It feels like Mad Lilies and I have been intertwined forever, but in reality this fabulous business came into my life in 2013.
Flowers are a big part of my heritage – my late mum and grandmother owned a floristry business in Belfast together when I was growing up – but until I was in my mid forties, I chose to follow a different path, one based around sales and marketing for pharmaceuticals. I’d love to say that my change of career was sparked by a chance discovery of my passion for petals, but the truth is much more sombre. In 2011, my mum died. At her funeral back home in Northern Ireland I reminisced with dear friends and family, remembering my mother’s green fingers, her creativity and the twinkle that ran right to her core. I started to wonder whether I too had the floristry gene, and when I returned to England, this seed of an idea sprouted into something that just wouldn’t leave me alone! I decided to enrol in a floristry course with Jane Packer, and five minutes in, I knew that my life had changed forever! It was like a lightbulb had been switched on inside my head – I had to forge a career in flowers.
Finding The One
After much research and discussion (and gin), I made the decision that changing careers at 44 years of age would not be easy and I would be better finding an established business to buy, which I could then take in the direction I wanted, rather than trying to build something from the ground up. Months of searching followed, but there was always something not quite right about the businesses I viewed. The premises were in the wrong place, or at the wrong price, or, most common of all, they just didn’t feel right.
And then I got a call. A business called Mad Lilies had come up for sale in Banstead. Well, I had no idea where that was but I knew I had to see it, my grandmother’s name was Lily, it had to be a sign… and from the first moment I walked through the door, I knew it was ‘the one’! It sounds cliché to say ‘and the rest is history’, but that’s truly how it feels.
Mad Lilies worked its way under my skin and into my heart, and with the gracious support of previous owner, Lee, I learned the ropes over a seriously intense four-month handover, and took the keys in February 2013. The last six years have been the busiest but happiest of my life. It’s been a crazy ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Favourites and Thank Yous
Mad Lilies has a backbone of steel, and this comes from my truly exceptional team. Every single person who has donned the Mad Lilies uniform has possessed both a sparkling talent and a serious amount of dedication and hard work. So, a massive debt of thanks is due to the current team: Becs, Katy, Aneta, Jill F, Jill R, Jane, Andi, Keeley, Shereen, Susan, Georgia, Kerry, Amanda and Russ, as well as all those who came before and all who will follow – none of this would be possible without them!
My husband Darren also deserves a pretty big shout out. He has been nothing but supportive during this floral rollercoaster. His practical advice, creative vision, patience and provision of gin in large quantities means more than I can put into words!
Other than petals, tendrils and stems, my loves include old school rom coms, and telly shouting during Five Nations Rugby matches. I bake when I’m stressed, and have an infinite capacity for chocolate buttons. I’m a fierce & loyal friend, a nature lover and a bit of an adrenaline junkie especially when it comes to sailing.
I’ve fallen in love with the Surrey countryside surrounding the renovated pub that Darren and I now live in and call home, and you’ll often find me out foraging for foliage, berries and flowers in the fields and hedgerows with Duffy – supremely brilliant dog, loving companion and valued member of the Mad Lilies customer services team! We have also recently been joined by young Dougal - a very cute four legged addition to the team - currently still learning the ropes through his junior apprenticeship!
So if you’re looking for fresh, natural flowers that celebrate the seasons, why not get in touch, or pop in to see me at Mad Lilies. I’ll put the kettle on.
Love, Alison x