Conversations: Florence Kennedy of Petalon
5 September 2018
If we’re talking about Eureka moments, then Florence Kennedy’s is definitely one for the books. Her business was born out of one of those incredible lightbulb moments when she came home to a house full of bicycle frames, right at the cusp of the beginning of her husband’s own business. A combination of purpose and coincidence, (and some people might even say fate), has now resulted in her clever flower delivery company, Petalon.
We chat with Florence, five years down the line from that specific juncture in her life. A juncture that forever took her away from the trappings of the 9 to 5 and into a life less ordinary. With a book, a lovable Great Dane, a growing business and a beautiful baby girl, Florence finds comfort in the familiarity of her little corner in Clapton. From the effortless cafes of Chatsworth Road, to the homely feel of Campania & Jones - Florence Kennedy shows us that if you live there for long enough, there’s never a shortage of extraordinary places to discover in your own neck of the woods.
Please give a short introduction on yourself and what it is you and your idea or business does?
I'm Florence, a florist in Hackney, London. I started a flower delivery business by bicycle five years ago, and we've now expanded our services to include nationwide delivery by post, weddings and events. We also workshops and classes for those that want to learn more about flowers and the industry.
We have a weekly offering of two bouquets a week, with the choice changing every Monday. This limited choice reduces wastage and allows us flexibility with the seasons, so we can offer interesting and unusual flowers that you won't always find on the high street. We have always delivered Monday to Friday, but we are about to launch a 7 day a week service at the end of the month. Was there a certain spark or “Eureka” moment when the idea for your first project was born?
My (now) husband, James, sent a bunch of flowers to an old boss of mine for helping him with a birthday surprise for me. The flowers were pretty rubbish and I felt for him. There are lots of wonderful florists in London but they (understandably) have high minimum spends for one off deliveries and he was never going to spend over £60 on a small gesture of thanks. This made me think about how you could do it differently. At that time, James was starting his own business, Kennedy City Bicycles
, and I found it tough living with someone who was following their dreams when I didn't have a dream of my own. That evening I came home to a flat full of 200 bicycle frames as his first shipment had arrived, and the idea for a flower delivery service by bicycle was staring me right in the face.
What is it about running your business that excites you creatively?
The freedom is terrifying and wonderful. In a way, it has dictated my creativity. Having the courage to take a step back from how we've always worked and change it to better suit the business now that it's bigger or change its direction is a huge deal. Last year, we found ourselves doing too many weddings that were not particularly profitable, but were a lot of work and also very stressful. Having a baby made me prioritise certain aspects of the business, not only by what was more profitable but also what gave me the most satisfaction as a designer. Having less time has made me focus more on how I want to spend that time. The reality of trying to do this around breastfeeding and coping with being a first-time parent was really hard. Consequently, changes were made.
"I'm quite firmly rooted in our little corner of Clapton. I walk the dog on the marshes every morning, the studio is two streets down from my house, and my daughter goes to nursery around the corner. It’s the only way I can fit everything in and not waste time on a long commute and I love it."
Check out our other Conversations
Is there a certain part of London that you feel a connection to, and if so, where and why?
I'm quite firmly rooted in our little corner of Clapton. I walk the dog on the marshes every morning, the studio is two streets down from my house, and my daughter goes to nursery around the corner. It’s the only way I can fit everything in and not waste time on a long commute and I love it. I get my nature fix in the morning in the marshes, I can get to work easily, and can leave early to spend time with my kid. I love having Chatsworth Road so close. Getting good shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs has been so easy for us.
Where do you always find yourself going back to in London?
We always return to Campania & Jones
, even though we don't live that close anymore. It's the best, food and the setting is my idea of heaven. Flagstone floors, simple and beautiful furniture, and the homeliest feel. There is often a cat warming himself by the log fire in the back room
When travelling to other cities, is there a particular space, B&B, hotel or apartment you’ve stayed that jumps out as being Less ordinary in any way?
We recently visited Baja California in Mexico and stayed at Acre
. They rescue a lot of animals from the area, and guests from the US often end up rehoming them. It's a really lovely idea, plus they had a baby donkey wandering around which was just amazing.
As far as where you go or where you like to socialise in London, do you have any hidden gems you’d like to let us in on?
No hidden gems as such, we really make use of our local area and often go to My Neighbours the Dumplings
(for dumplings), cocktails at Bernsteins, or easy breakfasts at London Borough of Jam and Millfields. We’re really lucky with all our local cafes, restaurants, shops and pubs.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies