Meet Alice, Founder and CEO of Alice’s Table

 

– Hi everyone I’m Cho Phillips with Lovegevity. I’m here today in Boston Massachusets at Alice’s Table.

– Hi I’m Alice Lewis Founder and CEO of Alice’s Table. Welcome.

– Thank you so much Alice we’re so excited to be her today and learn all about Alice’s Table and your journey. Maybe you could help us by just sort of starting out on before Alice’s Table. Because there’s a lot of our students out there that are still contemplating on whether or not they’re gonna jump in start their own business in the wedding and event industry. So what about you, how did you get started?

– Yeah so after university and graduate school I went and started working for a couple of different start-ups. I really learned the foundation of launching your own business. All of the different pieces and parts that you have to know to become a business owner. That I think gave the the confidence to launch Alice’s Table. I’ve loved the even business since I was a little girl. My mom’s an interior designer, so I grew up throwing parties with her, styling photo shoots, all of those things, which again, added to my love of flowers and my love of the events business.

– Fantastic, so what gave you the idea for Alice’s Table and the concept and maybe you can go into explaining that.

– Absolutely, Alice’s Table helps women launch their own businesses teaching flowering arranging classes. We give you the tools and training you need to get started. And then help you go out to bars and restaurants, people’s homes to teach fun flower arranging classes. Get your friends together to do a wreath making class, things like that, also weddings. My idea really started when I realized how many women are looking for side gigs. They wanna a flexible way to make money, earn an income, but maybe they have another job or they are taking care of family at home.

– Which flexibility is so important.

– Flexibility is so important. That really was the impetus. It’s like how can we create a business that allows women to make their own schedule, make money and have fun while doing it.

– Right right, that’s fantastic. So how many markets are you in now?

– We’re in 41 states across the US. We have about 310 exec’s, ladies that have launched their businesses that we support.

– Fantastic. If someone’s just getting started has a love of flowers, what is the most simplistic and easiest way to sort of get their toe wet in the water? Sort of check it out and get it started?

– The best thing to do is come to one of our events. You can go to our website, Alicestable.com, and find all of our events listed there. Go to an event in your area, see if you love it. If you do we’d love to tell you more about our exact program.

– Fantastic. And then you were telling me there’s a really great collaboration, partnership, that even our event planners can do or wedding and event planners to help a bride out who maybe doesn’t have a big budget for flowers. Can you talk about that a little bit?

– Yeah, our assisted DIY weddings we like to call them. There are often two camps of brides. One who hires full fledged florists, usually very expensive. Then there’s the other bride who wants to DIY her wedding, make her own flowers and she has the confidence to do that. I like to say that’s a little bit like getting a giant Ikea cabinet and trying to build it the day before your wedding. It can be so stressful. For the budget conscience bride that’s great. We like to offer something right in the middle. We bring a professional in, one of our exec’s, to come in with the bride her family usually the bridesmaids all get together. It’s typically a bridal luncheon so your getting a bridal luncheon for the price of your flowers. Together we build the arrangements, everything you need for your wedding.

– I love it, I love it. What sort of arrangements do they make?

– All sorts, we can make boutonnieres, bouquets, corsages anything you’d like. We have three standard packages. But then also we can do a customization package. The bride can send us her Pinterest dreams and we will create those for her.

– Wow. How does the budget fluctuate based on items and what about centerpieces?

– We have three standard centerpiece sizes. We have a large, a medium and then a smaller which is typically for a cocktail table. But some of our brides use it for there centerpieces if they’re more budget conscience.

– What about, a lot of the problems with normal florists is getting the right flower during the right season. How do you guys work that part out?

– It’s really difficult and a lot of brides book their wedding and don’t realize that in that season they might not be able to get their dream flower. First and foremost we like to talk to our brides as early as possible. Or work with the planner as early as possible to say, “These are the flowers that are available during the season of the wedding”. Or if she hasn’t picked her date yet, “Do you have any dream flowers”. And let us tell you, peonies you really need to be in this season.

