Entrepreneurial Inspiration: South Gate Design

An entrepreneur whom I find personally inspiring is Harriet Charles. She is the founder of South Gate Design, wildly elegant florals for the romantic heart. So I contacted her for some inspiration and she agreed to share more about her entrepreneurial journey with The Lead Journal. 

Early inspiration and starting South Gate Design   

For my entire life I have been in love and inspired by nature. Growing up on a farm with few children of my own age around, I played outside building forts out of china berry trees and picked weeds and wildflowers to decorate my forts! Building bridges across ditches was my forte.

My mother loves flowers and greenery and always has! At 93 years young, she still snips and cuts greenery and flowers in the yard to bring indoors to brighten up the house and everyone’s day! I definitely inherited that gene from her as I do the same thing!

southgate2I love nature and really find beauty in all of it. And I adore spending time in my yard gardening. In or around 2000 I had a reception for a couple who had recently married out of town. The guest list was large and the party took place inside and outside of our home. Several people admired our yard and asked if I would help them spruce up their yards and flower beds. That is how South Gate Design started and it consisted of jobs here and there to help someone prepare their yard for a home wedding or to dress up a front entrance or to add container gardens. Over the years South Gate Design grew to keep me busy.

Expanding South Gate Design

southgate4Flowers really are my first love and always have been. However, having a florist shop has never appealed to me. I did not want to be tethered to a shop, so I didn’t pursue that avenue.  Over the past few years I started seeing more and more independent floral designers online and I thought, how appealing to be able to pursue my number one passion without being tied to a shop!

I started following Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm on her blog and social media some time ago. In 2015 Floret Farm announced a workshop on floral design and business. On the day the application for a scholarship to the workshop was due, I woke up with the thought that I couldn’t shake. Why couldn’t that scholarship be for me! I worked on the application until the moment it was due and submitted it. I was not awarded the full scholarship but was given a discount which made me decide that it was meant to be. So in August 2015, I booked the flight to Seattle, Washington and paid my workshop fee. All of those things coming together got me  thinking, “I am going to do this”, all the while not knowing exactly what “this” would be.

Investing in additional skills

southgate5The workshop set me on fire and gave me the confidence to move forward. I ordered flowers and spent a lot of time practicing floral designs and photographing each one to get just the right shot! Before going to Seattle, Floret Farm offered a discount for an online photography class and I took that class which helped me hone in on my photography skills.The photographs are key in getting my work before people so the photography class and my love of nature photography helped to push things forward.

Offering inspiring workshops

southgateWhile in Seattle at the workshop, most participants talked about weddings and events while I declared to a few that I wanted to lead floral design workshops!  I enjoyed the company of the other creatives and everyone seemed to have such fun that I thought I could duplicate a workshop on a small scale and teach what I had learned and studied. My idea is not to just teach floral design but to encourage women to learn new skills, to enjoy experiences over stuff, to connect with other women in their community and to have down time in a relaxed fun atmosphere. Certainly bring on the weddings and events but inspiring workshops will be a big part of the business in my community and in other places. So, yes to putting workshops on the road!

Life as an entrepreneur

I continue with landscape design and container gardening so my already busy routine is busier now with the added floral design component. I definitely need to find more balance and need to learn to say “no” more often. On many a morning I have put my yoga classes and bootcamp classes on the back burner to take care of more pressing business concerns. I am definitely working to improve in the area of balancing work, health, play and relationships.

southgate3My intention is probably unique in that I actually want to schedule business so that I can stop and start when I want to in order to take time off to travel and to visit with my family. Many entrepreneurs may actually see working out of their home as a negative but I prefer working out of my home. I’d rather be at home working at all hours of the day (my husband would add here, “and night!”) than in a warehouse or office space. Flexibility and being home are very important to me.

Inspiring future entrepreneurs

To future entrepreneurs I would suggest finding mentors, taking classes, studying and researching online. Once you are ready to take off establish a relationship with a bank, use mobile online billing and accounting to keep organized and to keep things looking professional. I use Freshbooks (www.freshbooks.com) for this. If you aren’t savvy in an area, as soon as you can, hire someone who is.

Find others who are in related businesses who are just starting out and support one another! There are enough people in the world that will want the services offered without being cut throat to one another. Being loving and supportive to others in the same line of work will go a long way in building your own business!

JUST BE YOU and JUMP IN! You will never know unless you try!

Folks who are full of passion about what they do get others excited and the energy is contagious! Customers love enthusiasm, great customer service and beautiful products. WIN-WIN!


southgate7Guest author: Harriet Charles is the founder of South Gate Design.  She describes herself as Florist, Wife, Mother, Lover of Beautiful Things, Traveller, Light-Seeker.

Explore her website: harrietcharles.com and check out her Facebook and Instagram pages! 


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