From The Straits Times    |

Meet five inspiring personalities who are fearlessly pursuing their passions by opting for careers in female-dominated fields. These individuals have eschewed the idea that certain professions should be gendered and have found success in what are traditionally “feminine” careers.

“I think the natural image that comes to mind when people mention a florist is a sweet, dainty and elegant figure putting together a gorgeous bunch of blooms. I am definitely not that,” laughs Stanley Tan. “Most people can’t fathom how a big, burly, ‘Shrek’-looking guy like me could be a florist.”

The 31-year-old is the second-generation owner of Windflower Florist, which was established in 1997 by his parents. As a child, he had no interest in flowers. But though he felt bored spending his days at the store (“At one point, I even stole $50 from their cash register, only to get caught by the end of the day.”), his adolescent years within the space had a profound impact on him.

“I think it’s the fact that I observed [my parents’] work at a very young age – this rooted itself firmly in my childhood memories,” he says. When his parents wanted to add a gifting component to the business, he told them that he would “figure out how to take the business to the next stage, while retaining flowers as the core product”. He eventually took over the reins in 2014, when he was 22 and fresh out of National Service.

Stanley Tan, owner and director of Windflower Florist

Initially, Stanley did not expect to be so involved with flower production, but everything came naturally to him when he started learning the skills and techniques to arranging flowers from his parents. “Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with floristry,” he says.

There were a few challenges along the way. Besides losing touch with a couple of friends and breaking up with a couple of exes because of the long hours spent on building the business and flower production, he also had to deal with criticism from neighbouring store owners who questioned his parents’ decision of not encouraging him to go to university instead.

But Stanley remained rooted in his resolve. “The way I handle such situations is to use their comments and criticisms as fuel to better my craft and, most importantly, to run the business to be better than it was before.” His hard work eventually paid off, he reveals. “Before I took over my parent’s business, the annual turnover was around $50,000 to $60,000. After taking over, the team and I managed to increase the annual turnover to $1 million in three years.”

Having helmed Windflower for almost 10 years now, the florist notes that “it is the love for the craft that brings people together, whether male or female”.

He shares: “I realised that as I continually hone my skills as a florist, that itself erodes any doubt that people might have about what I can produce as a male florist. This industry relies heavily on creativity, innovation, and spotting the latest trends. Diversity and inclusion would mean fresh and brand new ideas being explored every day, casting the spotlight on the industry as a whole, and keeping the general consumer engaged.”

I realised that as I continually hone my skills as a florist, that itself erodes any doubt that people might have about what I can produce as a male florist.

Stanley Tan, owner and director of Windflower Florist

Five questions with Stanley

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your industry?

Stanley Tan (ST): The misconceptions are usually leaning towards that it is a retirement kind of job.

What’s the craziest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?

ST: In the early days when I just took over the business, I handled most of the customer enquiries. Some customers would greet me with a ‘Hi Babe!’, thinking it would be a sweet voice responding, only to be disappointed when my gruff voice greets them back with a ‘Hello, this is Windflower’.

What kind of goals do you have for Windflower Florist in the future?

ST: At least for the next 5 years, my goal is to be able to break into other markets other than Singapore. 

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

ST: Retail is not a race, but a marathon.

What advice do you have for others who are considering a career in your industry?

ST: You must possess a strong grit and high tolerance/patience to survive. Also, love for flowers – lots of it. 

Photography LAWRENCE TEO
Art Direction ADELINE ENG