Bloom & Plume founder Maurice Harris doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles of making money as an artist.
“Capitalism is not set up for creatives,” he says. “It does not care about your creativity. It does not care about your gender. It does not care about your race. It cares about the bottom line.”
Before starting Bloom & Plume, Maurice was already a successful floral designer, creating elaborate, high-end flower arrangements for big brands like Louis Vuitton and Vogue. But even making flowers for events at that scale wasn’t very profitable. For one thing, flowers are perishable and the labor that went into creating giant floral arrangements was costly. The demand was limited, too, because only big companies or celebrities could afford to buy Maurice’s work.
And more importantly, Maurice is an artist first and forevermost. He wanted to try new things in his arrangements and work on custom creations, but he found that making money was more about “rinse and repeat.”
So he decided to open Bloom & Plume, a coffee and flower shop located just north of downtown Los Angeles, with help from his brother. The idea was that the coffee shop would make Maurice’s flowers accessible to more people, plus it would add an extra stream of income and encourage customers to come back more frequently. The coffee was a way to make money off of something repeatable, while giving Maurice more flexibility to be creative.
“If I make one or two [flower] arrangements to place in the area, hundreds of people can see that, and then they can engage with a consistent coffee,” Maurice explains.
It wasn’t just that Maurice was selling flower arrangements, merch, and coffee at a lower price point. Behind Bloom & Plume’s periwinkle exterior, he also sought to give his customers a high-end retail experience.
“I know how I felt when I used to walk into Barney’s, when I used to walk into places that were curated with such magnificent design and beautiful things,” Maurice says. “And that’s something that I found to be very powerful and important, and something most people should have access to.”
And as a gay Black man, there were plenty of times where he felt like he didn’t have access to spaces like that. When he was trying to get a small business loan to start Bloom & Plume, he says he received 30 no’s before one of his connections helped him secure funding.
“It was incredibly frustrating to do everything right based off of all of the things we read, based off of all the seminars we would go to,” Maurice explains. “Like, we’re just doing everything right and beyond on those things, and we’re still not getting it.”
He and his brother poured every dollar they had into paying off the loan. Maurice started taking more content creation gigs as the brand grew. He even appeared on two television series, including Full Bloom on HBOMax. It’s just the next stage in his evolution, both as an artist and as a business owner.
“I think the biggest thing I can tell folks is to have something for you and to treat your creative job as your job. When money is exchanged, it is a job,” Maurice says. “And even though it’s creative, do not be defined by those things. Be defined by the things that you wanna put out into the world that you think are exciting.”
To hear more about Maurice’s journey, and how he monetizes his art and stays true to his point of view, listen to the full episode of Shopify Masters.