Welcome to a new blog series we’re trying out, inventively called Content Soup of the Day (we’ve avoided soup references until now, but hey, why not).
It’s basically us talking to people and brands we admire about how they made it in business. At the heart of the conversation will be how marketing, the internet and social media have helped them, and the lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
So, we’re really pleased that Sophie Lee, the 26-year old founder of geo-fleur, agreed to be the first to chat to us, because her story is an amazing one.
Sophie launched geo-fleur from her iPhone in 2015, after being made redundant from a job at Moo.com in London. Her business is all about bespoke botanical beauty and on-trend geometric homeware to make urban homes gorgeously green. She sells weird and wonderful plants and related plant products (pots, macramé kits, care kits etc) online, and via fairs and now a permanent retail space at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.
She also made a wise business decision last year, when she started a plant subscription service, #plantpostclub, where you sign up to receive a monthly exclusive package of plants and accessories. And that’s not all…she also works on styling commissions, runs workshops teaching people how to make terrariums, and she’s even written a book – Living with Plants (which is available to buy now, and is the perfect coffee table book / Christmas gift for your stylish friend or relative).
And all this from what she calls a ‘fluky’ start on Instagram. Her beautifully curated Instagram page now has over 115,000 followers, leading to orders, huge styling commissions and creative collaborations from big brands who have spotted her work on the platform. It’s the source of a whole heap of design inspiration, and we, for one, are her biggest fans…
How did the idea for geo-fleur come about?
My mum is a florist and from a young age I’ve always helped her make things for weddings and events that she styles.
When I moved away from home and was living in London, I was craving more greenery and foliage in my house, but it just wasn’t possible as I didn’t have a garden – I just had a few windowsills and shelves, so that’s when I started making terrariums and my own plant pots with mini succulents and cacti inside, to try and inject some greenery into my home.
Then I started Instagramming pictures of my work, events I had done, styling jobs, weddings and just my making process, and my Instagram feed went crazy!
How much of your business comes through Instagram?
We have a form on our Squarespace site asking customers where they heard about us, and 75% of the time they say Instagram. It’s been totally amazing for me as it’s enabled me to test the market with different products, and it helps to reach foreign markets too – I have a big following in Australia and the US.
Which social channels do you use the most for geo-fleur?
Instagram – it’s amazing. I can post a picture of a certain plant, and within about 20 minutes, a customer has bought one direct from our website.
I also use twitter and Facebook, which is great for other customers that don’t use Instagram – I don’t find as much engagement on twitter, but a lot of people share and like things on Facebook. I plan to create more of a blog style on my website and share blog posts on twitter and Facebook, which will hopefully create more engagement.
Do you provide social experiences offline (in the shop / at events etc)?
Yes, we do workshops which always sell out and get plenty of love online. We used to have a shop in east London, which was great as customers would travel miles to come to it or attend our workshops, and it was a great alternative to date nights, or for friends to catch up over making a terrarium. Now I’ve moved back to Yorkshire, we’re doing more workshops up here so watch this space!
How do you use your social media channels to communicate with your audiences?
I upload a new picture to Instagram about 4-8 times a day, which is tough as I have to think about creating content all the time, but it works. I also use my social channels to let customers know when our next events are, if we’ve uploaded new workshop dates, or if there’s an offer or sale on.
You’ve got loads of Instagram followers! How have you done it??
I’m addicted to Instagram, basically! I think as the house plant trend increased, so did our followers on Instagram, and it also helps when customers share and tag pictures of our products in their homes, so we try and encourage that everywhere we can.
I’ve just developed my own visual style and stuck to it, and it’s worked.
Your top tips for growing a business on Instagram
Keep regularly posting – if you can only post once a day, make it regular, say 11am every day. Don’t forget a day! Continuity and consistency is so important.
Always think before you post: who am I posting for and why? And make sure your personal and business pictures stay separate – it’s hard for customers to follow and understand when there are other people involved.
Fave Insta accounts…
Oh, tough one. I’m currently hooked on @jonosmart – his ceramics are beautiful, @freabuckler – her geometric patterns are mesmerising, and @louisegray_studio – I’d like all of her work in my home.
Do you like Insta Stories?
I love it. You can do a quick snapshot into what’s happening – for example today when I was wrapping orders I can show people what other people are buying to inspire them. Plus you can show more behind the scenes stuff that reveals the personality of your brand than the squares allow.
It helps customers show the process of how things are made and how we work – also it only lasts for 24 hours so it has an addictive format, making you want to watch everyone’s stories before they disappear.
Has it affected what you put on your ‘grid’ / how you use Instagram?
Not particularly – I only put up select images on my grid. I’m quite protective of it!
Your biggest business success(es) via social media?
The editor that commissioned the #geofleurbook found me on Instagram. The curator of the Tate gallery found me on Instagram, and then asked me to curate and design an installation in the Tate Britain for the Turner prize. So, I’m pretty thankful to Instagram!
I was also asked to be on a panel with the Instagram co-founder, Mike Krieger, and Hugo Taylor from Made in Chelsea, to talk about how Instagram has helped my business! That was pretty cool.
How much time do you spend on getting the perfect shot?
Not that long – once I’ve got the right shot I just edit and upload. I’ve got an artistic eye, it’s what I studied, so that helps. Learn how to take nice pictures – find your preferred light and composition and filters and be consistent. I stick to the same filters generally, and I try to shoot on a blank background as much as possible.
I do have professional photos taken of my products, Jo Crawford is currently taking some beautiful images of my products.
Thinking of the right caption can be equally important though, and don’t say anything inappropriate!
What camera do you recommend?
The Olympus Pen is amazing as you can post straight to your phone from the built in wifi – it’s cool! Most of the shots are from my iPhone, and I’m hoping for the new iPhone X – apparently the camera is AMAZING!
What’s the most likes you’ve had on a picture?
I think one of our #PlantShelfies got 12,000 likes – wowsers!
Any editing tools / social apps you use that you can recommend?
I did use an app called Mosaica – but I got bored of it quickly.
What’s next for geo-fleur?
We’re going to be launching another Kickstarter campaign soon, to help fund the next stage of our business. And we’re also really happy to have joined up with the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, selling weird and wonderful plants in their café space (run by House of Koko) as of 21st October.
Thanks to geo-fleur for being the first in our #ContentSoupoftheDay series. We’ll be doing an event with geo-fleur in the New Year, so keep plugged in for updates.
geo-fleur.com / @geo_fleur