Back in 2020 Grant McGowan, owner of The Paper Studio, presented Dennis van Wonderen with an Outstanding Service to Industry Award for the efforts he had made in defending the traditional florist sector in the face of a Watchdog feature on a company who had let so many consumers down.
Our Editor, Caroline Marshall-Foster asked if this would become a regular award, Grant thought and a second award was made at the BFA Vision Conference to a person who has done so, so much for the sector and fought long and hard to defend the interests of independent florists … often in the face of huge pressure.
Because Sandie Griffith, head of the Institute of Professional Floristry (IoPF) and tireless fighter for education standards, has not only battled to keep floristry a specialist skill, at one point it was to be subsumed into general retail in terms of examinations and qualifications, but continues to support, encourage, and develop young talent.
Not that she ever actually meant to and indeed didn’t have a floristry background when she and her family bought their first shop back in 1975; Sandie was more on the management side but, as Grant said in his speech, she quickly realised how important the right training was as she learned all the aspects of running a florist shop.
After a single shop in Crowthorne the family bought Jemini Flowers in Oxford in 1984, which, with three shops and 25 staff, made training a priority.
Sandie’s encouragement of her staff led to three Gold Medals and Chelsea Cups together with many finalists at Interflora Florist of the Year.
She was co-opted onto the Interflora Education Committee and her interest and passion for Training took off; Chairing the Industry Training Organisation for Floristry before moving on to Chair the Lantra Floristry Group.
She was then invited to join the BFA Board to take over and chair the Training and Education Committee which represents all sectors of the floristry industry, with representatives from employers, tutors, City & Guilds, Lantra, and the UK Floristry Judges Guild. She is highly respected by all because they recognise that what she seeks to achieve is for the greater good of the industry.
Sandie approaches all she takes on with enthusiasm and a drive for the highest standards, benchmarking against the best …. and not just in floristry! Because Sandie was, for many years a magistrate in Oxford and woe betide any defendant, (or policeman or solicitor) who tried to pull the wool over her eyes.
Sandie constantly promotes excellence and world class standards across the industry, striving to promote floristry as a profession, encouraging the public to recognise the skills, qualifications, expertise, and experience of a florist and to make people realise that becoming one is a challenging career and is not just about “playing with flowers”.
She also fights hard for what she believes in and was instrumental in Floristry not being subsumed within an overall Retail/Customer Service category but recognised as requiring a degree of technical skill which needed considerable specialised training. That was no mean achievement in the face of ignorance and lack of understanding and a lesser person might have just been steamrollered into accepting their fate.
Sandie was also successful in a bid to lead the development of the Trailblazer Apprenticeship that would represent the needs of the industry now and for the future. As Lead Employer, Sandie brought together a team of floristry experts to pledge their support and help draft the new standard, written by employers for employers to make the qualification more relevant to working in a flower business.
Working closely with the UK Floristry Judges Guild, Sandie is also heavily involved in organising floristry competitions, especially WorldSkills - a global movement of over 80 countries where “trade skills” are promoted as prestigious career routes and supports young people across the world via competitions-based training, assessment, and benchmarking, with members’ national teams ultimately contesting the biennial “Skills Olympics”.
Because Sandie firmly maintains that preparing for a competition refines your skills and techniques, helps you focus on the fundamentals of design and raises your aspirations to offer something quite different.
From a magazine perspective we think this is a truly worthy award and would add our own congratulations, and perhaps, more importantly our thanks to Sandie for fighting the corner of floristry and making it possible for young florists to pursue a worthwhile and recognised profession. It may not seem important but what Sandie has done has had a far reaching influence on our whole industry.