Four – minute read

Sarah Horne might have been in floristry for more than 38 years, but she’s anything but a one-trick pony. With no formal training, she has amassed numerous prestigious awards for her floristry, including three Chelsea gold medals and Chelsea Florist of the Year. Now she’s branched out into home and giftware, having designed and produced an entire range based around her original ink drawings of botanicals. We caught up with her on a recent trip to Leamington Spa to learn more about her aspirations for her growing business…

Mention floristry to anyone from Leamington Spa and you’re bound to hear the name Sarah Horne. More than 38 years in the business have established Sarah as the go-to florist in the area for everything from the usual weddings and funerals, to photoshoots, exhibitions and special events.

Her love of floristry was sparked at just 12 years old when she accompanied her mother to a party plan event where the host had a business making and selling silk flowers. They both found they had a knack for it and a few years later, opened a silk flower shop of their own. When Sarah finished school, she began working in the shop full time, branching out into fresh flower arrangement with the help of a mentor and eventually phasing out the silk flowers altogether.

Ambition in the genes

Sarah’s mother, Jenny was the sort of person who couldn’t just sit back and wait for opportunity to come knocking. Impressed by her daughter’s natural talent for floristry and design, she had no qualms about calling the buyer at Harrods to see if they would be interested in stocking the floral headdresses she’d been making for a local bridal boutique. “She’d just do things like that,” laughs Sarah. On that occasion, the buyer wasn’t looking for new stock, but still invited Sarah to meet for some feedback on her designs.

Jenny sadly passed away in 1990 aged just 46, but her tenacity and passion live on through Sarah. “She was a really dynamic and ambitious woman. She was like a best friend, so it was a huge blow when we lost her. One of the first things I did when I picked myself up was design a headdress and send it to Liberty’s. I got an appointment and ended up selling them there for three years. She would have loved that.”

Cultivating success

Floristry has taken Sarah all over the world and she has been invited to demonstrate her skills for the likes of the Flower Council of Holland, the American Institute of Floral Designers and the Society of Floristry – despite not having any formal qualifications. But she’s as interested in business development as she is in floristry and design and is chair of Leamington’s BID (Business Improvement District). “I’ve been involved in it since the beginning and I’m really passionate about it,” she says. Having one of those rare brains that works equally on a business and creative level has allowed Sarah to have both artistic and strategic control over the direction of her brand. “Both sides really excite me, which can be a bit schizophrenic when they are both inside the same head. But it seems to be how my brain works,” she says. This unique mix has seen her consulting on product development for global brands such as Interflora, giving her a good understanding of what goes into designing and creating a new product for market – experience which proved invaluable when developing her homeware range. “I’d learned the process without really realising how much experience I’d got in it,” she says.

An eye for detail

Sarah’s experience in competitive floristry has also given her a keen eye for the finer details and has massively influenced the quality and finish of her collection. “I’ve designed the dinner set a bit like a flower arrangement, so that it goes together with different textures,” she explains. “Composition is massive to me and I guess that’s probably because of my competing. I didn’t just want something with the design slapped on the front. I’d got such a clear vision of what I thought this was going to look like.” Finding the right manufacturer, who understood the importance of this attention to detail, was imperative, and after much research, she found her perfect match in a company based in the world capital of ceramics, Stoke-on-Trent. “These guys just got it straight away,” she says.

Hidden talents

Having failed O-Level art, Sarah spent most of her life believing she couldn’t draw. It wasn’t until she was required to submit a hand drawing of her plans for an installation project to take Leamington Spa to Chelsea Flower Show , that her skills as an artist began to reveal themselves. “I just kind of locked myself away and gave it a go,” she says. This led to the creation of her original artworks, and later the idea to put her drawings onto fine bone china. It soon became apparent that what began as simply another creative outlet was in fact a commercially viable business. “Somebody I’d known for a long time, who’d always mentored me, said ‘This is a thing. It needs properly structuring and you need to set it up as a separate company – and actually, I’d like to invest.’” Later, her accountant also invested  . “So now there’s three of us on the board with all different skills. I call it a golden triangle – it just feels right.”

Sarah has a knack for networking and this has opened up many opportunities over the years, including her latest foray into hospitality. The Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon were looking for a range of china for their afternoon teas when a friend   She hopes the high-quality finish of her products – and the fact she designs them herself – could attract interest from other hotels and restaurants looking for unique chinaware. “I could design bespoke dinner services that nobody else has. They all have my signature on, so it’s very much coming from the art and would be limited edition,” she explains. “I can see some really huge possibilities.”

www.sarahhornebotanicals.com