– Everybody loves those, right?

– Exactly, so educating our bride. Our standard packages are really flowers that are generally available across seasons. We do make sure that those are available.

– What about petals, you know how brides love to put petals everywhere and down the isle. Do you guys have that available to them.

– Yes we do. Petals really, the best way to do that is just get roses and take them off the heads. What we do is we sell by the stem as well. It’s an additional by the stem package that we’d give you.

– What’s the range, how affordable would that be for a DIY bride? Our weddings really range, they start usually around $650 and go up to just over $3000. That’s anything and everything in-between. Our standard centerpiece, our medium sized centerpiece, is about $65. Our large bride bouquet is $125. That kinda gives you a baseline.

– That’s with the bride doing it herself?

– That is with the bride doing it herself.

– Okay, how does that compare?

– I like to say it’s about halfway between do-it-yourself and a full fledged florist. As you know bouquets can be… the size that we give for the large is about a $300 florist bouquet.

– Okay.

– And we’d expect the bouquet… Actually these are about the size of our midsize our $65 table centerpiece. You get a good amount of flowers.

– I know a lot of florists when they are pricing out their flowers it’s like per stem. And even a designer sort of draws it out and fills it in with the types of flowers. Is it similar to that?

– Yes, so what we do is we have our standard packages which you can look at all the stem counts, as the bride or as the planner, and see what’s offered. And then also, generally it’s about the same stem counts for the customization packets. Unless you’d like us to fill an entire vase full of ranunculus at which point we would have to tell you, “Hey that’s gonna be x dollars” to be able to do that.

– If I were an exec and I’m planning an event and my bride picks out something from Pinterest what do I do next?

– You would meet with one of our exec’s and we would walk through your wedding with you and the bride. Then we’d give you an estimate. We’d go away, we’d kinda fill out all of our forms and give you an estimate to see if that’s what you’re interested in.

– I see okay. So, if one of our event planners brought a bride to one of your exec’s? As an exec what sort of support do they get from Alice’s Table?

– An exec goes through our full bridal training. That’s an additional training that’s offered for free to our exec’s. They go through that training process which is two calls with our staff as well as video and written content. Then they’re ready to book their first wedding. They can go out and look for brides. Once they have a bride, we walk them through step-by-step. There’s things like questionnaires that they’ll fill out with the bride. We’re with them every step of the way. We have a consultation to say, “Here’s what your timeline for your wedding event should be”. All of those pieces and parts we really hold your hand through. Particularly in your first wedding. After your first wedding, you’re a pro. You know how to throw one of the events. But we like to walk you through the first process.

– What about the logistics of getting flowers from point A to point B? Do the exec’s have to worry about all that or is that the support that your staff and Alice’s Table support.

– Our exec’s are the person on the ground in whatever city or location this is. Corporate is never the person on the ground, it’s you. For a wedding we do not transport flowers. That is something we work with the bride on. We do the events typically the day before the wedding. We recommend doing them in the wedding location or having some sort of transportation planned that she thought of for the process.

– Gotcha. Where do the flowers come from then?

– Great questions, depends on the location. Either it’s a wholesaler in that area or we will dropship from Miami if we need to.

– I see, okay. That’s part of the training for them to source out those vendors and those distribution wholesale flower locations.

– We do all of the ordering so that’s helpful.

– Great great. One of the courses we offer is a floral wall. Where they do just the whole wall. Would Alice’s Table be able to help out with a floral wall?

– We do not recommend our exec’s to do floral walls.

– I was getting excited for…

– You can’t transport that right?

– Well no you build it on site.

– You’d have to build it on site so the bride would have to be okay with building it on site. But typically floral walls you wanna do the day of the wedding. You don’t necessarily want your hydrangeas dying overnight. We like to do those the day of and the bride’s typically not up for doing any of her flowers the day of.

– No, of course not. It depends on the water source right?

– Right, totally totally.

– Someone told me that you were on Shark Tank. Can you tell us all about that.

– Yeah I was. I was on the most recent season, season nine. It was amazing, what an amazing experience first and foremost. We taught a flower arranging class to the Sharks and then kind of jumped into the conversation about the business which was fun.

– Wow. Who are your favorite? We got an investment from Mark Cuban and Sara Blakely, who is the founder of Spanx. She was a guest judge on the episode we were on. They went in together on the deal, which has been fantastic to have the two of them onboard and helping us. To really support entrepreneurs our exec’s across the country.

– That’s fantastic. So you get a lot of advice from them including obviously their investment, but you get to see them regularly and…

– I wish I got to see them regularly. Being in Boston we don’t get to see them that much. I certainly talk to them and get their advice and they’re involved which is nice. I think gives our exec’s also a level of confidence that we have a support system that can really help them excel and succeed.

– Right, wow. That’s fantastic. Tell me about the process, what made you go on the show?

– One of my friends actually said, “Have you ever thought about going on Shark Tank”. I hadn’t really thought of it, it just had never crossed my mind. That night I went online and I filled out the contact form. The producer got back to me. I love that story because I think it really says to young entrepreneurs, you gotta give things a shot. You don’t always need to know someone or feel like you have a connection or go into a backdoor. Sometimes just filling out the contact form…

– Right, taking action.

– Taking action, it gets you there. They have an interview process and all of that.

– Wow, that’s such a fantastic, I love that I love that. Because a lot of people stand in their own way they are fearful of the unknown so they do nothing. Frozen in fear. This is a great story, where you just said, I’m gonna fill out the app and see what happens.

– See what happens! It’s either gonna work or it’s not gonna work. You’ve gotta give it a shot. I think that really is the foundation of entrepreneurship, right. Is there’s so many people that have great ideas, great business ideas. But it’s the people who actually take action on them and start and get over that fear of failure. As entrepreneurs we all fail in moments.

– That’s how we learn right?

– That’s how we learn, we fail forward to success. As I mentor people and talk to them, sometimes our execs call and say, “Oh my gosh I had to cancel an event they didn’t sell enough tickets”. That’s fantastic, that means you learned what didn’t work. Was it at the wrong time, was the restaurant not great. What about that event was not a success? So that you can learn for your next event.

– I love that I really do. Because there’s a lot of people just probably listening to us now sitting in that same situation of teetering on deciding to move forward. Tell me about that. If I were watching and I were interested in adding your exec program to my portfolio of work as an event planner, how would I get started and what would that look like.

– I love that question. We have a bunch of event planners who choose to join us because it fits so perfectly together. As an event planner you’re used to planning these events it’s just another one in your arsenal. You would get started, you’d go on our website and go to the exec page, become an exec. Fill out the application and then you’ll actually be able to talk to one of our people in-house to learn everything there is to know about the program. We love for exec’s to be fully educated about the program to decide if it’s a fit for them. From there we give you the training and materials that you need to get started. You go through video and written content training series. They’re in marketing, sales and then event experience and floral knowledge. Then you’ll do a graduation video. We want to make sure that you’re ready for customers. You’ll do that graduation video and you’re ready to go. You can start booking your events.

– What’s the graduation video, tell me about that.

– The graduation video is effectively you teaching a class to the camera.

– Oh okay.

– It’s you showing that you’re ready for…

– [Cho] And you know what you’re doing.

– You know what you’re doing, you’ve learned the floral knowledge that you need to go out there and start teaching.

– I was gonna ask. In the floral program you must be teaching processing and tools and all of those things. Where to source your flowers just like a regular florist.

– Exactly and then one of the great things is with Alice’s Table we like to call ourselves your back office. We take all of the back office services off of you. We do all the contracting on your behalf. We do the event management, payment processing and then all the ticketing and customer care. Any of your customers they need to switch events, they have some sort of issue, whatever it is, they call us not you.

