In Conversation with Itika Oldwine of Oldvine Florals
Describe your business in a few words?
Oldvine Florals is a luxury floral boutique located in downtown Los Angeles.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
A love for flowers matched with an entrepreneurial spirit birthed Oldvine Florals. The inspiration to launch my very own floral company came while working as the Director of Marketing for the in-house floral team at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. After a couple of years marketing a floral business, and gaining insight into the floral industry, I decided to launch my own business as a vessel for my point of view on blooming creations and to put my stamp on the flowery landscape of L.A.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I am an alum of UCLA and have a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago, working on my MA, I landed an internship at The Oprah Winfrey Show, the top rated talk show in the country at the time, and after my internship I joined their production team through their final season in 2011. While in Chicago, I also signed with the Chicago division of the Ford Modeling Agency where I was represented in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
I left Chicago in 2012 to return to Los Angeles and pursue a career in Marketing at AEG where I produced 100+ events at LA LIVE for the GRAMMY’s, ESPY’s, MTV Movie and Music Awards, BET Experience and red carpet events for countless film premieres. But it wasn’t until 2014 when I was hired as the Marketing Director for the Eric Buterbaugh Design Group at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills where I discovered my passion for floral creations.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I did not always know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. To be honest, I did not have any aspirations to be an entrepreneur until I was in my mid-30’s. One afternoon, as I was preparing to send out my resume after deciding it was time for a career move, my now husband suggested that instead of applying for another job to better someone else’s company, I should start my own. And that’s the day that Oldvine Florals was born.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I had a short stint in real estate and one of the things they teach you when it comes to selling homes is a concept called “farming”. Real estate farming is a valuable marketing strategy that involves planting, nurturing and cultivating real estate leads that grow into future business. Farming is typically done in an area close to your home, where your connection to the community is strongest. When applying this concept to marketing Oldvine Florals I decided to start promoting our business to our DTLA community of friends, residences and business owners first. These were potential clients who were the closest to our storefront, located at 132 W. 7th St. in downtown Los Angeles, and who would be our most easily attainable customer. This strategy proved to be a good one because we quickly began to partner with downtown Los Angeles hotels like the NoMad Los Angeles, Hotel Figueroa and Intercontinental who called on us for guest floral requests and most, if not all, of the DTLA residential buildings were happy to spread the word about our new floral business to their residences.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
To be honest, I feel like I’m still at a point in my business where I am making mistakes and learning from them along the way. There is no road map to becoming an entrepreneur or what to do once you launch your business. Every single thing I have done as the Owner of Oldvine has been a first. From registering for my LLC, to opening a business account at my local bank, to hiring, it’s all been a serious learning curve. But, one challenge that sticks out has to do with delegating. For most of my time as an Owner I have been inclined to do almost everything myself and choosing to ask for help only when my back is against the wall. Oftentimes I have found myself against a deadline that was quickly approaching, or making small mistakes with deliveries and bookkeeping because I insisted on doing it all myself. But after seeing small mistakes occur because I thought I could do it all, turning into potentially costly mistakes, I decided it was time to take a realistic look at what I could do well on my own and what I could do better and more efficiently if I hired help. This approach had to happen in every aspect of my business from florals design, to delivery, to bookkeeping and social media management so that we could be more efficient and successful overall.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
My proudest accomplishment are the clients that we have had the privilege of creating floral designs for since we launched in 2017. Our clientele includes repeat customers who call on us for every occasion from birthdays to Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day year after year, corporate clients like Facebook, Netflix, Nike and Amazon and celebrity clients such as Beyonce and Jay Z Carter. Our loyal clients make the work that we are doing at Oldvine Florals so rewarding, especially when they call on us to floral design monthly and even weekly for some.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Well as I mentioned before, hiring hasn’t been my strongest suit, so I can’t say that I have a go-to interview question. But, I am happy to share one of my hiring tips all about first impressions. I truly believe that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. When hiring, the first thing that I do is take a long hard look at your resume. Not just to gather information about you and your experience but, also to make sure that there are no obvious typos or misspellings. I know mistakes happen but the resume is your ticket to get your foot in the door for that first interview so make sure it’s tight!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic forced us to pivot from an event-based industry to a no-contact floral arrangement delivery driven industry. This change occurred as a direct result of the stay home order that went into effect in March of 2020 and has essentially been enforced in Los Angeles since that time. The sudden shift from events to daily deliveries has had its upside as it’s been a great way to help us tap into our customers core needs by helping them stay in touch with loved ones, celebrate milestones or just show someone they care with a hand-made floral arrangement designed by us.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
After more than 3 successful years in the floral business, my passion for problem solving and eye for beauty is taking me to the next chapter which includes fragrance making. Within the next year we plan to introduce our expansion into fragrances with a signature fragrance line called OldVine Fragrances.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is to go with the flow. A lot of what we do as high achievers is to put out well laid plans and execute. But 2020 taught us all that our plans would have to wait because the uncertainty and devastation of a pandemic, the necessity of the BLM movement and the unprecedented election would usurp anything we as individuals thought we had going on.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I knew how much my village would rally behind me and my business to help in our success. So much of what I have accomplished would not be possible without the support of my husband, close friends and family. I shouldered a lot of the weight of the responsibilities for the business but, overtime, I had to learn to depend on others and accept and ask for help from the people who are closest to me.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Seeing all of the death and devastation from the affects of the pandemic have been sobering to say the least. As an expectant mother throughout this pandemic, I have been very careful about staying healthy and abiding by all of the Covid-19 guidelines. Living in the midst of a pandemic and being a pregnant newlywed while keeping my business afloat has been one of the most grounding experiences of my life.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I absolutely believe in work/life balance. I have maintained a work/life balance by intentionally carving out time apart from floral designing and managing my business to nurture my new role as a wife. My husband and I maintain certain traditions at home, like sharing meals together, while always being cognizant about prioritizing our personal needs as a newlywed couple above the demands of our careers.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Your audience would be surprised to learn that I am going to be a first time Mom at 41 years old this year and that I wed my husband last year at 40. Age is just a number and everything in life happens exactly when and how it should.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- My first tip is to wake up early to get a proper start on the day. Admittedly I am not an early riser naturally but, with the help of my hubby who is, I have learned to be more disciplined so that I can get a head start on what is almost always sure to be a very busy work day.
- My second tip is to not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Every day in my business is different than the last and is sure to come with it’s own set of challenges and client expectations. If I make sure to get most, if not everything, on my to-do list done by the end of each workday it means that I start the next day with a clean slate ready take on the new floral orders and client demands that come with it.
- My third tip is to eat healthy and drink plenty of water. I want to include this tip because there were times, before my pregnancy of course, when I would go almost a full day without eating or hydrating because I was “too busy”. But, you are never too busy to eat a quick breakfast, healthy lunch, and satisfying dinner. It is just a matter of making the time. I was forced to learn how to do that when I became pregnant because the hunger that comes with growing a baby is impossible to ignore lol.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means to have confidence and to be fearless. It takes that confidence and fearlessness to step out on faith in order to be the creator of your own destiny.