After completing graduate school at Columbia University, Makini Regal Brereton seemed to have the job perks every young professional desired including a decent salary, corner office and company car. But a stable 9-to-5 day job as a senior analyst for a management consulting firm did nothing to spark Brereton’s creative interest. With a love for design and an inherited green thumb from her two grandmothers, this young Brooklynite with Trinidadian roots took a leap of faith in 2011 when she left her job in corporate America to launch her own company, Makini Regal Designs.
In just four short years as an entrepreneur, Brereton has already made a name for herself as one of the hottest floral designers in New York City, having provided floral and event design services to Bravo’s Blood, Sweat and Heels star Demetria Lucas D’Oyley and VH1 star Yandy Smith. With hopes of expanding her clientele and reach, Brereton opens up about the challenges and triumphs she’s faced in growing her business to what it is today.
What was the planning period like before you left your corporate job to become an entrepreneur?
Brereton: It was probably about a year. I spent the first six months writing a business plan and shadowing another designer just to make sure I really wanted to do it. Then, the next six months were putting all the things in order to start the business. So figuring out where I would be based, getting my website done and coming up with my brand name.
Who was your first client?
My first client was actually an organization called American Friends of Jamaica. They had their annual gala where the prime minister of Jamaica was there and I thought “Wow, this is really my first gig.” The gig came about from a friend I went to college with. Once I started a Facebook page and announced what I was doing, I was so surprised by the positive amount of feedback and support. People started just sending clients my way.
After running your own business for a few years now, what advice would you give your younger self when first starting out?
I would say have a bigger cushion financially because there were some unexpected expenses that I didn’t really account for. If I were doing this all over again with a little extra cushion then that would have made the process a little bit more seamless.
Did all of the initial funding from your business come from your personal savings?
Yes, all of the business support has come from savings and no loans. I don’t have a business background, but I was determined to do it on my own and I probably broke every business rule out there including not completing my business plan. I think for me, business owners have this issue where you start out with a business plan and then somewhere you get discouraged and start to think “Wow, can I really afford this?” I just decided that I wasn’t going to let my fear get in the way of me starting. So I stopped working on my plan and I just started. I felt a certain level of confidence that it would work out. I had a degree so I also knew that if it didn’t work out I could just go back to my corporate job.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into the floral design business?
It’s not a profession that you need to be certified in, but there are definitely programs out there like New York Botanical Gardens that you can enroll in if you want certain technical skills. But I would say just get every opportunity you can to work with flowers and practice your skills. Also, surround yourself with people who are doing that type of work. For me, shadowing at the floral design company, Blossom and Branch, was really a fast indicator that I wanted to do this. I got to see the day-to-day operations and watch what was being done well and what wasn’t.
Was there a specific person or incident that gave you that extra push to finally step out there and start your business?
I think even though my parents were a little concerned about how I would do this, they always encouraged me to be business minded. I also understood from a pretty young age that I wasn’t going to build wealth if I did not own my own business. So owning a business was always the goal, it was just a matter of figuring out what type of business. I just started thinking long term about what I could really see myself doing and I knew I wanted flexibility.
Where do you see your company in 2-3 years from now?
I definitely want to continue working on weddings and events. Last December, I launched an interior design division of Makini Regal Designs so I want to be able to take on more interior design jobs. I would also love to do more speaking engagements and really talk to people about some of the ways to start a business and some of the rewards to starting a business.