Ask McQueens: How Did You Become a Florist?

Here at McQueens, we’re very familiar with the question of how to begin in the industry. Many of our students at the McQueens Flower School are just starting their floral journey or looking to change path and you’d be surprised how often we’re asked about floristry as a career while we’re out and about – especially at our most spectacular flowery installations! Floristry is challenging and rewarding, creative and ever-changing, there’s never a dull moment and of course, with so many beautiful flowers to work with day in and day out, it’s no surprise that it’s such a sought-after career. There are ups and downs, however; the very early mornings, long hours and chilly conditions in the winter aren’t to everyone’s liking. But for those who are willing to overcome the challenges, it is, without doubt, one of the most exceptionally rewarding and satisfying jobs you can have. There are many different routes you can take into the industry and today, we asked our team to share their personal experiences to help anyone who’s interested in finding out more about becoming a florist in the UK.

Working for Free

“Before I became a florist, I was working in retail and really was not enjoying it. I knew I had to do something different to fulfil my creative side, and didn’t want to go back to higher education, so I decided to train as a florist. I wanted to do a short course but couldn’t afford it at the time, so I spent my days off working for free at a florist shop in Covent Garden. It was exhausting work, but the days flew by, and following a year I was offered a full-time junior position. I haven’t looked back since, and that was six years ago!”

Head of McQueens Flower School, Sophie Powell

Head of McQueens Flower School, Sophie Powell
Head of McQueens Flower School, Sophie Powell

A Change of Direction

“I was studying a law degree and got a Saturday job helping at a floristry stall on Marylebone High Street. It was quite a contrast, studying throughout the week and washing buckets on the weekend but I loved it. I’d look on in awe as bundles of flowers would come in, and be transformed into gorgeous bouquets like magic. Before long, I was hooked – I left the law degree, enrolled in a Level 2 City and Guilds floristry course, continued to work the weekend and landed a full-time job straight afterwards. It was a huge leap of faith but I’ve never regretted it for a second.”

McQueens Shop Florist, Christina Antoniou

Law student turned McQueens florist, Christina Antoniou
McQueens Shop Florist, Christina Antoniou

From Childhood Hobby to Career

“I’ve always enjoyed flowers and began creating floral arrangements at an early age. When it came to deciding on what to do after my A-Levels (I grew up and studied in Austria), the choice was between floristry and archaeology. I chose floristry and went on to do a three-year internship at a salon in Gratz, Austria. It was extremely hard work but I am very thankful for all that I learned there, they truly opened up the world of flowers to me and I haven’t looked back since. I love my job and in my free time I’m always either pottering away in the garden or making floral arrangements at home! I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

McQueens Operations Manager, Michi Kanatschnig

McQueens Operations Manager, Michi Kanatschnig
McQueens Operations Manager, Michi Kanatschnig

Vocational Course

“I originally trained as a makeup artist – I thought it was what I wanted to do – but somehow I just didn’t enjoy it. I’m quite creative by nature and had always had an interest in flowers so the concept of floristry really appealed to me. I enrolled in a professional course at a London academy and studied there for three days a week over the course of six months. Afterwards, I continued on to do the McQueens four-week vocational course. I was keen to learn more about large-scale installations and event work so it was ideal, and really gave me the confidence to know I could pursue it as a professional career, too. I took part in the work experience programme at McQueens and, after four and a half months, was offered a job. I started by working in our store in Claridge’s and now work as part of the contract team, creating the floral installations at some of London’s top hotels and restaurants.”

McQueens Contracts Florist, Suzie Stevens

McQueens Flower school student turned florist, Suzie Stevens
McQueens Contracts Florist, Suzie Stevens

Keeping it in the Family

“Both my mum and nan loved flowers and floristry – my mum studied a level one diploma at a local college and loved to create floral designs at home and for friends. As a kid, I’d always be making things with flowers; my cousin and I would always be playing ‘florists’ in the garden, cutting flowers and foliage to make little posies! So you could say, it runs in the family. When I left school I originally planned to do business studies, but I visited the floristry department at another college and just fell in love. I enrolled in a level 2 floristry diploma and, as part of the course, did work experience at a London florist over Valentine’s Day, which turned into a 6 months internship, and eventually, a full-time job!”

McQueens Shop Florist, Daniela Piacquadio

McQueens shop florist, Daniela Piacquadio
McQueens Shop Florist, Daniela Piacquadio

Part-time Helper to Full-Time Career

“I studied performance art and theatre and after graduation, I was performing and working part-time jobs but it was difficult to get by at times. It just so happened that McQueens were looking for helpers, and I was very fortunate to be introduced to the company through a mutual friend. I started assisting the contracts team twice a week, and it was McQueens florist, Yeon Hee, who taught me how to make my first hand-tied bouquet. I remember my hands were aching so much, I shed a tear from the pain! That’s how I started learning – on the job. After a while, I asked for a permanent position and following a three-month trial (and lots of hard work), I was hired.”

McQueens Contracts florist, Alina Dheere Babaletsos

McQueens florist, Alina Dheere Babaletsos, creating a summer floral design in the McQueens HQ inn Bethnal Green
McQueens Contracts florist, Alina Dheere Babaletsos

Total Career Change

“I have always been creative and originally studied art. After university, I moved abroad where I began copywriting which subsequently led to a career in marketing. In my spare time, I was always gardening, painting and making things but the thought of doing something creative full-time wasn’t something I seriously considered until I relocated to London. Out of the blue, I lost my job to redundancy and took it as an opportunity to enrol in a floristry diploma (something I had been thinking about for a while). I was lucky that McQueens happened to be looking for a marketing assistant at the time, and was offered a part-time job here while I studied. I also began helping in the shop once a week, and once my course was finished, I was offered a full-time job. I now work three days a week as a florist and two days a week in the office. I’ve also become the go-to person when anyone needs a floral proposal sketched out! I think it just goes to show that transferable skills can come in really useful, especially when you’re coming from a different industry.”

McQueens Shop Florist and Online Content Coordinator, Selina Kerley

McQueens florist and online content coordinator, Selina Kerley
McQueens Shop Florist and Online Content Coordinator, Selina Kerley

Pure Happenstance

“A friend of a friend was opening a shop and asked me to go and work for her. It was something that I had never considered at all, I actually thought the idea was a bit silly at first, but I tried it and liked it and kind of got sucked into it from the very first week. I continued training on the job and after a time, I knew I wanted to teach, so I went back to college and did an advanced national certificate. It was very thorough, starting right from the basics, and I feel lucky to have experienced both sides. My experience is that if there’s anything you want to learn there are always different routes to pick up the information that you need, and I can see the value in all routes. I went on to teach for around 10 years, both at McQueens and another London flower school, and this very intensive flower immersion (spending a similar amount of time learning as you would in college) is a great way to learn. Ultimately, however, you never stop learning and all your efforts need to be supplemented. You can’t just do a course and be done with it, you need to be learning more constantly, be it through social media, work experience, short courses, volunteering or more.”

McQueens Social Media Manager, Duncan McCabe

Duncan McCabe, McQueens Social Media Manager
McQueens Social Media Manager, Duncan

Learn to Become a Florist at McQueens Flower School

There are many different routes into the world of flowers and the courses that we offer at the McQueens Flower School are a unique opportunity to learn the fundamentals of floristry in an immersive, professional environment. The school offers a year-round packed curriculum with vocational courses for professional florists to one-day courses for enthusiastic beginners, led by tutors who have a wealth of experience in all areas of floral design. For more information see our school page on our website, email our school administrator on school@mcqueens.co.uk or call us on 020 7251 5505 (regular UK landline rates apply).