biz ladiesinterviewsLife & Business

Biz Ladies Profile: Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo

by Stephanie

Photos by Paige Green

Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from former D*S contributors, Alethea and Jill of Studio Choo. Alethea and Jill have always had a passion for flowers.  They first met in a floral design class, where they learned the ins and outs of floristry and honed their craft for floral design. After a few years of intense practice, the two set out on their own business venture and heave never looked back.  Today they share a bit about their business journey.  Thank you ladies for sharing your story! —Stephanie

Read the full interview after the jump…

Why did you decide to start your own business?

We met at a really amazing flower shop in San Francisco called Rose and Radish where we learned to make beautiful sculptural arrangements. We spent years there learning the trade; cleaning/processing flowers, learning the business side of floristry, customer service and interaction, and event coordination. 

We had always dreamed of starting our own business together and after a few years finally took the plunge. At the time we had a small financial cushion so we were able to spend our days playing with flowers and different arranging styles. We gave ourselves a limited time period to make free arrangements for friends, family, and local businesses, invent photo shoots where we would drive around to beautiful locations and photograph ourselves with flowers, and inexpensive weddings and events to build up our portfolio. We worked out of Jill’s kitchen and the back of Alethea’s car- we couldn’t afford to rent a space for about a year.

When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?

The shop we were working at had a very modern style and we wanted to make sure that we were doing something that was totally different from that. We spent a lot of time playing with flowers that we had never used before, and having lots of fun experimenting with styles. Eventually our own style was defined and we were on our way.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

Don’t get into debt, and make sure that when you go into business with your best friend that your roles are clearly defined.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Probably leaving the comfort and stability of working for someone else. Owning your own business means that after a long day of work you go home and work some more, especially when you are first starting out.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

85% of our business is sitting at the computer keeping up with bills, invoicing, proposals, and 15% is actually making arrangements. Organization is incredibly important, and can make or break a business.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?

I wouldn’t really call it a failure, but learning not to overextend ourselves has been hard. We always want to give everyone everything we have.

Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

Learning to run a small business with your best friend has been an amazing experience, and we’re so proud that we’ve made it work so well.

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

We don’t have any specific books but we highly recommend getting a job or interning in your field. Spend as much time as you can learning about the business that goes on behind the scenes- that is usually the most important stuff. You can learn so much and not have to make all the same mistakes over and over. Usually by the time the internship is complete you will be able to make a decision if you are ready to take the plunge! We get a lot of people who want to leave the corporate world and do something more creative- we always advise them to give up a couple of months of weekends before quitting and get some experience in their field. Working 7 days a week for little money when you first start out is pretty common, so it will be valuable experience!

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

  • Try to make sure that you’re offering something unique. You have to set yourself apart in some way!
  • In our industry a standard bucket style shop cannot succeed anymore with the selection/pricing available at most supermarkets. We have had to develop a product that is not available everywhere.
  • Make sure that you have enough money saved up to support yourself while you get your business off the ground.
  • Be flexible in your planning but also be confident in what you are doing. A business plan is necessary but you have to be able to adapt to changes that are thrown your way.


Suggested For You


  • A floral business has enchanted me…and it seems like a small business concept that does well no matter what kind of economy we’re in…people always want to give flowers, and there’s always an arrangement to fit your budget.

  • Studio Choo did the flowers for my commitment ceremony, as a photographer who shoots weddings, I’m super picky about my vendors and I knew they wouldn’t let me down! They did an amazing job creating a custom package that fit our needs and I was highly impressed by the arrangements. I continue to recommend their services to my own clients, all the good press is well deserved.

  • I’m a photographer who focuses on weddings, and I chose Studio Choo as the vendors for my own commitment ceremony. I’m constantly blown away by the creativity and quality of their work, and recommend them again and again to my own clients. Very well deserved good press!

  • I just saw this book yesterday at a bookstore. It’s a lovely book. I was very impressed by the layout, instructions, and beautiful arrangements. What a nice surprise to see the authors today on Design*Sponge, providing some very good advice!

  • Wow. What I always wanted to do and be. A professional florist. But it was not meant to be as my friend who was to be my partner backed out due to family circumstances which won’t allow her to give the time and effort it takes to run a floral shop. You do a tremendous job and your work is beautiful. Always knew it could be done. Keep up the very good work.