On Instagram, you can find pictures that seem like digital paintings – too pretty to exist in real life. PoPPy Flora and Nature Studio is an artisan flower shop in the heart of Singapore that puts all Instagram pictures to shame. A natural oasis in an urban city, PoPPy is the brainchild of owner and florist-extraordinaire Sarah Lim.

poppy floral studio - sarah lim this flower haus candybar merchant stories

Flower Queen. Via IG: @PoppyFloraStudio

An advertiser by profession, Sarah Lim began PoPPy without any formal training or experience in floral art creation or management.

What’s the one thing that carried her through to the pinnacle of successes, you ask?

Just the inherent desire to do something for herself and a strong inclination towards all things nature and flowers, she says.

Sarah Lim is not just the creator of one of the most successful indie flower boutiques in Singapore – the fact that her store is Kate Spade’s designated flower store for all events is testament to her growth and progress – she is also the epitome of a self-made, highly determined businesswoman. Building on the success of PoPPy Floral Studio (and flower school!), Sarah has also created an intimate, natural event space at This Flower Haus and hosts a That Wild Flower Child floral retreat.

Here’s a glimpse of the insightful conversation we had with her, and a few key business lessons as takeaway from a widely popular florist artisan.

Do It For You – Not For Anyone Else

After a long and lucrative career in advertising, managing brands such as Singapore Airlines, and AIG, Sarah decided to stop doing things for others, and do something for herself – but what? Something safe, interesting, and also recession-proof.

Exploring and expanding her interest in nature, Lim singlehandedly built up her own empire of flowers and gifts. At the start, she didn’t even know how to put a bouquet together, or what aesthetic she was looking for. She only knew that whatever was being offered in the market was not not what she wanted.

But it wasn’t always easy; even roses have thorns. Two years in, she almost quit and gave up in frustration, before she realised she needed to persevere. She was building PoPPy Flora Studio for herself, not anyone else. And now, 18 years since she started, PoPPy has developed a signature organic feel, a  distinctive look that mimics a natural garden setting.

A vibrant explosion. via @PoPPyFloraStudio IG

If you want to succeed at something – take a leaf from her book, and do your way; do it for yourself. 

‘Free’ is Expensive – Don’t Cheapen Your Brand

When it comes to offering discounts and sponsorships in order to advertise your brand, Sarah Lim’s philosophy is simple: Don’t.

She feels very strongly about bloggers, celebrities and other high-end people coming up to her brand asking for free flowers in exchange for advertisement or influencer marketing or brands giving away free tokens for word of mouth.

Brands work hard – Poppy is a brand that works very hard. You wouldn’t walk into Mercedes and say ‘Hey! Give me a free car to drive!’

No matter how new or old your brand is, know what your brand is worth and rest assured that customers will know it too. If you work hard, you should expect to get paid for it, because you deserve it and earned it. There’s no compromising on that. Believe in what you do and it will help you grow. Don’t be defeated so easily. That’s what Sarah believes.

After 18 years of PoPPy, she’s probably right.

Believe in Your Brand Personality – The Rest Will Follow

Often time’s businesses enter into an industry blindly following onto another’s path. When you talk about florists, there’s endless options available in Singapore and worldwide – with much of them offering the same thing. The average man in the street might not be able to tell the difference – but the discerning connoisseur and the loyal customer will.

For Poppy, Sarah has always focused on building her brand and its exclusive personality – its uniqueness. In order for your business to stand out from the rest, it needs to have a distinct style that cannot be emulated by others so easily. What’s more, it needs to reflect your target audience and customer base in order to be truly successful.

In an interview by the Robb Report, Sarah told a story about how a customer requested 11 red roses surrounding 1 yellow rose. Sarah decided that that ‘wasn’t Poppy Flora Studio’, didn’t fit her brand, and made an organic, erratic bouquet in her style, rather than just wrapping it up neatly and throwing in Baby’s Breath. The giftee loved it – and it was just one way that Sarah does things her way. Sarah describes it:

Don’t do anything you’re not at peace with

According to Sarah, one of the things which helps businesses expand grow is their association with like-minded brands – those which share the same beliefs and same vibes, the tribes and communities. Interactions with similar brands allows you to be inspired, learn and expand your own horizons through another’s experiences. Sarah herself names British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law as someone she admires and would love to collaborate with:

View this post on Instagram

'Pride' 2017. #skovgaardmuseet Viborg, Denmark

A post shared by Rebecca Louise Law (@rebeccalouiselaw) on

But Brands have to be clear not to cross the line between inspiration and copying. Sarah believes firmly that PoPPy is successful because of her cleaving to her core beliefs and style – instead of ‘reclaiming’ ideas.

Be original and practice your business with integrity.

The Best Advertising is Word-of-Mouth

Today, the world is predominantly driven by digital media and marketing; word of mouth seems less important. However, a majority of highly successful business will tell you that word-of-mouth is still the most traditional and foolproof way there is to market a brand.

Word of mouth works in two distinct ways:

  • When you perfect the right pitch for your brand, socialize in the right circles and introduce your business to the right patrons.
  • When your customers are so happy with your products, they tell the word about you. Happy customers bringing in new customers is referral marketing

Turning customers into brand ambassadors is far more difficult, but so much more lucrative. When you do a good enough job with your business and your products, you encourage your patrons to market your brand without ever having to say the words, or doing any work. And that my friends is the best kind of advertisement.

That’s not to say that you don’t rely on social media at all. A modern day tool, social media can very effectively be used for daily captures such as on Snapchat or Instagram stories which help you communicate with your audience directly. Sarah is a little bit of an influencer herself – she has quite the Instagram presence:

In her own words, “Social media puts you in front of people -that’s very important.” Her personal brand is as strong as the brands of her business, and it’s her way of communicating her authentic voice to her fans and customers.

Fruits of her Labour

Floral Artisans have effectively made their mark in the industry – setting the bar higher than ever before. If you’re in the vicinity and looking to buy yourself a customised bouquet or two, or just feast your eyes on both natural beauty and corporate success, you should definitely go visit Poppy Flora and Nature Studio.

Aqiba D

Posted by Aqiba D

Aqiba is a professional writer based in Houston, Texas. Her passion is content writing and has been writing for 7 years.