Setting up a business in your 50s: JamJar Flowers
Melissa Richardson likens managing a floristry business to running a successful model agency, ‘Flowers are like models, they respond well to good treatment.’ The founder of JamJar Flowers ran Take 2 Model Management for 27-years before starting a second career almost a decade ago, aged 55, ‘I guess the driver in my life has always been beauty.’ When we meet, Melissa, photographer Neil Mackenzie Matthews and I immediately realise that we all know each other from our former fashion lives. Melissa’s gravelly, 10-to-the-dozen voice is instantly recognisable from phone conversations all those years ago. ‘When I was at T2 and things were going tits up,’ she continues, ‘ I always used to say to my partner Gabby “I’m going to go and run a flower stall in Saint Rémy.” So far, I’ve only got to Kennington…but I started another business at 55 and it’s all gone rather well, which is pleasing.’
Situated in a Victorian yard in south London, JamJar Flowers is filled with vintage vases, jam jars (obviously) and other knick-knackery picked up at the antique markets at Ardingley and Kempton. As well as commissions for fashion brands, restaurants and weddings, there’s also a ‘flower school’ with regular floristry and flower-pressing workshops and the JamJar Edit, a collection of botanical items and vintage finds, available to buy online.
‘I grew up in a beautiful place, an old Elizabethan manor,’ Melissa goes on to describe her childhood in rural Sussex, ‘my father was a stockbroker and the most amazing gardener. He’d get back from London and get straight into mowing the lawn; he had the greenest fingers. This started me off with a love of flowers’
Melissa Richardson’s start-up advice:
Start small, I started on the kitchen table and when I made money I got a studio. JamJar is self-funded – you don’t need a big investment.
The great tip about floristry is the shopping – buy beautiful flowers and it’s hard to make a shit arrangement. Before buying flowers I lay them out in front of me to look at the colour palette and figure out what I need.
Know your strengths and weaknesses, surround yourself with talented people and embrace their success. It’s about teamwork. I know what I’m good at (admin, people and I have a good eye) and what I’m bad at; I’m not the best florist in our game but I have lots of freelancers working here, I call them Jammers and they are amazing.
Do something you care about. I didn’t have floristry skills but I had a passion for flowers. I did a course with Paula Pryke who was very generous with her information.
Be prepared to work hard. My original idea was that I was just going to do contract flowers one day a week, but then someone asked me to do a wedding, and then there was another wedding with a unicorn decoration and it gets more and more ambitious…
Carry on learning, don’t think you know it all. I’m 64 and have no shame about that – but I do have the humility to learn from other people.
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Melissa’s apron is from Badger’s Velvet.