60 Seconds with Di Marvell
PETALS FLORIST, MARGATE
What started as a hobby for Di at the age of 20 had turned into a full blown floristry business by the time she was 21! Still trading nearly 30 years later, Di is the proud winner of four Chelsea Flower Show medals including two golds and ‘Overall Winner’.
Why did you decide to join the GFG?
I’d always seen it and thought ‘I’m never going to be good enough for that!’ A lot of people um and ah and then step away. Then if you get to know other people who are in it, you get chatting and I thought I’d give it a go and see if I was good enough. It’s quite fair because they map out what you can improve on, for example your website, so you’re always learning and making improvements.
Best business decision?
Probably to do Chelsea. It gets you on the map, especially if you get anywhere. You’ve got your medals to prove what you can do which gives you a bit of an edge over other people. Getting a medal is not easy so it shows that you’re really dedicated. It’s not for the faint hearted floristry, it’s hard work.
Worst business decision?
We’re in a not very affluent area and I sometimes wonder whether I should have moved somewhere else a long time ago. Wisdom comes with age and you sometimes think you’ve outgrown the area so I do question myself a lot. But this is a long-standing business so it probably wasn’t the worst decision.
If you weren't a florist, what would you like to do?
There’s loads of things. I love animals so I’d probably be one of those people who works with them, I love all sorts. I have five cats, God knows how many pigeons, I’m a bit of a bird freak.
Describe your perfect day
A nice chilling day up my allotment. I grow veg, fruit, you name it I’ll give it a go. Try to sustain ourselves as much as we can. Up there every day in the summer and otherwise every weekend. Strawberries, runner beans. I love cooking and I like making fresh meringues, cream and strawberries. Get the barbie up there and a bottle of vino, lovely.
What's your greatest indulgence?
Having a day off if I’m lucky!
Your biggest pet hate?
I have several. Bad floristry is the main one. People who don’t do a good job to a good standard and work very cheaply. Basically people who don’t have a shop and work from home and don’t pay what the rest of us have to pay. The old sinkers. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re legit I’ve got no problem with you working from home but it’s the ones that are not.
What do you find most difficult?
Trying to find staff, competent staff anyway. Now I work on my own because I found it so hard to find good staff. It’s too much like hard work. They don’t like the sore hands and chilblains and bad backs, especially in the winter!
Is the customer always right?
(Laughs) Technically they should be but sometimes they’re not. If they complain about something, you give them the benefit of the doubt, then you go and look at something and you know it’s their fault, you don’t know what to say. Do you say something or do you replace it? If they’re genuine it’s fine but some of them aren’t. I’ve been in the trade long enough to know what causes what. You can look at it and see they haven’t had any water in it. You don’t want a naff reputation but it’s hard. Top of the radiator or on a gas fire, some people do that and of course they’re going to get crispy! Not ideal.
Best piece of advice for someone starting out?
Learn everything you can and then keep learning always every way you can. A lot of people come out of college and think they’re fully qualified. It’s a totally different world when you’re in business. You need to know the college way and the shop way. Work in other shops before you start your own. You need to know all the pitfalls. To be good at what you do you’ve got to give yourself every advantage in business. You have to literally think of everything. Learn all the floristry and never get stale, be different, don’t be like everyone else.
What are you most excited about in the next year?
I haven’t even thought about it! Haven’t had time to think about it – just done Valentines and Mothers Day and now I can start to think about it.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you're only allowed one flower?
Probably a snow drop. They’re simple and elegant and very tiny and beautiful. They can look really pretty in an arrangement.
What are the local businesses you'd recommend?
GIORGIO’S RESTAURANT – it’s an Italian restaurant close to the beach and the Turner Contemporary gallery. The service is amazing and the pizza’s are fab.
THE SANDS HOTEL – a beautiful hotel with lovely views and the service is out of this world.
KATE AND GEORGE BY THE SEA – it’s a beautiful boutique shop with unusual gifts.
As well as all the usual floristry, I specialise in all the weird 3D. We can do anything and everything. Cadillacs, Wallace and Gromit, taxis, all the badges for things, swans. Mostly do it for funerals. I love funeral work because it’s a nasty time for them and you can do lovely things for them. Nothing is too strange. A Marmite jar, cakes, balls of wool, Del Boy’s plastic pig, his caravan, Batman and Robin. Only Fools and Horses is very popular in Margate!