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Style: The Suffolk brand filling homes with everlasting flowers

She started the business part-way through the pandemic, while juggling both a toddler and new baby. But Ashlee Jane, the face and founder of faux flower brand The Suffolk Nest, soon realised she had a hit on her hands: 50,000 sales, half a million Instagram followers and a book deal later, she talks to Velvet’s Alice Ryan

The Suffolk Nest founder Ashlee Jane
The Suffolk Nest founder Ashlee Jane

For those new to the brand, introduce The Suffolk Nest?
The Suffolk Nest is an award-winning brand offering a curated selection of exclusive faux flower arrangements, vases and decor pieces designed to effortlessly elevate your home. We launch seasonal collections along with an abundance of tutorials and videos allowing you to immerse yourself in a world of seasonal beauty.
It’s grown 100% organically; a true community that has shaped people’s interiors, floral interests and also enabled people’s creativity. Moreover, it’s helped many realise what a therapeutic and relaxing outlet that can be.

You started out on a very different career path, which took you to Cadbury's, didn't you? What did you love about that career? And what prompted you to leave it?
I loved that it was seasonal, which meant lots of variety! Working in sales meant I was always driven by targets and goals, which I enjoyed. I loved always aiming to do my best work. Obviously the free choc was a good perk too!
I went on maternity leave – but never intended to leave. Time off work finally allowed me to explore my creativity and I really embraced the idea of doing what I love every day. In fact, it was Chris, my husband, who suggested I shouldn’t return.

Ashlee Jane shows followers how to get the most out of their flowers
Ashlee Jane shows followers how to get the most out of their flowers

When did you fall in love with flowers and arranging - and, specifically, with faux flowers?
Flowers didn’t run in my family. I was just attracted to them. I loved going to flower markets, and it was the perfect way to explore my creativity in line with the seasons - everything became in sync and it just felt right.
You may see a common theme here, but moving into faux flowers was also unplanned. One day I was in a wholesalers and stumbled upon some green eucalyptus that I genuinely thought was real. So I bought all the stock they had - that filled my car! - not knowing what I’d do with them.
I then went about sourcing other stems that I genuinely loved and found to be a true replica of nature and slowly started building a collection of stems and arrangements that launched in Autumn 2021.
Three years on, I now travel the world to design my own stems, curate our highly anticipated seasonal collections, and we still sell the original green eucalyptus which became one of our bestsellers!

How did that interest become a business?
Again, it was never intended for it to be a business. It was a very organic and natural progression through the demands of my community on The Suffolk Nest Instagram account. When I made something or did a tutorial, people wanted to replicate it in their homes using exactly what I’d used.
The first items we sold were glass apothecary vases, planters, floristry tools and wreath kits. The demand was unprecedented at the time, and it wasn’t until Chris told me to follow my true ambition that I started to take things a lot more seriously and really began focusing on my now new career and leave my old one behind.

Faux Green Eucalyptus, £16, available at thesuffolknest.com
Faux Green Eucalyptus, £16, available at thesuffolknest.com

The business has really taken off, hasn't it? 50,000 orders and counting, national press coverage, a growing social media community, a book deal with Quercus. . . What's the secret to that success, would you say?
Sacrifice, authenticity and a lot of hard work! There is no secret unfortunately. . . if anything, we’ve done everything the hard way! But I’ve come to realise that’s part of our journey that’s helped us grow, learn and evolve to constantly strive to be better.

There was a time, not so long ago, when faux flowers were dismissed as either tacky or fusty - but now they're firmly in fashion! What's driven that change, do you think?
Technological advances have come a long way, and perhaps a little bit of social media exposure has helped improve the reputation of faux flowers. I can only imagine this will get better as technology continues to evolve. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of poor-quality faux flowers around - which is reflected in the price point - but I’ve really enjoyed working with true artisans where petals are hand-painted, hand-curled and even feel real.

Are faux flowers a planet-friendly option? Obviously they're made to last, aren't they?
There are a lot of benefits in choosing faux over fresh. I still personally love fresh flowers and try to only buy seasonal and locally grown flowers to reduce the impact on the environment. Faux flowers are a huge industry and when you look at the journey from factory to consumer, the impact on the environment is far less than fresh flowers however. Here’s a few things to consider:

1. Lower CO2 Emissions

2. No pesticides used

3. Less water wastage

4. Transportation via sea vs air

5. Waste

6. Strict growing environments such as humidity, temperature, water (and space!)

The Suffolk Nest has such an elegant style. . . How would you describe it?
Thank you so much - that’s really kind of you. I’ve always found such peace from the beauty of flowers, so I wanted to bring that to life with the brand. I’d describe it as calming, beautiful and hopefully inspiring.

The Suffolk Nest is known for its elegant and contemporary style
The Suffolk Nest is known for its elegant and contemporary style

You've got two (very) little ones, haven't you? How do you juggle being a mum with running the business?
Yes - our two lovely girls! Orla was 2 and our little lockdown baby, Florence, was 6 months old when the business was starting off, so there’s no sugar-coating the fact that it was very difficult! I remember putting them down for their one-hour nap and quickly filming some content or emailing back suppliers.
We became incredibly efficient! I would pick and pack orders with Florence strapped to me in a harness and work until all hours of the night. At one point we started our days at 3am -and that wasn’t because the girls were awake!
There’s no way I could have done it without the support of my amazing parents and husband Chris, who, in the early days, was basically juggling his full-time job with another full-time job! Throw writing a book into the mix, and you’ve basically got a recipe for mayhem and stress - but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
The years have been hectic to say the least, but we’re so grateful and I genuinely love what I do - not a single day feels like ‘work’. Fast forward to now, the girls are older and easier in a lot of ways. We have an amazing team and warehouse, and fundamentally our foundations are getting better, which grants me more time to be creative. There’s still plenty to do - I have so many ideas and plans - but I’m just trying to enjoy the journey, as well as savouring moments with our girls.

What do flowers bring to a room - and to your mood - would you say?
Personally, it brings me joy. It lifts a room and often, I find, adds those finishing touches that makes it feel put-together and like home. I wrote a blog about just the power of green in our homes, specifically around green foliage, and I couldn’t agree more with the research I found.

When used in our homes, green can bring feelings of peace, harmony and balance. It can rejuvenate and restore us, helping us to feel more connected to nature and instilling a sense of safety and security. And that’s not all; its many positive psychological effects include enhancing our creativity and focus. . . and that’s just the colour green!

The Suffolk Nest founder Ashlee Jane with her book, House of Flowers
The Suffolk Nest founder Ashlee Jane with her book, House of Flowers

House of Flowers: 30 floristry projects to bring the magic of flowers into your home is available now in hardback, priced £25

See and shop both seasonal and core collections at thesuffolknest.com and follow @the_suffolk_nest for more information and inspiration.

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