Lea Romanowksi, CAFA, AIFD, CAFD is known to many in the floral industry for her engaging on-stage presence, other-worldly floral designs, and accessible approach to teaching. Lea is the owner of Designing on the Edge. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, and she is a National and International award winning designer and creative event professional. She has used her experience and expertise to become a mentor, teaching floral/event/wedding design for the last fifteen years.
After years as an Educator at our Education Week in Edmonton, we’re excited to have Lea facilitate Bloom Basics: A Floral Design Workshop and Beyond Bouquets: Excelling in the Business of Flowers in Winnipeg and Saskatoon this September.
“I’m not a better designer than you, I just have forty years more experience”
Lea truly believes that her students are not less talented or capable than her. This can-do attitude is something she breathes into her students so that they can bring confidence and new skills back to their floral shops. She believes all good designers start with a great foundation of the principles and elements of floral design. Understanding shop operation, time management and profitability are just as important as the design foundation.
Learn more about Lea and what to expect in her upcoming courses in an interview with Florists Supply Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Shane Kustra-Nelson.
Interview with Lea Romanowski
Shane: Hello, everyone! I am here with Lea Romanowski. She is an AIFD CAFA, AIFD, CAFD Certified Florist. In this interview with you, Lea, we want to get some insight into who you are and what students can expect at our fall workshops in Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
Lea: Okay. So, we’re going to be opening up a can of worms [Shane and Lea Laugh]
Shane: Yea! To start off, can you give us some insight into who you are and what drives you?
Lea: Who I am and what drives me… Wow. I’m a lot of fun!
Shane: It’s true.
Lea: You know what? I live my whole life with the mantra that if an opportunity comes, you take it, and you take it happily. I don’t look at doors closing – I always look to see if the door is unlocked; is the window open; can I climb through there; What else can I do? If something comes my way, I’m always ready, willing, and up for a challenge. Because that’s what life is, It’s not boring.
Shane: And you don’t like when people say you can’t do something?
Lea: Don’t tell me I can’t do something because I’m going to do whatever I can to prove you wrong. My poor children learned from an early age that when they said they couldn’t do it. I’d say, it’s not a matter of can’t, It’s a matter of I won’t. Unless you try, you can’t say that you cannot do it. How do you know if you’ve never tried? So yeah, that’s how I think.
Shane: Yeah, that’s something you tell your students consistently when you teach.
Lea: I have! People say, “I can’t do vases.” Then they come to my course, and I say, “Look! You did a vase.” So now you do vases.
Shane: In your courses, you even extend this mentality beyond designing. For instance, we were talking about how you hear people say, “Well, I can’t sell this design in my area. It’s too expensive.”
Lea: I say, how dare you say your customers won’t buy something if you don’t give them the opportunity. It’s not for you to decide for them. Try it and offer something!
Shane: I love the Glass half-full mentality! Now that we got some insight into what drives you, can you tell us what motivated you to join Florists Supply’s Education Week to teach, develop, and mentor fundamental and intermediate Floral design students?
Lea: Since day one, Florists Supply has maintained an Education Week. A lot of other floral education and design shows have fallen off, but Florist Supply has always continued to have an Education Week. Personally, and as a designer, I want to be part of the future of my industry. I want to make sure people in our community are excited, want to learn and try things, and have that can-do attitude. I want you to be able to say, yeah, I’m going to try it.
And the joy that I get when I see a new student cut a stem properly for the first time, and it clicks. It’s that “aha” moment. I get goosebumps when I see a student learn something they know is going to change their life. It’s just cutting with a knife, but for me, it’s it fills my soul to help people learn and know that they’re going to take my place in the future. That’s why I’m here.
Shane: I’ve worked education week for two years, and I can say Lea genuinely loves the floral industry.
Lea: I love it. I love the people.
Shane: She’s very passionate about teaching. Even for myself, who knew next to nothing about floral design, I have learned so much by sitting in your classes.
Lea: Even people in the industry, like you, who aren’t designing every day, you need to take some type of floral education, so you have an understanding of what your shop or business is doing.
Shane: Yeah, I have fun just sitting here. I mean, it’s amazing to see what these students can do as soon as they believe in themselves. Even today, some students were struggling with the boutonnieres, but by the end of the day, they all became comfortable doing it.
Lea: There were a few people today who were like, “I just can’t do this. I just hate this.” So, I said, you know what? Just move this here, move that there, pull a little bit tighter, and everybody ended up doing it. And if it’s your first time, pat yourself on the back because guess what? You did it! Each time after this, you will only get better. So, when they say to me, “yours is so good,” I say, I’ve had 40 years to perfect this. You’ve had 4 hours. So, you’re doing great.
Shane: That’s one of the first things you said to me. You told me that I don’t think I’m better than any of the people in the fundamentals or intermediate courses. I just have forty years of experience. I really appreciate that because, while you’re very confident in what you do, you also have that humble side to you where you don’t put yourself above anyone. They just aren’t as experienced as you.
