it will become a family property that will last for many, many years, will be passed down from generation to generation, and after some time there will be an incredible story of a world-renowned floristry business.
5 tips from a professional on how to start your flower business
- You need to understand if you like it. I repeat, it is very beautiful, but not an easy task. You have to not only create floral masterpieces, but also do a lot of dirty work, carry heavy vases, and constantly clean flowers. That’s why I always say that behind a beautiful photo on Instagram is hard work.
- Select the right personnel and create a team.
- Find your originality and stand out from others. Have your own style.
- Find your suppliers so that the flowers are at the highest level. Good relations with suppliers are the key to the success of your business.
- Find balance in life and successfully combine family and business. Do not bring business problems into the family and vice versa.