Gemma Blaskey, 32, owns flower shop Lubi Lu in London. She is single and lives with two friends in a house in Queens Park
I named my shop Lubi Lu after the toy store my mother owned when I was a little girl. It’s been open for two years now and it has been a rollercoaster ride. I gave up my previous career as a television producer because I had a real urge to work with my hands instead.
I have always loved flowers, so I did a part-time course in floristry while I was still working. I instantly fell in love with it, quit my job and worked as a junior florist at a West End shop for a year before venturing out on my own. I had to take out a loan of £55,000 through the Small Funds Loan Guarantee which was incredibly scary as I opened the shop right in the middle of the credit crunch. It was a big risk, when money is tight flowers are among the first luxury items people give up. The fact that I’m still standing here sometimes amazes me, but business is booming!
My day begins at 6am. My body clock is set to wake up early and I enjoy being up when the rest of the city is still quiet, and watching the iconic London skyline waking up, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament silhouetted. It’s too early for me to eat, so I’ll have a cup of vanilla red bush tea, shower and get dressed in jeans, trainers and a sweatshirt. Then I jump in my van and head out. Twice a week, I go to the flower market in Vauxhall south London, to buy seasonal British flowers. Right now, that means hydrangeas, chrysanthemums and dahlias. The English dahlias are like the designer handbag of the flower industry – they are so exclusive you have to be on a waiting list to get them. Twice a week, a truck from the Netherlands drops off the flowers from all over Europe at my shop. I still get such a buzz when it arrives.
English dahlias are like the designer handbag of the flower industry – they are so exclusive
Around 8.30am I arrive at the shop and my assistant, Olivia, and I will condition the flowers – cut them, strip them and put them into water. We’ll go over our orders, then I’ll head off to meet clients: a restaurant that has asked me to install a window display, a perfume launch at the Chanel store or a birthday party. Working for companies means you can be really creative. I arranged the flowers for Elizabeth Arden’s 100th anniversary party in Fitzroy Square this summer and created the red carnation balls that matched its logo – they looked so amazing.
Lunch is a salad or sushi from Pret a Manger. I need to eat healthy to keep up my energy. After lunch I always try to deliver our orders personally, it really makes a difference to my customers. My shop is more of a home to me than my actual house. It’s the first thing I have ever really owned and I’ve poured my heart and soul into it. It’s very personal, my friend David painted a flower mural and I have vintage furniture everywhere which has been donated by my family. The neighbours often pop in to have a chat. Recently, I was hired to create the flower displays for the funeral of a man who used to walk by my shop and look at my window. It was really sad, but so nice that I could bring a personal touch to his day.
One of my favourite experiences was on Valentine’s Day last year. I made a massive heart-shaped flower decoration for the shop. On 13 February a lady walked in and asked if she could buy it to give to her boyfriend as a present. We had to sneak it into her garden in the evening so that it would be the first thing he would see when he opened the curtains. That’s why I love my job.
I always try to leave the shop at 7pm. I do bikram yoga three nights a week to unwind. Because it’s just me and Olivia, things can get stressful. It’s hard finding a balance. I’m single right now but I’m just too busy to date. My family lives in Manchester and although they are incredibly supportive, I can’t just take a weekend off to visit them. I’d really like to change that in the next year.