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Meet Leslie Ivey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Ivey.

Hi Leslie, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started in catering when I was 15, the perfect environment to teach a strong work ethic. The days are very long and jam packed with activity. It begins early in the morning packing and organizing the truck, followed by set up, take down, and ends with washing dishes! It’s not uncommon to work 18 to 20 hour days that require full energy and hard labor from start to finish.

From there, I transitioned into event rentals. While there, I created linens, ensured the vision of an event space was executed according to the creator’s design and learned to manage extensive inventory.

Collectively these experiences and the encouragement of mentors inspired me to begin my first business: Creative Creations a la Carte. The idea behind this business was a “themed-party-in-a-box.” While this was ultimately unsuccessful, it did morph into my next more successful endeavor, Leslie Ivey Designs.

Initially, I designed and built themed packages caterers could rent to elevate their buffet presentations. Packages included custom built decor, props, and florals.

During this time, I was also freelancing as a florist with local companies for weddings and other events. As my work became more well known, florists began recommending me as a wedding florist to brides they were unable to serve, as well as individuals and corporations who needed holiday decor designed and installed. As a result, Leslie Ivey Designs transformed into primarily a wedding floral and holiday decor installation business.

Then, the recession of 2008 hit, and I was unable to continue to rely on Leslie Ivey Designs as a primary source of income. So, I fell back on my early kitchen skills from my catering days. While at The Remedy Diner, as kitchen manager I developed their vegan ranch dressing to accompany the vegan Buffalo nuggets, which was a best-selling menu item. I was then fortunate enough to help open Garland restaurant in downtown Raleigh. I helped to develop their first menu and my custom-designed branch chandelier still hangs in the main dining room.

In 2014 I was approached by Christie DiFrancesco, owner of Art of Motion Events, to be their Creative Designer. AOM is a company that specializes in design and execution of destination events for large corporations. It was a unique opportunity to expand my design skills and travel the world. Everything was bigger. More tables, larger props, bigger budgets. I was challenged to source products in countries where I didn’t speak the language, adjust designs on the fly in spaces I had never seen until the day of the event, and worked closely with executive clients to make sure their vision was met. My creativity and critical thinking skills exploded exponentially.

Sadly, that came to an abrupt end when the pandemic began. Across the board, the event industry was hit hard as one of the first to shut down completely. It was a slow shock. For the first six to eight weeks, we all held our breath thinking by early summer things would be back to normal. We were wrong. So, once again, I had to shift.

A close friend, Brigner Milne, owner of Flex Nightclub in downtown Raleigh, approached me with a need in the LGBTQ+ community. As masks became the norm, his clientele was asking for ones that would accommodate larger faces, beards and that had more fun and fashionable designs. Luckily, I was well-positioned with the time and skills to create just that! I began doing pop-up events and selling masks in local stores like Crowmag Toys in North Raleigh. Then, while still under restrictions, Brigner and I developed The Cocktail Mask. The Cocktail Mask is a regular mask with a resealable port on the front and a matching metal straw. Together with social distancing, this allowed for continued safe social interaction during the pandemic.

As the masks tapered off and events were still shutdown, I found myself, for the first time in 25 years, without steady work. My creativity was desperate for an outlet and Flowering Bones Studio was born! I realized that I now had the freedom to design for myself based on what inspires me. My art is the convergence of all things floral and macabre. I have been so pleased to find other kindred spirits who share my interests and want my creations in their homes.

Now, as the world is reopening, Leslie Ivey Designs has been reborn. With monthly flower subscriptions, custom props, holiday decor, and event florals, I am happy to put all my skills to use to serve my community and beyond.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has definitely not been a smooth ride, but the most interesting journeys never are! The biggest struggle post-COVID has been learning self-promotion. So much of my career has been word of mouth and recommendations from others in the industry. I have had to quickly learn the best ways to reach my customer base and showcase my skills. Social media, new websites, brochures, and ads are deceptively time-consuming and very frustrating to someone used to working with their hands. I am very lucky to have a talented and patient sister who has helped me navigate and learn how to properly use these mediums.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a florist, I am hands down known for my versatility and attention to detail. While many florists specialize in a particular style – like romantic or modern or garden – clients, and other florists, know they can rely on me to create a design that is wholly reflective of them.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Flexibility! It was important to not pigeonhole myself into one thing. I had to be open to all possible uses of the skills I’ve amassed over the last 25 years in order to survive.

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