How A Former Estate Agent Is Making It Work As A Florist

"As soon as I was furloughed, the first thing I did was cut down my outgoings to the bare necessities. From magazine subscriptions to fancy coffees, it all went."

Jenny Pagel founder of Kanku floristry pictured with a bouquet of her creation and the text "How I'm...

Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who've achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they've learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her working life transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They'll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they're making it work.

This time, HIMIW hears from Jenny Pagel, founder of Kanku Floristry. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Pagel was a letting manager at a London estate agent. While on furlough during the first lockdown, she decided to sign up for an online floristry diploma to make the most of her free time. A few months later, she was made redundant, so she decided to turn her hobby into a full-time job and launched her own floristry business. Here's how she's making it work.

Location: London

Age: 32

Occupation: Florist/Founder at Kanku Floristry

What was your working life like before the coronavirus outbreak?

Before the coronavirus outbreak, I worked as a lettings manager for a prime central London independent estate agent. It was a very fast paced job with one sole focus — targets , targets, targets. Although quite challenging with long hours and a lot of pressure, it was very financially rewarding and secure.

And how is it now?

I was furloughed in March and this hit me quite hard. Having always worked since the age of 16, I found it extremely difficult not having much to do. I decided to make the best use of my time and embarked on an online floristry diploma. I had always thoroughly enjoyed floristry and thought "what better time than now to pursue my passion?" A few months into being furloughed, I was made redundant. This completely changed my working life. After weeks of looking for another job in the property industry and not finding anything, I decided to take a leap of faith and continue with the floristry work on a self-employed basis. And just like that, Kanku Floristry was born.

How has the pandemic changed your financial situation?

Working as an estate agent for five years, I was used to getting a good salary and generous commission along with a bonus. Since losing my job, I've had to solely rely on savings for the past year. Being a start up business in a pandemic without a stable income has involved me watching the pennies, only spending on the necessities, and investing in the business. Financially things have been a challenge however, I have learnt so many lessons along the way and I'm now a lot more sensible with money.

Has the government made financial support available to people in your industry or situation?

The government has set up a self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) which is aimed at self-employed individuals who as a result of the coronavirus outbreak have received little or no work. This scheme was in the form of a grant. Unfortunately for me I haven't been able to meet the criteria in order to qualify for this scheme having only set up my business in 2020.

Editor's note: The SEISS is currently only available to those who have been self-employed since the 2018-19 tax year.

Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your situation?

I feel the government has been in a tricky position, as they have never had to deal with a pandemic like this. So naturally the handling of it would have been a case of calculated decisions, along with trial and error. There has been a lot of help for the employed and established self-employed, however nothing for the newly self-employed person like myself. As frustrating as it is, it's understandable given that most new businesses would have put their plans on hold. The government have done the best they can but a few people like myself have slipped through the net and are having to fend for themselves.

How are you managing the changes in your financial or professional circumstances?

As soon as I was furloughed the first thing I did was cut down my outgoings to the bare necessities. From magazine subscriptions to fancy coffees, it all went. I'm having to be very frugal and disciplined. Listening to podcasts such as The GaryVee Audio Experience and reading books such as No Excuses! by Bryan Tracy have helped me deal with the major financial and emotional change in my circumstances.

What would help you feel more secure financially during the pandemic?

I wish that the government had thought more into helping those who are/were in the process of setting up new businesses. Had there been some sort of grant/scheme that bridged the gap between being employed, on furlough, universal credit, or the self-employed income support scheme many people like myself would have felt a lot more financially secure.

I had always thoroughly enjoyed floristry and thought "what better time than now to pursue my passion?"

How do you feel the pandemic will affect your working life more long term?

I'd like to say that we are over the worst and things will be smooth sailing from here on in, especially with the vaccine. As ironic as it may sound, a few positives have come from the pandemic. One of them being a lot of communities coming together and supporting local businesses by buying local. Hopefully this will carry on. I feel a lot more people have become accustomed to the click and collect service that a lot of businesses have adapted to provide as a result of lockdown, so this may be the norm going forward.

Do you think your experiences during the pandemic will change your approach to your working life?

As difficult as it has been, and still is, setting up a business in the midst of a pandemic — hopefully this is as hard as it's going to ever be. I've had to learn how to pivot the business with the constant change in the situation. My experiences during the outbreak have taught me to always be flexible in business and to learn different approaches and ways of doing things if one way ends up not being possible.

Do you think your experiences during the pandemic will have an impact on your relationship with money?

It has most certainly changed my relationship with money. It has instilled further into me the importance of saving for a rainy day as you never know what is around the corner or what new business you may want to venture into.