Career 180: From management consulting to floral event design

Brereton traded in suits for floral arrangements.

For Makini Brereton, after spending three years working in offices and wearing suits for a management consulting firm, designing flower arrangements for events celebrating happy milestone’s in people’s lives sounded refreshing. So in early 2011 she left the Park Avenue firm she was working at and launched a floral and event design company Makini Regal Designs later that year. Brereton, 33, lives in Bed Stuy with her Pomeranian named Laila. She recently got engaged and plans to design her own wedding.

Why did you leave management consulting?

I was longing for something a bit more creative and I always knew that starting a business was something that I wanted to do.

What enticed you to floral design?

I’ve always been a flower person. I was that person that bought fresh flowers every week, and both of my grandmothers are flowers and garden enthusiasts, so it was always something that was a part of my life. And I always loved weddings, I was always reading wedding magazines and watching wedding shows, so I eventually combined my two different hobbies into a business.

Can you describe your initial steps?

I shadowed a floral and event designer for a summer just so I understood exactly what I was getting myself into. And then once I did that I came up with the actual name of my business and I registered it. And then once that was done I started working on branding and marketing items which included my website and social media and then from there I was able to get my first client.

How did you get the startup capital?

Mainly through savings; luckily the type of business that I started, the startup was very low so I opted out of renting a storefront or a commercial space and because I own a home, I used a portion of my home to house my business. I do consultations and I also work out of my home office.

Have you had a big client base?

My first client came as a result of a referral from a college friend and that was a nonprofit organization called American Friends of Jamaica. They’re an organization that funds education programs in Jamaica and they had an annual gala where they honored the prime minister of Jamaica, and that was my first event. It took place at Capitale, so for a new business that was a pretty large gig. In my four years I’ve had about 50 to 75 clients.

What do clients typically spend on your services?

Primarily for weddings, most clients that are hiring me for event design typically spend between $7,000 and $10,000. I would say probably in the 30% range [is spent on flowers].

How long does it take you to design an event?

It would depend on the scale of an event. So for example, when I worked on a wedding that was televised that was a much longer process that was about three to four months. For a smaller wedding that process can take weeks. The actual designing typically happens a day or two before the event and that’s a 10- to 12-hour event of purely designing in preparation of the event.

Was it difficult to start a biz with a consulting background?

I think the people skills that you develop in almost any career are going to be applicable if you start a business. If anything starting a business kind of forces you to be more organized and to be more efficient because there’s no one above you who’s giving you direction. You’re essentially running your own ship.

Have you faced any unexpected challenges?

Navigating an unfamiliar industry; I knew absolutely nothing about the events industry so I mainly taught myself. And building relationships with people in an industry I knew nothing about was a lot more challenging than I thought. I wouldn’t describe the events industry as particularly inclusive, so it took a lot of maneuvering and building relationships in order for me to gain knowledge about how this industry works.

Do you face a lot of competition?

There’s always competition, in particular there’s always someone out there that will be charging less than you do. I think it’s just a matter of finding your niche, finding your exact demographic and catering to them and also looking for ways to set your business apart from the rest.

Any advice for readers considering a career 180?

My advice would be to let go of the fear and the doubt that prevent you from making that step.

What about for starting a business?

Starting a business isn’t easy but it’s absolutely possible to do and to be successful at it if you just give yourself that chance and if you allow yourself that freedom to just explore this unfamiliar territory. I would also add that doing everything you can to become familiar with the type of business that you’re about to start is pretty critical. The more knowledgeable you are the more you’ll be able to navigate that industry, and also be prepared for unexpected situations to occur.

Heather Senison