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Katie Easley: “I would love to start a movement about ‘community over competition’; to find a way for people to share more to elevate the industry as a whole”

I would love to start a movement about open sharing — more forums, more masterminds, more collaboration. It goes back to the idea of community over competition. I would want to find a way for people to share more to elevate our industry as a whole. In particular, I’ve been thinking about a way for a florist (or […]


I would love to start a movement about open sharing — more forums, more masterminds, more collaboration. It goes back to the idea of community over competition. I would want to find a way for people to share more to elevate our industry as a whole.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about a way for a florist (or any industry person, for that matter) can go to a forum and learn more about competitors’ pricing. This is not intended for undercutting; instead, it would be anonymous to protect everyone involved. For example, a florist could go to the forum and add in that they sent a $9,000 floral proposal for March 16 at the Botanical Gardens. Other florists can see the same inquiry and have a baseline to use for their proposal. This would push clients to choose their vendor based on talent rather than price. When they see two proposals for the same amount, they can rely on their preference instead of choosing the florist that is undercharging them and likely can’t provide what they need within budget. Since nobody has to identify who they are, the anonymity would keep things respectful and considerate, and you wouldn’t know whether it’s your top competitor or someone new to the market. This would be tough to execute, of course, but the idea is really about coming together as an industry and creating fair pricing for clients to choose based on their needs and preferences. There is too much competition and undercutting in the industry; by collaborating, we could create a fair ground for everyone.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Easley. An interior designer by trade, Kate first got her start working for DuPont. It was there that she honed her branding and sales, while fully immersing herself in the method of selling the intangible. Thanks in part to her roots in corporate interior design, Katie quickly grew her small business to sales of over a quarter of a million dollars a year, catching attention of the Society of American Florists, who honored her as ‘Marketer of the Year’ in 2012. Katie is a regular fixture on television, and her worked can be seen in the pages of Grace Ormonde, Modern Luxury Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times, among others. She is the immediate past president for WIPA Phoenix, and an acclaimed industry speaker. In her not-so-spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, often with a glass of “fancy” bourbon in hand and her beloved mastiff/boxer ‘Zira’ by her side.


Thank you so much for joining us Katie! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career in the interior design industry and was hit with reality when the real estate market crashed in the late 2000s. While I was trying to figure out what was next, my friend was recently engaged and came to me for design advice. I realized that my career in interior design taught me how to use color, lighting, and texture to make the most of a space. I knew how to take a blank slate and create a beautiful design within it — and that was when I decided to start my business.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

When I started my business in the late 2000s, we were in the middle of an economic recession and people didn’t have disposable income. Banks were foreclosing and, if you had money, you certainly weren’t spending it. I was already facing an uphill battle. Most people were going out of business and some were even losing their homes. Unemployment was high and real estate was low. There was just so much uncertainty in my early years, both in my business and in the general state of the economy.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Simple — I made failure a key part of my success. I attribute my success to my commitment to perseverance. Failing wasn’t just about falling down for me; it was about getting up afterwards and continuing to push forward. 12 years later, I’ve grown in ways I would have thought impossible. I did try to go back to corporate America, but I hated it. I wanted to feel passion for what I was doing, and I wanted to wake up every day looking forward to the work ahead. I made the decision to cut my expenses back and worked every angle that I could to just keep pushing forward. It’s all because I kept trying to figure out how to pivot and change my perspective to always be better tomorrow.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit and perseverance provided me with the ability to be OK trying new things and knowing that they were not all going to work. It was important for me to know how to move forward even after falling down. I attribute my success to knowing that I would make it if I just kept pushing forward instead of dwelling on the past.

Along the way, I focused a lot on my faults — but not in a bad way. Instead, I looked at how I could learn from them. I would always ask lost clients why they chose someone else (in fact, I still do to this day). I am always trying to improve my business and there’s no better way to do so than through feedback. It’s ok to recognize your flaws as long as you learn from them and want to change them to become a better version of yourself.

So, how are things going today? 🙂
Things are going well. We just moved into a new warehouse/office combo and have completely redesigned and rebranded with our same strategy in mind, but with a new look. I now have full-time employees with full benefits, whereas I started alone with occasional help from temporary labor. I’m infusing more capital into the business than ever before, which is a sign of growth.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One time, we told an intern how to do something that was a rather menial task — recreating centerpieces. We showed her how to do it, but didn’t specify that she couldn’t cut corners. The centerpieces were tall and filled with roses and we placed them with ceramic model hands coming out of the table beneath.

When we got onsite, one of the centerpieces had a huge chunk fall right off — right into the fake model hands. It fell so perfectly that the planner actually thought it was our design style. Fortunately, it was a mockup design, so it wasn’t too critical. While we laughed it off, it was still stressful — it’s never fun when something doesn’t go as planned.

