What’s your TCK/Nomadic story?
I moved to Bahrain, a tiny desert island in the Gulf with my parents on their first expatriate posting as a young girl in 1970. After 6 years, we relocated to Dubai where I attended the International College of Choueifat.
After graduating, I stayed in the Gulf as a Secretary, P.A. and working with the Dubai Int’l Trade Centre on their annual Gulf Computer Exhibition. I returned to Bahrain in the late 80’s with many opportunities to work in multi national companies who had their regional head offices on the island.
After two decades in the Middle East I became a trailing spouse and a young mum mastering a new culture in Holland. It was in 1994 that we had an opportunity to explore Asia and it became apparent that if I wanted to work and follow my husband I would have to leave the corporate world, find my passion and turn it into a portable career fast! Since then we have lived in Indonesia and Singapore.
What has been your favorite place to live in?
That’s a tough question. Every place I’ve lived has a place in my heart for very different reasons. I loved my care-free days and growing up in Dubai and my eldest son was born in Bahrain. Some of our best family times were spent in Jakarta and my younger son was born in Singapore. Our lives are full of special memories as every place has brought different experiences, a different culture to adapt to, new languages to understand and interesting challenges to overcome.
But if I have to pick just one, it has to be Singapore. It has been home for 21 years and provided a stable and safe haven for my children to grow up. It has an organized infrastructure, great international schools, good medical facilities, is vibrant and ranks high on the list of easy places to set up a business. As a female expatriate, a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur who likes to live and work in the sunshine, it ticks a lot of boxes.
How has your background helped you?
When you move around you have to be resourceful, be able to adapt, force yourself to network and be ready for the next challenge. You can’t be a shrinking violet or get stuck in your ways or you could end up being very lonely. Immersing oneself in different cultures is the perfect fuel for creative minds and my background, experiences and the inspiring people I’ve met along the way have certainly shaped the person I am today. Growing up as an expatriate child or Third Culture Kid prepares you to be adventurous, to embrace change and not take things for granted. I feel these things prepared me well and provided a solid foundation for an unexpected adult life as a global nomad.
Talk about a challenge you’ve had to overcome as a result of your global identity and how you overcame it.
I’ve spent the last 45 years of my life in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Inside I feel more Asian than English. The reality is, however long I live in a place, when I walk down the street, walk into a room full of strangers or go to a networking event, I’ll always be asked if I’m a visitor, a tourist or where’s home. Yes I’m English, yes I’m Caucasian, but for many years I didn’t see myself that way and would feel annoyed at those innocent questions.
I grew up in a Muslim country, I went to a Lebanese school, I’m a big believer in Feng-Shui and I love Asian food. I’m blessed to have some amazing friends from all over the world and I have spent much of my working life in Asia. So it was always a jolt when someone asked me questions like where I came from, could I handle spicy food and where was home? Home for me for the past 2 decades has been Singapore and for now, this is my home.
When you feel you fit in and you feel you belong, these are thought provoking questions and a stark realization that yes, you’re different. So to overcome these odd feelings and questioning my own identity of who I am and where I belong, I decided it would be easier to accept and embrace those questions with grace, accept my difference and not clutter my mind. It may sound odd, but I’ve now accepted that I’m Caucasian, living in an Asian society.
What are your passions and can you discuss how they led to where you are today?
I’m passionate about image, colour and style and I love things to look beautiful. I spent 10 years as a successful image consultant but took a most unexpected turn in my career 10 years ago when I discovered a world of floral art. A world where flowers combined with creativity and design filled design books, flooded the Internet and were being showcased on catwalks, floral symposiums and floral events around the world. I closed my business in image consulting and went back to design school for three years to attain a diploma in professional floral design followed by years of taking up courses with some of the worlds’ best floral designers. The rest is history. I now combine my experience as an image consultant and my expertise in floral design to help the hospitality industry create flowers that ‘WOW’ as well as project managing floral shopper experiences and in-store events for luxury brands
What about your industry is exciting?
There is always someone, somewhere in the world pushing the floral boundaries with new techniques, creating a new breed of flower, creating a new product or an emerging new talent. Every year there are floral symposiums, competitions, flower shows, floral events, floral fashion shows and new floral design books being published on different continents and there’s always a buzz around these events amongst the global floral family of growers, floral societies, floral designers and event organizers. It’s a very diverse industry and an exciting one to be part of.
What problem are you solving with your business?
I have positioned myself as the ‘go to’ person for the hospitality industry and luxury brands when they want to improve their customers, clients and guests experiences through visually stunning floral displays. Often floral work is outsourced and this can create a host of problems from quality to a lack of understanding about a brands image and vision.
I’ve created a new product for those that want to get ahead of their competition. It’s a 5 step program which focuses on their current IMAGE, their guests IMPRESSIONS,INVESTMENT in their employees/in-house floral skills, where to find INSPIRATION andIMPLEMENTATION, to guide employees and business owners through the process of having the best flowers in town.
What advice would you give first time entrepreneurs?
As a creative entrepreneur you really have to love what you do so that when the going gets tough you don’t give up.
It’s inevitable that in the beginning you will find yourself doing everything, but the sooner you can engage people to do the day to day tasks to allow you to focus on what you do best, the more enjoyable running your own business will be.
It’s important to stay connected and network, make sure people know who you are and what you do. Perfect your Pitch, get Published, create new Products, keep working on your Profile and nurture great Partnerships. These are some of the great lessons I learnt when I attended a 40 week ‘Key Person Of Influence’ program which runs in the UK, Australia and Singapore.
Don’t assume you know everything, be open and always have a mentor or an accountability buddy. Working alone can be hard and its easy to put things off that you don’t like doing. Finally, stay focused and keep learning. Remember, it’s not about the destination, but the journey and being the best you can be.
How do you use your difference to make a difference?
I’ve merged my background in image consultancy with my passion for floral design and I recently became a published author with my first book Entertain With Flowers And Flair. I’d like to think that I’m changing the traditional image of flowers by showcasing the endless creative possibilities with everyone I come into contact with and continue to share my passion for floral design one petal at a time through my work, through social media and through my blogs, books, magazine articles and working with my clients.
My next book is titled ‘Hospitality Flowers and Brands’ and will be published later in the year. Having traveled extensively I can draw on creative ideas and inspiration from different parts of the world and never run out of ways to do things differently. I share those ideas, suggestions and gems with my clients.
Where can we find out more about you and your business?
I’m also on social media at the following sites:
Facebook: Karen French Floral Designs