The exotic beauty of his native Hawaiian flowers made his business blossom.
Instinct: What's your professional background?
Asa Ige: I have a BFA in art, attended and taught at Parsons School of Design in New York, owned and operated a retail store there called Stamens & Pistils for 12 years, was house florist for the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, was floral director of the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa on Maui and currently am the florist for the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui.
How did you get interested in working with flowers?
I was working as a graphic designer in NYC and as the token Hawaiian, was appointed to find the flowers for a "Hawaiian Theme" company party. Throughout the city, I was unable to locate any real tropical flowers I was familiar with from home. I also found out that the wholesalers were unaware of what I was in search of. The idea to open a "Hawaiian" flower store emerged from this. Within the next few months, Stamens & Pistils opened for business in Greenwich Village as a cut-flower store.
What did you learn as you grew your business?
To keep good books! Without the business foundation, there is no business. I had to learn this along the way. One day, I heard a man say to his wife in my store, "All of this is pretty, but pretty doesn't pay the rent." I was insulted, but it's so true. You have to pay your vendors and employees and taxes.
What are some tips you have for starting your own business?
The start is a passion for whatever you want to do. When I opened my first business, I was very young (24!) and had absolutely no experience. I just had a passion to open the most unusual flower store in New York and went for it. I had luck on my side and, fortunately, all worked out for me. The desire to succeed and tireless hours of uncompensated time were the foundation of its success.
What advice can you offer for building a professional reputation?
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Be honest and reputable and have manners. Provide the highest quality of product and service to your clients. Be consistent.
What are some signs that you've "made it"?
I am amazed at where Asa Flowers is today from its inception. I have amazing clients who are wonderful people. As an artist, I feel fortunate to have people who love what we do--that's a reward you can't place a monetary value on. I guess if there is a sign that we have "made it," it's that we are very busy.
What are you proudest of professionally?
Making an impact on the floral industry with the exposure of Hawaiian tropical flowers. Reinventing my career in flowers back home in Hawaii (I am no longer in retailing, but all my work is on contract). Being in the flower business now for 27 years.
The most important measure of my success is having an amazing team of extremely talented designers and workers. We all work so closely together and all have the same mindset: to produce the highest possible quality of work. Without a good staff, there is no business. I have a great flower family.
The secret to a beautiful arrangement is to focus on simple and elegant. Utilize proper placement and good lighting. Keep it simple. Use containers that are easy to work with.
I love to work with them all; however, being here in Hawaii, unusual tropical flowers and foliage are so abundant it would be a shame not to showcase them. Some of our favorites are the heliconias, bromeliads, proteas and orchids. For traditional wedding work, we use the full range of traditionals. Some of my favorites are peonies, roses and hydrangeas.
HIP, HIP, HAWAII!
The rare and exotic flowers and foliage here are fantastic. The quality of the product is unsurpassed, and utilizing backyard "collectors," we have access to things that are not available on a commercial level. These items are wonderful to feature in any arrangement.
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