– That’s fantastic because that allows them to then be event planners.

– Exactly, so you’re in charge of booking the event, marketing the event, choosing the flowers for the event. We actually order them on your behalf to take that stress off of you. You pick them up or receive them and then get ready for your party.

– That’s really great because most event planners love the design and designing the whole experience. The creative aspect of the atmosphere and then all that other logistical nightmare, accounting and…

– That is so me too.

– It’s taken off the plate. That’s fantastic, that’s really a great opportunity. You said that if I wanted to get started, what’s the investment.

– It’s $699 plus tax and shipping. Then what happens is you get a kit of materials that’s for a twenty person party. That’s buckets, aprons, clippers your rose strippers, everything you need to start up to 20 person parties. You can buy more later if you need if you wanna throw a 30 person party. Actually on of our amazing exec’s down in Texas just threw a 75 person sorority party.

– Wow.

– Which is crazy, she got some of her friend exec’s to come and teach with her. You can really grow your business into teaching larger events. This gets you started and gets you off the ground.

– Sounds like a lot of fun too. Florals it’s not just about making florals for the event, it’s really sort of like having tea. It’s casual, it’s fun, it’s beautiful.

– Right, our events all experiences. We actually never sell flower arrangements. We’d never become a traditional florist. You’re teaching the experience. Women are getting together for a birthday party to make bouquets. Or holidays are obviously huge for us. Thanksgiving tablescapes, Christmas wreaths, all of those. Easter table arrangements in every season there’s some sort of kind of event that you can create.

– Even Mother’s Day, right?`

– Yeah, Mother’s Day is big for us it’s fun, it’s really fun. You sell a lot of pairs and have a lot of mothers come in which is fun.

– I bet, I bet that would be a nice gift.

– Yes absolutely. Actually Good Housekeeping named us the number one experience to get this year.

– Yeah I can see that. My mother would love that. Tell me this, what if there’s someone who is really interested in flowers but they’ve never really handled them before. Tell me how someone like that would get started.

– Absolutely, we have exec’s who have never arranged flowers before get started and launch their business with us. Our training really goes step by step through the process. I’d love to show you today what a flower arranging class is like.

– Really, that’s fantastic!

– Yeah absolutely.

– Well let’s get started.

– Let’s do it.

– Okay.

– Today we’re gonna make one of our Nantucket Collection…

– Ooh.

– bouquet, this is called Nantucket Reds.

– Okay.

– We’re gonna make this and this is exactly what you’d do at an event. An exec would teach this class and you’d have people in the audience who are all welcome. We’re all learning right along with you and everyone goes home with a beautiful bouquet that they create. This is one of our standard arrangements.

– [Cho] Fantastic. That’s very cute.

– Yeah.

– You know this would even be great I could something like this at even a fundraiser at like schools. Where the kids come in and make something and then you could give that to your teacher…

– Totally, we do tons of those. at the end of the year. ‘Cause a lot of schools do fundraisers and things like that. I think there’s a lot of great ideas for this experience as part of even a bigger event.

– Right, we do them for fundraisers, weddings, birthday parties, lots of baby showers and bridal showers, flower crowns for baby showers. Things like that.

– Very good I love it, I love it. One of the things I think that really great about this opportunity is we’d love to include it with our master class students as part of their course curriculum. I think this is something that every wedding planner should know.

– Definitely.

– Not just who an exec is and collaborating I think that’s the first step to getting started. But I think if you’re gonna take your profession professionally and take it serious I think you’d need to know. Not necessarily make yourself a florist but you need to know every aspect of your profession.

– Basic skills, even styling photo shoots which I know event planners do more and more these days. You need that basic skill, flower arranging, so that you can go in and make the photo shoot look right.

– Exactly the way you want sometimes.

– Yep, absolutely.

– I love it. Well thank you so much for having us today…

– Thank you, thanks so much for coming!

– Alright well I can’t wait to work with you more!

– Me too!