License and Permit Required for Doing Floral Business

If you love flowers and being creative, have a head for business, and enjoy working with people, consider starting a floral business. Florists sell flowers and arrangements for events like weddings.
You can work for a florist company, but starting your own business will give you more flexibility and the opportunity to grow and advance in your career. Floristry doesn’t require any specific credential or education. Depending on where you open the business, you may need several permits and licenses.
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What is a Floral Business?

A floral business can mean a few different things. Some floral professionals are growers or wholesalers. They produce the flowers and sell them in bulk to florist shops and designers. These types of businesses require a lot of money upfront, as well as space and expertise.
A more likely option for someone interested in floristry is to open a business based on design and selling flowers to individuals and for events:

  • Retail florist. This is a flower shop where people buy flower arrangements, usually for personal use or small events.
  • Bucket shop.These are small shops that sell cut flowers or simple arrangements. You’ll find them on street corners or in larger stores.
  • Full flower shop.A full-service shop is a retail florist with extended services. This may include delivery of flowers and floral design and arrangements for larger events, like weddings or funerals.
  • Specialty florist.Some florists specialize in certain events, for instance, weddings only.
  • Floral design.A floral designer may or may not have an independent shop. Some work out of their homes. They design and provide arrangements and decorations for events.
Consider several factors when deciding which type of business you want to start. For instance, do you have enough startup cash to rent a storefront? Or, do you need to begin with an in-house service? Are you more interested in the retail end or floral design?

Starting a Floral Business – What Do I Need?

Florists and floral designers do not need to have any specific credentials to operate. There is no required education, degree, or license specific to this industry. Most businesses do need a license to operate, and you should consider a legal structure for your company.
As a retail business, you probably need to register for a sales tax permit. This allows you to collect tax on the flowers you sell. You may need a zoning permit for your local area or a home occupation permit.
Because floristry is not regulated by federal or state governments, starting your business is more straightforward than many other types. Requirements for general business permits and licenses vary by state and county or municipality. Make sure you know what you need for your business location.

Getting a Business License

Check with your state and local governments to determine if you need a general business license to operate. At a minimum, regardless of your location, you should register as a DBA to establish a separate business entity.
DBA stands for “do business as.” Some states use the terms fictitious, assumed, or trade name to mean the same thing. A DBA allows you to do business under a name that is different from your personal, legal name. Without a DBA, the name of your business defaults to your actual name.
Most states require you to register for a DBA if you plan to operate under a different name. The exceptions are if you choose a specific legal structure, like LLC or corporation. If you register for one of these structures, it includes your assumed business name.

Register a Legal Structure for Your Floral Business

All new businesses must also consider a legal structure. The two most likely options for a small floral business are:

  • Sole Proprietorship. This is the simplest structure and means that you are the sole owner and operator of your business with no liability protection. If you choose sole proprietorship, you will probably also need a DBA.
  • A Limited Liability Company. An LLC is a structure that allows you to limit your liability. It legally separates you as an individual from your business. If a customer sues you over lost wedding flowers, for instance, they can not sue you as a person, only your business. State requirements for filing as an LLC vary but are generally simple and expensive. You do not need a DBA if you register as an LLC.
Other structures include partnerships and corporations. If you’re interested in these types of legal entities, you may want to talk to a lawyer as they are more complicated.
When you register your business, you’ll also get a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is your tax ID. You must have one for an LLC. It is not required for a sole proprietorship, but you can get one if you choose. If you don’t, you’ll use your social security number as a tax ID. Many vendors will only do business with you if you have an EIN.

Sales Tax Permit and Resale Certificate

Again, you’ll need to check with your state government to determine exactly what you need. Still, most retail businesses should have both of these. A sales tax permit allows you to collect sales tax on the products you sell to customers. Flowers are taxable, so to operate legally, you must collect taxes.
As a flower business, you will purchase goods from a wholesaler and sell them to customers. This means you also need a resale certificate. It allows you to buy flowers and other goods without paying sales tax on them. The sales tax is passed on to the client.

Professional Certifications

The above licenses and permits are the basics of doing business. Florists and floral designers do not need to hold any other credentials to operate. However, you may want to consider earning professional certifications.
These are credentials issued by professional organizations. You must meet specific requirements to qualify. Holding certification can be important for getting clients who want to know that you are knowledgeable and skilled in creating flower arrangements.
You can choose from national certifications or those offered through state organizations where you operate. Some examples include:

  • American Institute of Floral Designers. The AIFD offers a Certified Floral Designer(CFD) credential. To become a CFD, you must pass an online test after completing approved courses. Alternatively, you can qualify by participating in a Professional Floral Design Evaluation (PFDE), an in-person event, and passing the online test. To become an accredited member of the AIFD, you must participate in the PFDE.
  • Society of American Florists. The SAF does not offer certification, but membership has certain benefits. As a member of SAF, florists and floral designers get professional publications, webinars and classes, marketing and advertising tools, expert advice, legal advice, and access to a comprehensive supplier database.
  • State Organizations.Many states have professional floral organizations. For example, the California State Floral Association offers a certification for in-state professionals. The certification process includes taking a course and passing an exam. This particular group only certifies florists once per year, as the exam requires in-person design as well as a written test.

Completing a Floral Design Program

With all of the business and professional licenses, permits, and credentials in place, you’re technically ready to start a floral business. However, you may want to consider getting an education as the final piece of the puzzle. Having legal requirements in place may be necessary but are not very useful if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to run a business and provide well-designed floral arrangements.
Wherever you live, you should find several options for training as a florist:

  • Community and Career Colleges. Many community colleges offer floral design programs and courses. Some have diploma or certificate programs that cover business operations as well as floral design. Others offer continuing education courses that you can pick and choose to learn what you need.
  • Online Programs.Many career programs are available completely online. If you can’t find a good program in your area or at your local college, consider online courses. Schools like Penn Foster and organizations like the Floral Design Institute and Team Flower offer individual courses and complete programs for learning the trade.
  • Local Classes. If you’re just interested in getting your feet wet and seeing what floral design is all about, look for classes offered by local community groups or centers. Many cities provide lifelong learning courses in all kinds of subjects, including floral design. These can teach you some skills without requiring a full program commitment.
  • Internships or Mentorships. Another great way to learn the business is to team up with a local professional. Get a job with a successful florist or designer in your area and learn how to work with flowers and run a business.
Floral businesses are relatively simple to set up and operate, but you do need specific permits and licenses. Do the research and check with your state and local governments before starting a business so you know what to expect.