BABE #280: JESS SALAMONE - Owner, Foxhound Floral
Jess is the owner and designer at Foxhound Floral, a wedding floral and event design company in St. Augustine, FL and its surrounding areas. She runs the biz singlehandedly, managing any and all responsibilities from production, inventory and social media to scrubbing a whole lot of flower buckets. While her hustle isn’t always as glamorous as some assume — and oftentimes rather labor intensive — she wouldn’t have it any other way. Jess loves the creativity, community and freedom her career provides, and she’s conquered quite a feat to keep it. We’re so impressed and inspired by her resiliency and are rooting her on as she continues to master her craft.
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
Current city: St. Augustine, Florida
Alma mater: Daytona State College
Degree: B.A., Photography
Very first job: Bagger of groceries, Publix
Hustle: Owner + Designer, Foxhound Floral
Babe you admire and why?
Aside from the badass design empire she built, Joanna Gaines really gets my respect for the career choices she has made for her personal life. After becoming insanely famous through her TV series, “Fixer Upper,” she made the choice to step back from TV and focus on her family. She continues to develop her business in a way that also allows her to develop her personal life—this is so important.
How do you spend your free time?
I spend as much time as possible with my three children, fiancé and our three crazy dogs and cat. Being in nature always refreshes me and is my go-to to relax. Any activity that’s outdoors and involves water is instantly my favorite.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Latte, served hot with almond milk; Tom Collins.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
The Spanish language. I would love the opportunity to diversify and expand my services to reach Spanish-speaking communities here in Florida.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Sebastiao Salgado. He’s a Brazilian social documentary photographer. His work, particularly in Africa, played such a huge role in inspiring my love and pursuit of photography.
Tell us about your hustle.
I am a one-woman show at Foxhound Floral, so I manage all the office tasks as well as the more obvious “florist stuff” like creating order spreadsheets, managing all ordering and inventory, all aspects of financial bookkeeping, updating social media accounts, keeping any marketing ventures up to date, producing product/service quotes, client phone calls and answering emails. So. Many. Emails. Then there are the consults and meeting with all the brides. My consults are always face-to-face when possible. I find this is best when seeking to fully understand and appreciate a client’s personal style. Then, of course, there is the “florist stuff”—designing arrangements, processing flowers, coordinating and participating in wedding day set-up, delivery and break-down. Oh, and I am super great at scrubbing flower buckets, which is how I actually spend 99 percent of my time.
What does your typical workday look like?
There really is no “typical” work day in the wedding industry; no day looks the same. It’s all dependent upon whether or not there is a wedding. The day of a wedding I do nothing else—all focus goes on the event. The week leading up to a wedding I’m doing the bulk of my designing and flower care, prepping and polishing vases and candle holders. On the days I’m not directly preparing for or involved in a wedding, I try to knock out my office stuff in the morning. After bringing my son to school I will typically come home and catch up on emails, social media and work on quotes. I try to get the majority of my work done before I have to pick him up for school. After school is mom time, e.g. swim practice, homework, the feeding of dinner, the brushing of teeth and all things in-between.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Prior to doing floral work, I spent years working in various roles of the wedding industry. After obtaining my photography degree, I made weddings my primary focus. Doing photography gave me a solid foundation of relevant experience—consultations with brides, wedding day timelines, producing quotes and managing finances. Along with photography, working in the food industry doing wedding service has given me a strong global understanding of the coordination between vendors, the various ways a wedding can flow and of all the moving pieces involved.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Shortly after really getting Foxhound Floral up and running, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was determined to keep things running and refused to let my dream be sacrificed to my illness. I’m truly proud to say that through a year of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, I have never once cancelled on a bride; I have never missed a wedding, not a single one. I worked through nausea, fatigue, depression, through feeling like my bones were made of glass, through the humbling experience of being surrounded by people looking their best when you look your worst. Most of all, I’m proud of myself for working through the fear; for relearning how to do everything I normally do while being scared, learning how to do it afraid. That is a personal victory I will always hold close to my heart.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience? What can we do to create more equal, uplifting (and well-paying!) spaces for women in your industry?
I can’t say this enough: community, community, community. We have a unique opportunity working in the female-dominated wedding industry to advocate for the empowerment and uplifting of women by creating professional alliances that foster the growth of one another’s businesses.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
The wedding industry is primarily a female-run industry (as of now). The majority of men working in weddings are typically seen in the role of photographer or DJ. I don’t really see this evolving in a huge way in our area. I think the stereotype that weddings are a woman’s thing is definitely still the prevailing opinion.
Are you involved with any other side projects?
Every year I head to Ponte Vedra, FL to work with Heidi Snow Floral Designs at THE PLAYERS Championship Golf Tournament. It’s a week long and hard work, but it also kind of feels like going to flower camp (literally—the vendor area is in the woods and only has a porta potty!). Throughout the week I work with Heidi and other amazing designers from around the country to create all the florals in every venue space of the event, which ends up being a semi-truck cooler full of arrangements. I’m also a member of The St. Augustine Wedding and Events Association. It is a great way to network and build relationships with fellow vendors.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
There are some amazing local women who have a hustle I admire so much: Tessa Manton, owner of Tula Rose Events; Francesca Cooper, owner of The Eventful Gals; Britnye Shore, owner of The Bardot, Arlene Flores, owner at Sweet Weddings; Lindsay Ohlin, owner at Coastal Celebrations; and Brittany Jones, owner at Uncorked Occasions. Each of them has inspired me over the years by their passion, drive and dedication to their clients.
How do you balance the responsibilities of your business with your role as a mom?
Being a mom and running a business is definitely a challenge. It’s easy on a wedding week to put everything on the back burner. It takes very intentional action to focus and be present when I’m with the children. In this new era of the constant bombardment of social media, with the pressure to keep putting out content and emails pinging on your phone at all hours, we as mothers have to take a look at ourselves and make sure we aren’t just going through the motions of parenting while giving our phone more attention than the loved ones around us.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
The biggest advice I have is determining up-front what’s important to you. What does a good quality of life look like in your mind? Balance is everything. It is so easy to get completely overwhelmed in the wedding industry, to overbook yourself. I think the most practical advice I can give is to outline your limitations in advance—determine a booking goal and stick to it.
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