Create your own festive floral decorations and wreaths with Bella
WITH the festive season approaching local florist Bella Verrechia is already getting enquiries for her popular Christmas workshops where clients can learn how to make their own attractive Christmas wreaths or garlands while enjoying mince pies and a glass of mulled wine.
Last year there was so much demand for her services that Bella was holding workshops almost every night from the end of November right up until just before Christmas Day. They had to be held in the evening as she was still running her flower shop in Hollybush Lane, Sevenoaks, during the day.
But Bella, who is always coming up with new business ideas, has now moved into a specially adapted studio in Brasted, which means she can hold even more workshops this year either at her premises, in people’s own homes, and at prestigious venues such as Knole House. She is still within easy reach of her customers in the Sevenoaks district and is already building up a new client base from the Westerham area and beyond.
Her village studio and workshop is certainly different from where she launched her floristry and flower school business – on a stall in the car park outside The Harvester in Riverhead (now the Miller & Carter Steakhouse).
Bella, who has lived in Sevenoaks all her life and was a pupil at Knole Academy, said: “After leaving school, I trained to be a florist at Hadlow College and I can honestly say I enjoyed it from the moment I started. During my time there I did some work experience with another local florist.
She was so helpful and the knowledge and skills she passed on gave me the confidence to start up on my own. I had already started my business when I came up with the idea of asking The Harvester in Riverhead if I could run a flower stall from their car park and fortunately, they loved the idea.
“My father and I, with the help of other members of my family, managed to build a stall within a week as we wanted to be open in time for Mother’s Day 2012, which also happened to be my 18th birthday.”
Bella is the youngest of six children and her whole family has been very supportive of her endeavours. This is reflected in the name of business which is Johnny’s Little Sister – Flower Emporium, named after her eldest brother.
The stall was such a success that in less than a year Bella was looking for a more permanent base and moved into a vacant shop in London Road, Riverhead. It enabled her to branch out into arranging flowers for weddings and this has now become a major part of her business.
Bella said: “The shop in Riverhead was really tiny so when the opportunity came to move into another shop in Hollybush Lane, Sevenoaks, I jumped at the chance. This move opened up even more doors for me and the wedding side of the business really took off. I stayed there for three years but going up to the flower markets in Covent Garden at around 4am and then being in the shop from 8am to 6pm was quite tiring.
“During the summer I now get loads of requests to run bridal workshops and brides often like to make their own bouquets because it is more sentimental, especially if they do it with their mum, or their bridesmaids who can also make their own bouquets.
“I felt that running the shop and the workshops meant I wasn’t able to give brides my full attention so in 2017, after three years in Hollybush Lane, I decided to shut the shop so I could concentrate on weddings and the seasonal workshops even more.
“Every year the wedding industry seems to expand, and people have even bigger ceremonies. The run up to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day is also always a big challenge and I find myself working long hours, sometimes even all through the night, to keep up with demand.
But what many of Bella’s customers do not know is that she had another ‘profession’ before she became a florist. Bella reveals: “I was originally a professional ballroom dancer and travelled all over England. I started dancing when I was a toddler and then finished when I was about 15. I danced with my brother Tom, but by the time he was in his teens he decided he had had enough of dancing. I looked for another partner, but it wasn’t the same.”
Details of Bella’s popular workshops can be found on her website at: www.johnnyslittlesisterflorist.co.uk
There are already December dates on offer when you can make your own Christmas decorations and gifts, or Bella can also organise workshops at your own home or in her studio throughout the year for special occasions such as birthdays and hen parties, or when customers can simply learn basic and advanced floristry skills.
Johnny’s Little Sister
T: 07864 129315