A florist is one of the few retail stores you can open in your home successfully. The vast majority of your customer contact is over the phone or through your website, so a storefront isn't necessary. Some customers may want to pick up arrangements or look at your work, so be sure you have a space that keeps the rest of your house out of sight and secure, such as your garage or daylight basement with its own door.
Set up an area in your home to start your business. It should have an entrance separate from your home's main entrance, and it needs easy access to a water source, such as a large sink or bathtub. The space should be large enough to accommodate a counter-height work table and a cooler -- secondhand display coolers are often inexpensive and take up less room than a walk-in cooler. Ideally, there would be at least a small area to display silk pieces and photos of your work.
Buy tools and inventory. Important florist tools include business cards, order forms, knives, scissors, Styrofoam or floral foam, florist wire and floral tape. In addition to flowers, your inventory should include vases, baskets, ribbon and add-on gifts such as teddy bears or chocolates. Search online for wholesale flower and florist supply distributors near you and ask nearby flower shops and craft-supply stores which wholesalers they recommend. Many wholesale distributors deliver daily for a small fee if you are in their delivery areas -- which sometimes range more than two hours from their warehouses. Most allow you to pick up flowers as well. Decide whether you will use your existing vehicle for deliveries or if you must purchase a van for your flower shop.
Complete any business paperwork required prior to marketing your flower shop. This includes setting up your corporation by filling out the proper forms with your state, creating an IRS business account and state sales tax account and filing a city or county business license. Meet with your accountant if you prefer to do business as a sole proprietor instead of incorporating to discuss the proper way to keep your work and personal banking and purchases separate. Also, order a dedicated phone line for your business, even if it's a cellphone. Hire someone to build a website for your business to make ordering even easier for customers.
Market your business. It takes time to build your customer base, so jump-start the process by providing free arrangements for functions and events such as local award banquets. Join local professional groups, such as a chamber of commerce. Attend bridal shows and introduce yourself to local funeral homes. Always take samples of your work, such as vase arrangements or fruit baskets, whenever you make cold calls on funeral homes or other businesses. Donate table arrangements to local restaurants in return for recognition. Give your customers discounts if they refer friends.
Try to market creatively, such as by sending wreaths from your shop to local funerals, even if you have no other orders going. Sign the card from your shop -- people will notice your work and hopefully call you the next time they need flowers.