They say age is just a number, and Megan Reiley couldn’t agree more. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 2015 with a degree in Horticulture along with a minor in Business and a Professional Event Management Certificate, Megan pursued her passion for events and design cutting her teeth in the wedding industry. Just one year later, her very own Reiley + Rose floral design studio was born and has been steadily growing ever since, becoming a go-to wedding florist for Austin and San Antonio brides.
We chatted with Megan to learn more about how she started this business from the ground up at a young age, what it takes to be a successful business owner right after college and what she’s learned along the way. Small business owners and wedding vendors alike can learn from Megan’s ambitious, kind spirit and business-savvy know-how.
WS: Did you always know you wanted to open a floral business? When did you make that decision and what steps, besides your formal education and training, did you take to prepare?
MR: I get this question a lot – and I actually did not. Floral design was not in my plans AT ALL. When I started college, I was majoring in Physical Therapy and was pretty dead set on becoming a doctor. It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t like the monotonous nature of physical therapy life… and biology and I just really didn’t get along. I always say I stumbled upon floral. I was at a point in my college career where I needed to change my major, but had no clue what I actually wanted to do. Lost, confused – you know how that goes. I’ve always been very hands on and creative – very right brained! One day on the way to class, I stopped into a building to use the restroom. When I walked in I saw “Benz School Of Floral Design” on the wall. I honestly chuckled to myself at first… but later that night I started researching the school and figured out how I could change my major!
Fast forward four years, I had been working for a small floral shop near my hometown for a few months after graduating and knew I wanted more. I didn’t love doing daily floral arrangements and knew weddings was where I wanted to be. That wasn’t the direction the shop I was working for was going – so I was faced with yet another tough decision. Do I leave and find another job doing just anything? Do I make the crazy decision to start my OWN business…? No way. But again, God had other plans for me. I had a friend getting married who wanted me to do her flowers. I couldn’t say no, so I promised her I’d make it happen. And I did! I kept telling myself, if I could do one wedding for a friend (and it go so well), there was no reason I couldn’t open my own business, run with my crazy ideas, and make a living out of this. And here we are now!
It definitely was not all that easy though. Luckily, I minored in business as well in college, so I did have at least some understanding of what owning and running a business looked like. My first steps, at 22, young, broke and needing all the help I could get, I reached out to anyone I knew personally who owned and had a successful business. I got a ton of advice first-hand from those people. But what helped the most was reaching out to The UTSA Small Business Advisory. They have an office here in Seguin – and they offer FREE business resources and advice. Larry with UTSASBA helped me decide what business structure would be best for me, he helped me file legally with the State of Texas, explained and showed me how to pay sales taxes. Any question I had, Larry had an answer to. I would leave his office feeling confident and reassured that I could do this!
WS: What were the most intimidating factors of opening a business shortly after college and how did you overcome them?
MR: I definitely think age and my finances were the two biggest factors for me. I knew I could design flowers and I knew this was the job for me, but being just 22 and fresh out of college, I saved every single penny I could from working for a year, and still felt so financially unstable. To me – if you were going to open a business, you needed thousands of dollars to invest and I couldn’t do that. Doing a few small weddings for my friends here and there, I realized, I could have $100 to my name, and do a wedding, and at the end of it, MAKE money. It was incredibly scary – I moved in with my parents (yes – it was rough), and literally budgeted like a crazy coupon queen. By year 1 of my business, I was making money! And as long as my bills were paid, and I was happy, I had to learn that that was okay!
Age was also such a big factor. It even still is today. I can’t count the number of times the mother or father of brides would ask my age, or how long I had been doing flowers. As if they were concerned I was inexperienced. I could see the concern on their faces – and I got it! I would have been too. I’d say this is where my sales pitches came in handy, because many times I had to straight up sell not only florals and my designs, but me as a person. That was extremely difficult, mainly because it would discourage me. That was something I had to constantly talk myself through. But I kept telling myself, the more weddings – the more experience. One day in a few years I won’t have these struggles and will be grateful. Now I have the portfolio to back my work up, and that makes a world of a difference
WS: Did you ever get any pushback from family, friends, or industry connections?
MR: My family and friends have always been my #1 fans. Most of them knew and believed I could open a business before I believed it myself. I attribute most of my success to them. Had I not had the support system and constant drive from my family and friends, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to finally take the leap and open Reiley and Rose. I am forever grateful for the team of cheerleaders I have constantly supporting me. Most of them were even my very first clients!
As far as the industry goes – I’ve been so lucky to have made such wonderful friends! Most wedding vendors nowadays are very young – so I found myself making friends and finding people who were going through the same boat as me. It felt so good to have friends to talk with and know that I wasn’t alone.
WS: What do you feel like helped the most in terms of getting your business to grow so much that you needed to expand your team? When did you know it was time to hire?
