How This Miami Florist Turned Her Side Gig Into a Blooming Business
Photo courtesy of @houseoflilac
Taking a glimpse at one of House of Lilac's feminine yet wild seasonal arrangements, it's hard to imagine that owning a floral design and gifting business wasn't always the plan for the company's founder, Melanie Fernandez. The South Florida native had spent the early part of her professional life as a lawyer, but after practicing a few years realized her heart just wasn't in it. As she began to contemplate her next move, Fernandez had already planted the seeds of what would end up being her next endeavor — even if she hadn't yet realized it.
House of Lilac had humble beginnings as a fun side gig for Melanie. While still practicing law, she was creating custom paper goods for friends and soon realized it was a way she could make money. This solidified her decision to put her former career behind her and forge ahead as an entrepreneur. Her company quickly evolved into curated gift boxes and eventually added in floral design — now the bread and butter of the business.
It's worth mentioning that the birth and initial growth of Melanie's brand coincided with the welcoming of both her children, Alexander and Margot, which meant that she quickly had to adapt to the demands of being both a mama and a burgeoning businesswoman — something she openly admits is still a work in progress. That said, we were so inspired with how the Miami-based mom is making it all happen, so we got in touch to find out more about how her passion project turned into a career, as well as what sets her business apart and how she and her family spend a much needed day off.
Photo courtesy of @houseoflilac
Do you remember the first moment you fell in love with flowers?
I think my story is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to florists because I never had a specific moment where I fell in love with them. This is my second life and I sort of fell into working with flowers and overtime fell into a love affair. Visually, I always loved them and I was always so attracted to certain florists and a certain organic design style, so I definitely knew what I liked and what I wanted. And — this sounds strange — but I'm really good with my hands, visual symmetry, and textures. In hindsight, I now see how those traits and talents have shaped the company, the brand, and how I style everything in my life — especially my flowers. To be honest, I think that's when I really fell in love with flowers: when I realized my work was a complete reflection of me and my life purpose and had sort of aligned with me.
Describe your path from then to starting House of Lilac?
I'm actually a lawyer by trade (a retired one, I like to joke). I was practicing for about four years and realized I wasn't passionate about what I was doing. And when I'm not passionate, I don't waste my time (one of my better qualities). I've never looked back. I had already started House of Lilac as a side business while I was a lawyer printing paper goods for friends out of my second bedroom. I was actually making money and one day just made the decision I was leaving.
We've evolved so much over the past four years as a company and I've also evolved so much as a human being (I 100% believe I embarked on my true path when I became an entrepreneur). I had both my babies back-to-back right after I started the company and left my job so the entire company has been founded on two pregnancies, hormones, and a lot of trial and error. We eventually switched the company's focus to gifting back in 2016 and a year brought on flowers and experienced our most explosive growth. Today, House of Lilac is first and foremost a flower company, but we do feature a few select gift boxes for local delivery or shipping on our site.
In a big city like Miami, how do you make sure your business stands apart from other floral companies?
The short answer is, being ourselves. There's absolutely no one like us in style and mission. We're an everyday flower company that focuses on everyday deliveries and intimate events. That means we don't do weddings, which already sets us apart. Miami florists are still mostly pretty classic and catering to a different generation. We're focused primarily on a younger generation, mostly millennials, and have an organic, effortless style. Most importantly though, we're an extremely interactive business and we seek to educate our customers through experiences as well as products. Therefore we're much more than a floral shop; we're a flower company on a mission to elevate everyday flowers.
Do you have a favorite flower? If so, what and why?
I think i'm supposed to say lilac here! While lilac is my favorite flower in theory, it doesn't fare well in the Miami heat, so it's not my favorite to work with. I'm a huge fan of working with daffodils and koko loko roses! And ranunculus is always on our 'feature flower' list because it lasts so long and is amazingly beautiful. I'm also a lover of berries and strange foliage. The grassier and bushier, the better.
Photos courtesy of Christian Arévalo
We always ask our working moms: how do balance running your own business and being available to them?
I come from a corporate background and became an entrepreneur to make my own schedule and be around my kids more than I would have, had I stayed in my old career. That's my perspective at the end of the day. Is it super balanced? No. I work every day, and while I totally understand people that hate to work every day and would rather a 9-5, I pick and choose the times I work and that is the perfect life for me. Being there for my kids' school functions, pick ups, dinner and bath time is key. And if I don't get a lot done for work in one day because they needed me more, I've learned not to be hard on myself and to trust myself because things always get done. And if I'm working too much and haven't been around the kids, I'm working on not being hard on myself (this is really a never ending lesson). I once read that as a "mompreneur," life and work will never perfectly balance, but the point is that whatever you're doing — whether it's working or with the kids — be there 100% and make sure you feel like you want to be there 100%. If you don't want to be in either situation 100%, then it might be time to reevaluate.
What's your favorite thing about raising a family in Miami?
The weather, the water, the culture. I grew up here and the ocean and my connection to it is very much apart of my identity — I want to pass that on to my kids. It's so important for me to expose my kids to as many different cultures and languages to prepare them for the world.
How do you spend an ideal day off with your little ones?
Soho Beach House at 9am — before the beach and pool get crowded and before nap time — home to bathe and nap, and early dinner at Harry's Pizzeria in Coconut Grove!
Flowers are such a great form of self care. Besides surrounding yourself with beautiful blooms, what are some other ways you like to pamper yourself for all your hard work?
Sleep! I have a strict 9:30pm 'turn off my computer' curfew (no matter how much isn't done) because I deserve a full night's sleep. I'm also a more creative entrepreneur, better mom, and nicer wife when I fully recharge, so sleep is definitely a priority. I'm also an early riser. I get up at 5am and give myself about two hours in the morning to meditate and work out before my babies are up. Giving myself that time to sleep, disconnect and really focus on myself and my health has helped me find myself after my youngest was born.