Lea: They just haven’t put in the time, or they haven’t had the education yet. Honestly, there are people who know so much more than I do. You know, I still attend classes and shows because I can still learn things. I don’t know everything. Once somebody gets into the mentality that nobody’s going to teach me anything, they’ve stopped learning. And that’s pretty sad.
Shane: I think that is a good segue. After 40 years in the industry, what advice can you give to those who have little to no experience and are just beginning their floral journey? What advice would you have given yourself when you were starting out?
Lea: I would tell somebody new that if this something you truly want to do for a career, take the classes, get books, and get videos. Learn as much as you can online, go to in-person classes, and work for somebody or yourself in a happy environment that encourages you to grow. Avoid places where there is there’s competition, and I’m better than you attitude; It’s not good for anyone. Make sure to believe in yourself. If you have trouble with a technique or design now, just know it will click one day. For the time being just fake it until you make it. Keep trying and it will come. You don’t ride a bike right off the bat. You fall down a couple of times and try again. So, get back on that bike, pick up that knife, and do it again.
Shane: Like you came into the industry with no experience and look at where you are now.
Lea: No, I had no training. But I’m not a quitter. Although truth be told, I almost quit in 1999 when I worked for a shop that did not treat me well. For a moment, I thought, “I’m done.” But then I thought, you know what, no. I’m going to start my own company, and I’m going to do what I think is right because I think I have something to offer.
Shane: To expand on what you’re saying. If you are passionate about this industry but maybe you’re in a bad situation, it might be best to move on faster?
Lea: Changing your situation and believing in yourself. Find a mentor or somebody you can bounce ideas off and encourages you. There are people out there who will help you to move forward. A course like this can help you do all of this and is one of the best investments you can make for your career.
Shane: On that end, what can students expect in the fundamentals course?
Lea: It’s a two-day course, and it will be like a boot camp [Laughs]. No, it will be fun. First, students will learn how to cut with a knife properly. If you’re not using a knife, you need to learn how to use a knife.
Then we will do anywhere from four to seven projects depending on the speed of the group. We’re going to challenge, excite and really make you want to do more.
They will also learn care and handling, the principles and elements of design, pricing, some shop operations, and streamlining productivity. It will be about how to design properly while finding ways to be profitable and save you money. Some designs will be simple, and others will be complex. The takeaway is for students to be more confident in their business.
Shane: After completing these workshops, students might want to take your intermediate course at next year’s Education Week. What can they expect?
Lea: In the intermediate course, we do more modern and complex designs. Not your basic corsages and Boutonnieres. It’s a little more high-style design. More styles of wedding bouquets, using more interesting materials like armatures and structures. It’s focused on more difficult designs and techniques to build on what you learned in fundamentals to challenge the students.
Shane: Yeah! You’ve also mentioned that the designs in fundamentals are more traditional, while the intermediate ones are more contemporary or modern. This is something you’ve done on purpose?
Lea: The thing Is you need the basics. If you don’t understand how to do forms, you cannot break the rules. To break the rules to create a more modern design you need to know them first. Once you master the basics you can start manipulating them to create trendier designs.
Level two really helps you to do an advanced course. It allows you to not only think outside the box but build the box.
Shane: Based on how important the fundamentals are, what is one thing you would like students to walk away with from this beginner course?
Lea: Confidence. I want them to walk away feeling that there is value to it and that they have a renewed love, interest, or belief in their business. Some of the Students in this course right now have flower shops but have never had any training, and they struggle with certain parts of it. After they’ve learned basic techniques and business practices, they see how much time it’s going to save them, and how much more productive and profitable they can be. I hope they walk away feeling happy being in the business and, number one, confident.
Shane: I also think people don’t realize the importance of the financial or business side when it comes to running a flower shop.
Lea: Yeah, it doesn’t matter how exceptional of a designer you are. If you don’t know how to price it or sell it properly, all the designs in the world aren’t going to make you money. So, your bottom line is important. You must be a good business person. If that’s not who you are, you need a partner who is so you can focus on the creative part.
Shane: This might be an obvious question, but what is your favourite part about teaching education?
Lea: When they get it! That aha moment when they realize a technique is easier than they thought it was and have the confidence to do it now. That empowerment and belief is my favourite part. I love when they get it. I love when they want to be here.
Shane: A burning question everyone wants to know, how do you have so much energy?
Lea: No, I don’t take drugs. Seriously though, I don’t know. There’s just there’s something in me. Maybe it is because I truly love what I do.
The students also give me energy, and I just find it easier to be happy and positive than to be negative. But really, there is no magic bottle. There is no secret. It’s just what I am like.
Shane: You don’t have to answer this one seriously, but a question we ask everyone is, what is your favourite flower?
Lea: Oh, I can’t answer that. Oh, my Gosh! What I will say is that I have favourites for different things. I have favourites for structural. I have favourites for romantic. I don’t know. What I do love is the flower I have right now that I put to my nose to smell. That’s my favourite flower.
Shane: Thanks Lea, for doing this interview. We really appreciate it and are looking forward to having you teach in Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
Lea: It’s my pleasure. I want to meet people from Winnipeg and Saskatoon. I promise you, we’re going to have a really good time.