MR: This was a factor that was so scary for me. Growth is great – I mean, it’s what I had been working so hard for. But knowing I needed more hands and more people, and knowing that I personally was going to be giving up jobs and not every aspect of my business was going to be controlled by me, was very scary for me. I’m a bit of a control freak. But I knew this business and even my own personal self would never grow and be as successful as I’d want it to be unless I took those steps. I could no longer handle the mass amounts of inquires and work that were coming my way. I was having to turn away weddings that I nearly cried over because I wanted them so badly. But there was no way for me to be in three places at once, and there was no physical way for me to be able to design and produce multiple weddings a weekend alone. I did it for a few months and found myself wearing down so quickly. This is when I knew I needed help.
I started with part time event help: people to come in and help on weekends setting up weddings and packing/delivering. When even that wasn’t enough, I hired on my first full-time employee, Alyssa, this year. She is my manager of all things. Ying to my yang really. She keeps me in line, on track and takes away so many of the jobs I thought I HAD to do. She has been by biggest, and absolute best investment in my business.
WS: What is it like to be not just a business owner, but a boss of employees? Any big lessons you’ve learned in that arena or tips you have?
MR: It’s still very weird to me to be called “Boss.” It’s honestly kind of scary and it is definitely a challenge! It’s something I’ve had to learn to be. We’ve all probably had a former boss who we didn’t love or get along with. I know I have a particular old boss like that. Almost every day I think of something they did that I really didn’t like, and it drives me to be the best boss I can be to my girls. I never want them to feel the way I did. I want my girls to feel like I’m a friend, and not just a boss. Everyone has to work, that’s the way it works. So if we have to be here – we better make it fun and worth our time!
I want my girls to constantly feel a part of a brand, that they are a part of this team. What Reiley and Rose does at weddings is not possible without them – and they should always know that and feel appreciated. Whether their job is cleaning buckets, or helping design an installation at a wedding.
The biggest thing for me in hiring was finding the right person. Boy this was hard! If I can give any advice, it would be to be patient. The right person will come along. But remember, the only way to grow is to change the way you do things. Hire someone to help. Give up control. It will only help your business. It might not feel like it at first. But I promise 5-6 months down the road, you’ll be so thankful.
WS: As is the case with a lot of creative professions, there are misconceptions about what we do all day. We know being a florist isn’t just playing with pretty flowers all the time (unfortunately) – what are some of the main behind-the-scenes tasks you’re always taking care of?
MR: Oh – great question! And so true. While I wish we got to play with flowers every day – truly, it’s one of the things I probably do the least in my job, unfortunately. In a typical week for us, we probably have 2-3 different weddings. There’s tons of container prep, pulling rental items and getting flowers processed and ready to design. We normally get flowers in on Tuesdays for a Saturday wedding. Flowers take a lot of time and attention to get them ready for designing. We prep buckets of water and solutions, we strip thousands and thousands of stems a week to remove their foliage and give them a fresh cut! And that’s all just getting wedding ready.
I spend many hours at night answering emails from current and future clients, putting together invoices and proposals as well as custom design boards. Right now, we are only doing phone and Zoom consultations with clients, so finding the time in our schedule to chat with brides. Working with our wholesalers to confirm and source all of our flowers for weddings, putting together wedding orders – down to how many stems of each item goes into every single piece of a wedding. Ordering supplies and containers. Some weddings we have 4-5 different vendors we’re ordering from, so making sure we coordinate all of them together is essential. Those are some of the big “floral” aspects of business – but there’s also so many other business things to take care of.
We run our social media platforms – so making sure we are regularly posting and communicating with our clients. Paying our sales tax every month, keeping up with our clients billing and accounting, making sure we are getting paid! Emails, emails and SO many emails. From making changes to clients wedding orders, planning wedding details – on a good day, my inbox sits about 50 unread emails. Cue my anxiety! We also spend a lot of time on sight at venues and locations with clients. If we are working at a new venue we’ve never been to before, we typically like to see the space before we start dreaming up designs and installations. Right now with all things COVID going on, we have been doing so many walkthroughs at new venues – mainly brides’ homes – for rescheduled events!
WS: Where do you hope Reiley & Rose goes from here? What are your hopes for this business for the next 10 years and beyond?
MR: My hopes and dream for R+R is definitely continued growth in all aspects of business. We’re looking into building a larger location with not only lots of design space and storage, but also a fun and comfortable showroom space for meeting with clients. I hope to continue growing my team, teaching the art of floral design and taking on more weddings each year! I want to continue creating not only a job for myself and my employees, but a brand that is known throughout the wedding industry.
WS: What advice do you have for young aspiring business owners, particularly in the creative/wedding space?
MR: DO IT. It’s scary, nerve racking and one of the most intimidating things you can ever do. But you HAVE to start somewhere. It takes so much hustle – but if this is your dream, start now, and do it. You have your whole life to work… even if you fail or end up hating owning your own business, at least you tried and can mark it off your list! Also – never be afraid to ask for help, and from anyone you can. The worst thing someone can tell you is no.
Interview by Kaitlyn Bullard
Image by Ashley Medrano Photography