Altrincham florist Emma Cowell on leaving a law career to follow passion
- Credit: With Passion and Purpose
For Emma Cowell, rediscovering her love of flowers has led to a life lived with satisfaction, not stress
Growing up, Emma Cowell dreamed of being a wedding planner, visions of smiling brides, flower-bedecked churches and towering cakes filling her visions and inspiring her decision to find a Saturday job at a local florist.
‘I really wanted to work in wedding planning,’ Emma says, ‘but it was the usual story for so many teens, my parents weren’t keen. They wanted me to go to university and study to be a doctor or a solicitor. I thought, I don’t really like bodies, or touching people, so it’s going to have to be law.
‘I watched Legally Blonde and thought it made being a solicitor look incredible – I wanted the pink Audi TT and the chihuahua and live that life.’
After completing her degree, Emma started working first in Sheffield and then found a role with a law firm in Manchester, and for a while, it was all good.
‘It turned out I was good at it,’ she laughs. ‘Once I was on the path I just went with the flow. It’s a very linear career path - you know what your next step is and what you’ll be paid, and I really did enjoy it, to start with. However, just before lockdown last year the typical first signs of burnout started to appear. I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t sleeping properly; it was the general stress symptoms that we all know about, and lockdown just gave me a new perspective. Before that, I just thought well, all these things are happening, but I get paid for it, and part of the reason I get paid well is to deal with stress: it just comes hand-in-hand and you just have to suck it up and get on with it. During lockdown I asked myself if that was what I really wanted.
‘I am a fairly health-conscious person and an analogy occurred: if someone said to me, “I will pay you X amount, but you have to eat a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder every day.” would I do it? The answer was no, I wouldn’t. But if they paid me that same amount and I had a panic attack every day, or stress that’s detrimental to my health – well, I was already doing that, and saying it was okay.
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‘I just said to myself, there has to be something more to life.’
During the January prior to lockdown Emma Cowell had been introduced to the team at The Vibrancy Hub, the Cheshire-based life coaches who help women realise their true potential in both career and life, paving the way towards a more satisfying, rewarding way of living.
‘In May I reached out and started working with Laura Bamber, who is just amazing. It was just so useful to have somebody to hold me accountable and to give me an opinion, a view, on what I was feeling and saying, but who was completely impartial. I could speak to my family, my partner, my friends, but they all in some way had a vested interest in any decision I was about to make.
‘Speaking to Laura, who was completely separated from all of that, was really, really helpful. Her energy is just amazing; after speaking to her for an hour it just rubs off on you.’
One of Laura’s suggestions was to re-start hobbies and activities that had previously given Emma pleasure, to start doing things just for herself, where putting space between her and her stressful worklife could enhance wellness.
‘I decided to get back into floristry. I had always kept my hand in, a little, just doing things for family or myself, but Laura encouraged me to start it as a proper hobby. I don’t do things by half, though,’ she laughs, ‘so I took myself off to college, part-time, to do a floristry course, which I loved and re-kindled all my earlier dreams.
‘By November 2020 I was so unhappy at work, it got to a bit of a crunch point and I really didn’t know how much longer I could continue with it, but I also didn’t know what a future outside of law might look like. I knew I enjoyed floristry but I didn’t know how I could make it a viable career. I really couldn’t start as a junior in a florist, sweeping the floor...’
Emma spent the next four months working it though with Laura and then at Easter this year, she resigned from her job.
‘I just thought, I’m not doing this anymore, and while I am sitting in the comfy position of having a job, even if it was a job I didn’t like, I was still getting paid so quitting was the impetus I needed to get me moving and doing something else.
‘I had already set up No. 10 Flowers, thinking I might just do it as a sideline. I ran workshops and classes, online and face-to-face (when restrictions allowed), doing things like Christmas wreath workshops, and making bouquets for your home – which I saw as floral wellbeing workshops, and my clients felt the same.
‘When I resigned, I had three months notice to work, which was the time to really put some things in place, and by July I needed to have really thought through what a new career in flowers would look like for me.’
Emma realised that what really interested her was the power of working with flowers for wellbeing.
‘I decided to target busy professionals with wellbeing classes, but not life coaching, simply helping them tap back into the benefits of creativity. From my experience, when people are in those corporate jobs, you just forget how to be creative and you forget how much pleasure you get from being creative. It just seems a bit of a waste of time when you’re really busy, to do something with no outcome – yes, it looks pretty, but there’s no practical outcome to you doing it, it’s just because you enjoy it. What I found was that once I had started on that path, I was just being fairly robotic, had a pretty monochromatic outlook and life gets pretty dull if you’re not creating anything at all.’
This was something Emma had learned from working with Laura, of course, and her understanding of how mindfulness, and the reawakening of the creative side of your brain can bring huge health benefits, relieving stress and opening you up to a world beyond the narrow confines of work and home.
‘So many people are told, quite young, that they’re not creative and they take the label. But creativity is a much wider concept than simply being able to draw something, or write something. With me, people can spend an hour thinking about what creativity means to them, tuning into themselves, playing with flowers and just really reconnecting back with who they are. My hope is that after one or two of my workshops, people appreciate what creativity can bring to their lives and make sure it's an ongoing focus of their lives, in whatever form they decide to make it.’
Emma’s next workshop takes place in Altrincham Market, on 19th September, and after that she’s moving to The Lost and Found, in Knutsford, including a Christmas Wreath workshop on 5 December that’s sure to sell out fast. She also runs private classes and workshops, including a hen party delight, making flower crowns while sipping on cocktails, and a DIY wedding flowers workshop, where the bride and her bestie can take a very personal hand in the design of everything from table centres to buttonholes, plus, of course, the iconic bouquet.
‘I have developed workshops for corporate team building and business development events, too’ Emma says. ‘They’re something a little bit different to the usual and people always leave with a smile and a bouquet for their efforts. It’s a wonderful feeling, looking at something beautiful and thinking, I did that.’
In between her workshops, Emma has already found her floristry skills popular with Manchester and Cheshire’s brides, who fall in love with her colourful creations on social media and want the same for their big day.
‘My style is very loose and free flowing and natural, and I love the brightest of flower colours. You see so much done in the paler shades with green foliage, but I adore the bold and the bright. They find me on social media and get in touch having already seen what I do, so it’s a meeting of minds before we even meet face-to-face.’
It's only been a matter of months since Emma cast aside the ties of corporate life – has it been the right choice?
‘Oh, 100 per cent,’ Emma enthuses. ‘I feel so much lighter and happier. People even tell me I look lit up, glowing from within. It’s hands down the best decision I could have made, and I encourage everyone with a dream to pursue it. Put your trust in yourself.
‘And Laura’s never going to get rid of me now!’