Being good at a lot of things can be a blessing or not. Couple that with the zeal of youth and triple that with being from the country I’m from and quadruple that with the part of that country I’m from. Lawd! If I had the emoticon with the what’s app monkey covering its face, that would be perfect emoticon to summarize the combo!
Naija no dey carry last! (Nigerians are extremely resourceful and exhaust all options before saying I simply can’t). If I could think of a mantra for Nigerians, it would be “I can do all things by the grace of the Almighty hustle”. I’ve been everything from a baker, to a chef, to a florist, to a….., to a ……..
But I remember extremely valuable lessons I learned at a particular gig as a florist. I’ve loved flowers from a young age. If I upset my Mom, I would tidy her room, write a nice note maybe and go to our little garden, pluck a few flowers and arrange in whatever container I could find on her bedside table to get back in her good graces. When I got my first real job after college and moved to Washington DC, I moved in with a roommate. I would stop every Friday on my way home after work at the roadside florist to buy a bouquet of roses or some lovely mix of flowers for myself. It would give me such pleasure to take that home and make myself a pretty arrangement.
My friends knew how much I loved flowers so someone was getting married, and needed something classy but inexpensive. Oh wait! Holler at my girl. She’s pretty creative and has good taste. I’m sure she can hook you up. Slowly, my hobby and passion for making spaces pretty with flowers and knickknacks started making a pretty good business case.
I decided to try my hands at doing flowers as a business after I had gained a bit of confidence doing little unpaid gigs for my friends. I’ve always been a big believer in submitting to tutelage of some sort before running out to start your own thing. So, I found a florist in Virginia and would work for peanuts on some Fridays evenings and early Saturday mornings helping them put floral arrangements together. Sometimes, I would ride with them to venues to set up and I started to understand the way the business worked. I was impatient though and I didn’t have access to the kind of capital that these girls had access to. YouTube wasn’t as vast as it is today then and there were quite a few things I didn’t think to learn before I decided to start sourcing on Craigslist for my own gigs. No shaking! (I got this!) Naija no dey carry last!
The first florist gig I had that the bride requested a chuppah (a Jewish canopy used as a covering for the bride and groom at weddings)! Oh my word! I’m still ashamed when I think of that gig. I knew where to rent a chuppah. For sure, I had no idea how to build one and certainly had no capital to purchase one for rentals. This poor bride came for a consultation with her fiancé and after I told her the cost of a rental, she looked so sad that her knight in shining armor jumped in and said he and his friends would build one. I didn’t think to ask about the dimensions or anything. We agreed on the flowers and the draping I would use for the chuppah and it all sounded so exciting to create. I remembered doing something similar at the florist I had a part-time gig with. Problem was, I really didn’t spend enough time to understand the structural workings of keeping the arrangement up. I created really gorgeous floral arrangements but the structures were all wrong.
After creating, I picked up my girl on the way to the ceremony site. I didn’t think ahead of time to borrow a step ladder as I couldn’t afford to invest in one yet. I took my dining chair sha! (just an exclamation). When we got there and saw the “custom made” chuppah! Chinekem o! (My God!). It was a contraption at best; built of PVC pipes! Guy was a plumber! Jaisus! epp us! (Jesus, help us please!). Still trying to be professional, the taller of the two of us which certainly wasn’t me, started trying to tiptoe as high as she could on our dining chair to get to the edges of this crazy high contraption we were presented with. After a while, the groomsmen stepped in and even they as tall as they were had a hard time tying the flowers on and draping the structure to look somewhat presentable.
Everything was going wrong that morning really and then these really strong wind gusts came out of nowhere. The entire PVC structure was just vibrating up and down. Hian! Omo! I don taya o! (Child! I’ve had it!). I looked at my girl and we knew it was time to bounce. I knew I was partly responsible for being presented with the crazy PVC structure. Now, the gorgeous floral arrangements in the urns that we had placed directly in front of the now violently trembling “chuppah” were not so structurally sound either to withstand all that movement.
As we took a few strides towards the car with our dining chair in tow, we heard a loud crash. The wind had toppled the urns and the flowers were all over the place. The decent thing to do would have been to go back to salvage the situation even though I had technically signed off on delivering all I had promised to. Shame wouldn’t let me because I didn’t have the experience or the knowledge of what to do in that kind of an emergency. Baby girls turned to Speedy Gonzales! We ran to the car and zoomed off o! Needless to say, I have no pictures or “thank you” from my bride and her plumber hubby. I hope she got to the “I do’s” inspite of his architectural skills. I might have jilted him if I was her. Seriously though, it was such a rotten thing to do. I’m truly sorry I did that on such a special day in someone’s life.
Notes to self: it doesn’t matter how great the business case looks right now, it is critical to invest my time learning as much as I can first. Ask questions (even the dumbest ones), YouTube it, goggle it, class it, read it. Whatever really. There’s a major responsibility in exchanging my services for people’s money. Understanding the technicalities, paying attention to the little details; those are pretty costly. I have to be honest about my limitations. Not every gig is mine to take. It’s critical for me to own my mistakes and try the best I can to make amends.
The hustle sha! Izz (it’s) always bubbling inside but respect the process…