Meet Fiona Lafon, a lawyer turned florist living in Bristol, and owner of Emerald & Jade. Her story proves it’s never too late to pursue a creative career. In fact, Fiona is also launching a new coaching programme, so it’s going to be one busy year.
Tell us about yourself
Originally from France, I have always loved the creative arts. Although born in Versailles, I am lucky to have mostly grown up in the French Alps, with a few years initially spent in Ireland. This, combined with the fact that I spent a lot of time travelling thanks to adventurous parents, lead to my love of nature and green things coming about really early on. I went to an International School in Grenoble, I then came to the UK to complete a law degree in French law and English law at University of Kent. I never intended to become a lawyer, but found myself qualifying as an employment lawyer in Bristol a decade later. There, I met my husband to be and have been living here since.
Following the birth of my two children, I started a blog: Green Loving Girl. Through this I remembered how much I loved writing, and realised how much I was craving a more creative job. I loved running this blog, but my corporate job as a lawyer took too much time for me to run it properly. At the time, my job also took over everything else, leaving me stressed, run down and generally not a very pleasant person to be around, and it seemed my partner and children got the worst of me.
Following a series of events in my personal life, my mind-set changed and I started to think that there had to be more to life than working in a stressful job which seemed to leave me with nothing good, there had to something else. I have always been a proud working mum. Going back to work after having my children was always my choice. I always enjoyed being at work, and I knew the children thrived at the nursery we chose for them so I had no guilt.
However, it got to a point where I really did not want to go to work, so I started thinking about handing in my notice. Financially we worked out that I would be better off for not working, as my salary got engulfed into childcare (crazy isn’t it!!). But I had no plan B. I was really scared but I also knew that I couldn’t carry on like that. It took my 3-year-old to have appendicitis & peritonitis whilst on holiday abroad, which forced me to be off work for 4 weeks, to think it all through and actually hand in my notice. I decided that I would take a career break for a maximum of two years. This left me time to explore my options, and the children could then go to the local preschool and school, therefore facilitating childcare options. It was terrifying, I had never envisioned being a stay at home mum and I had never not worked from choice. However, I have always trusted my gut feeling, and I knew things would be ok. I had no idea at the time what to go for. All I knew was that for my next role, I wanted to start-up my own business and follow a more creative route.
I therefore took various opportunities that presented themselves to me. I was already blogging on a monthly basis for French Wedding Style writing about my wedding planning. The editor then offered me an internship, which I started shortly after leaving my legal job. From there, I met a lot more creative entrepreneurs, and started seeing a different world and a lot more opportunities. Around this time, I was helping my sister plan her wedding, as she lives in Australia but was getting married near Bath. I found her a florist, and got chatting to her about where she’d trained etc. Before I knew it, I had attended a taster session and then was signed on to an intensive training course via the fabulous Tallulah Rose Flower School in Bath. Emerald & Jade Flowers was born, and I have since been working as a Florist, working on weddings, funerals, events and holding workshops. I love it!
I absolutely love being a florist. Going to the flower market, meeting so many creative, talented entrepreneurs in the wedding industry. It truly is a wonderful industry to be part of, and very supportive, even amongst florists. I am so happy to be part of it. A couple of years after I started my business, I started to feel as though there was something else I could be doing. I had a feeling I wanted to help others but I couldn’t quite figure it out. This took me a good few months to work out (and assistance from my own business coach) to figure out that I had a new passion which could be turned into a business. Since starting my own business, I have loved this new world I live in. I realised just how much I love talking to people about starting their own business and the journey that goes with it. I have loved my journey and am really excited about what is it still to come. I have also greatly benefitted from a business coach. Whether someone is thinking about starting their own business, fancy a change from their job, or want to make some changes to their lifestyle, I always love talking to them about this and trying to help them find how to materialise their thoughts into actions. How to make that seedling of an idea in their mind, grow and blossom into a new, beautiful way of life. In light of this, I have just set up my own coaching programme, due to be launched this month under Emerald & Jade Lifestyle.
How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work
I’m all about my online presence. Running a blog and doing an internship for an international award-winning wedding blog has helped me gain understanding on SEO and other terminologies. It was like a foreign language at first, but it’s amazing how quickly it can be picked up with some research and good mentors. My businesses are both home-based, therefore I always knew that my online presence had to be strong and clearly represent me so that, when people saw a photo or an Instagram post, they would automatically recognise it as mine.
My online presence is effectively my shop window. This is why my website is quite different to most florists. I knew it had to reflect me and the type of work I like best, in order to attract my ideal clients. I have had brides tell me that as soon as they found my website they knew they had found their florist, and that was great feedback to hear!
My website is a great base. I also love using Facebook as I can tag in my clients and other suppliers, which makes it a great networking and sharing tool. My all time favourite though is Instagram. With my floristry business, it allows the photos of the flowers to speak for themselves, and again, it gives people and potential clients a great first insight as to what my business is about.
For my second business, Emerald & Jade Lifestyle, it will have a different feel to it, but still in a way that reflects me. I am going to focus this one more on my love of travel with almost a dreamlike, yet energising, positive feel to it. Learning to find my voice for each businesses has had a great effect, and is clearly reflected on my social media and my online presence. These are noticeably different to my personal Instagram account greenlovinggirl. Yet all three fully reflect me, and I love that.
Fiona is following…
@laurapaynestanley: I met Laura when writing for my blog Green Loving Girl. She asked me whether I would like to blog about my wedding planning journey for her website French Wedding Style. When I decided to take a career break, she offered me an internship. She has now been my business mentor for over a year. I have known her over three years now and can safely say that my life has changed since meeting her.
@victoriafarrmua: I discovered Victoria and her work about three years ago. I have seen her business grow and love seeing how she made her business her own and made it incorporate her love for travel. She is also really lovely.
Nicky King/@Bobbyrabbitkids: I met Nicky when I was looking for ideas on decorating the kids bedrooms. We realised we had a lot in common and have since become Instagram friends. When I first met Nicky, she was working on her new business. Bobby Rabbit is now a great business and I find it really inspiring seeing where she is now, knowing how hard she worked, especially as she has children similar ages to mine.
Joanne Hegarty/@stylistandthewardrobe: I have just discovered her feed, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I love her Instagram account, filled with gorgeous photos of her son, her home and her travels, it is really beautiful to look at and inspiring, reminding me that as a woman, a mother, we can still aspire to living a beautiful life and having beautiful things and travels. This is a big part in my businesses.