Live Flower Arranging Workshops Make Business Bloom for House of Margot Blair

Austin florist Carly Blair adapts her business to the era of social isolation, with much success


Carly Blair (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

While mindlessly scrolling down my Instagram feed one day, I came across an image by House of Margot Blair, a local florist shop I follow: a beautifully arranged bouquet of pink and yellow summer roses and ranunculus with a sprinkle of white poppy. It stood out to me especially as I compared it with the wilting arrangement of red roses, limping with their necks down, in a vase on my kitchen counter. Buying flowers, a daily dose of joy during the COVID-19 pandemic, was not easy.

On a whim, I reached out to Carly Blair, the shop's owner, to let her know how her post brought me happiness in this stressful time of social distancing. And I had an idea for her: leading a live Zoom workshop on how to arrange blooms.

Carly sat up and listened. She did not hide the fact that she wasn't sure if her 10-year-old business would survive the pandemic. The House of Margot Blair was a venture she had set up in 2009 when she was a college dropout. Not having any investors, she had juggled four $10-per-hour jobs to get it going and at first just worked from her kitchen table. But over time, she built that humble enterprise into a highly successful business with a brick-and-mortar location on Lake Austin Boulevard and a national reputation built on high-end wedding arrangements. House of Margot Blair was known for boldly breaking floral arrangement boundaries in doubling up – i.e., putting flowers in pairs – and curating blooms by flexing their petals. But since Carly believed that even "everyday flowers should not be ordinary," the shop also offered more affordable "Margot Minis" – a perfect cheer-me-up for coronavirus-induced gloom.

But even with her floral business (pardon the pun) blossoming, Carly saw "so much outside [her] control" that was affecting the House of Margot Blair's future – such as the pandemic. Nationwide, half of all flower shops closed temporarily during the COVID-19 shutdown, and those that remained open only kept 60-80% of their business, according to the executive director of the Society of American Florists in The Columbus Dispatch.

The night we spoke, Carly posted about the live class idea on Instagram to gauge her followers' interest. Her post explained, "You would purchase your ticket, we'll then deliver loose stems and a vase to your door, and then the next day we'll all Instagram live together as we play with flowers and drink wine." She asked them, "If this is something that you would legit be interested in, comment below telling me what days would work best for you and we'll try to make this happen!"

For a tiny shop with niche market clientele, Carly was "shocked" by the response. Usually, her posts generated a handful of comments. This one received over 50 – and most were from people who were already in on taking the class. Even out-of-towners were asking if they could be in the virtual class to watch if they bought their own flowers. So Carly added that option to the plan. House of Margot Blair was opening its doors to the world!

In two days, Carly finalized the plan: four workshops via Zoom; two on Fridays (May 1 & 8, 7pm) and two on Saturdays (May 2 & 9, 2pm). She decided to source all the flowers for them from Austin Flower Company on 35th and Jefferson. "I want to support the flower industry locally," she explained.

What seemed like a difficult journey back to success has suddenly become a possibility. My sister even wanted to join from Dubai. When Carly offers her 2pm class it will be 11pm there, but it's a time when people are always awake and doing things. Social distancing may have added local boundaries, but it has removed long-distance ones.

As I signed up for the workshop myself, I asked Carly who Margot is. Carly said she had loved the name ever since she found out that it belonged to Anne Frank's older sister. "When someone asked my name, I would say Margot." She even gave all her dogs the same name. To her, "Margot" seemed to hold a hidden maturity that made people take her seriously. It makes sense that Carly would want that for her fledgling business, but now her own maturity stands out as she adapts her business to changing times while holding on to her originality and "artistic sentimentality."


For more information about Carly Blair’s live tutorials, visit www.houseofmargotblair.com/margotminis.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

House of Margot Blair, Carly Blair, coronavirus

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