Lesson learned. When working with someone who isn’t as experienced in the business, you have to be very specific about what you want. You always have to double-check someone’s work. Even if you are outsourcing something, it’s up to you to make sure it’s being done correctly. After all, it’s a team effort so the pressure shouldn’t fall on only one person (especially the intern!).

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re not afraid to be innovative and push the boundaries of what’s “normal.” We want to be cutting-edge and bring the latest trends to our hometown. We want to bring those NYC and LA designs to Phoenix. We will always go out of our way to meet a client’s needs, no matter what it takes.

For instance, we had a client who loved a local indoor ceremony space that can be converted to a chapel. Most clients select that room because of its chandeliers, but this particular client wanted to minimize the existing chandeliers and bring in one large fixture as a focal point. We went to the drawing board and decided to crane in fully-grown trees in boxes to put them in the room and adjust the scale. The height of the trees made the installed chandeliers look diminutive. Then, we hung one huge chandelier in the middle that made all of the others look like babies. This is only one example of why we’re known for being trend-setters in the market and transforming spaces with size, color, texture, and lighting.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Lean on each other — it really is about community over competition. Everyone is not out to take everyone else down, and not everyone is your competition. Lean in to someone helping you, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I would do anything for another florist to call and ask for advice on mechanics for something I’ve already done. I struggled through it and I don’t want my peers to struggle through it the same way. The more we can feel comfortable leaning on each other, the less weight we feel we have to carry.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I fully believe in having a mentor. My mentor, Bob, has been in my line of business for years and has a ton of experience. I can talk to him about literally anything — from signing a lease to getting a great deal on an Internet package to purchasing a new vehicle. He’s done it all and is happy to share his experience with me. I love my conversations with him because I learn so much and don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Although times have changed, some things remain the same — we may have things like Snapchat and Instagram now, but Bob can still coach me in the fundamentals in marketing because they are consistent through the years.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I make a point to give back to my community by sitting on boards and committees for nonprofits. As a business owner in my community, I also sit on the budget committee for my daughter’s school district. The charity that I sit on the most is dedicated to children and, in addition to serving as much as possible, I try to find ways to get my vendor friends involved as well — we all have a lot to give back to our community.

I have also served on professional boards and organizations. Most recently, I have served the Phoenix chapter of WIPA (Wedding International Professionals Association) for four years — I was vice president, then a two-term president, and now I sit as the immediate past president.

What are your “ Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Wedding Industry” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You have to be OK with failure. You have to understand and accept that you won’t win every bid — it’s not always going to work. At the same time, you have to be ready to adjust your direction and pivot towards success. This is exactly what I learned from my start as a business owner during the Great Recession. Don’t be afraid of failure — instead, use it as a learning experience and grow from it.
  2. You have to understand the highs and lows of business. Things will not always be easy, but they will also not always be hard. That’s why you have to have a strong business acumen. For example, wedding season is not year-round, no matter where you live. In Phoenix, it’s 120 degrees in July. In Chicago, it’s 30 degrees below freezing in January. You need to be prepared for the flux of the wedding business and know how to balance the workload and finances of your business.
  3. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. You might not always get picked, but you have to be ready. It was tough putting myself and my business out there when the economy was down and people were not spending money, but I knew I had to prevail and push forward. No matter the circumstances, it’s up to you to show up and be authentically yourself.
  4. You have to understand your business and brand’s purpose. Know what you stand for and don’t settle for anything less. Tap into your core values and embrace the things that set you and your company apart from your competitors. In my case, I recognize that I love traditional style with a modern edge. I understand this does not suit every couple out there, but I also know that I’ll book the ones that it does fit. Stick to what you know and love, and you can’t go wrong.
  5. Never stop learning. The wedding business is constantly changing, with new trends showing up every week it seems. Likewise, the world of sales and marketing is also shifting as we embrace new technology and platforms to help streamline our efforts. Don’t be resistant to new things — take the time to learn about them and decide whether they are a fit for your brand’s purpose (see #4).

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a movement about open sharing — more forums, more masterminds, more collaboration. It goes back to the idea of community over competition. I would want to find a way for people to share more to elevate our industry as a whole.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about a way for a florist (or any industry person, for that matter) can go to a forum and learn more about competitors’ pricing. This is not intended for undercutting; instead, it would be anonymous to protect everyone involved. For example, a florist could go to the forum and add in that they sent a $9,000 floral proposal for March 16 at the Botanical Gardens. Other florists can see the same inquiry and have a baseline to use for their proposal. This would push clients to choose their vendor based on talent rather than price. When they see two proposals for the same amount, they can rely on their preference instead of choosing the florist that is undercharging them and likely can’t provide what they need within budget. Since nobody has to identify who they are, the anonymity would keep things respectful and considerate, and you wouldn’t know whether it’s your top competitor or someone new to the market.

This would be tough to execute, of course, but the idea is really about coming together as an industry and creating fair pricing for clients to choose based on their needs and preferences. There is too much competition and undercutting in the industry; by collaborating, we could create a fair ground for everyone.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter at @kateryandesign.

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