Where in London do you live and work?
I’ve lived and worked in London my whole life, Chiswick initially and more recently Belsize Park. I started off as a doctor, working as a consultant anaesthetist at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Five years ago, I made the transition to starting my own business and have found London the perfect location as it’s so full of opportunity.
I run a wedding and events floristry business, so we have a large workshop in North London, rather than a traditional shop front, as we require huge amounts of space to create our floral displays. Our London clients are very creative, so often request big displays for areas such as ceilings and staircases. We very quickly realised our shop wasn’t going to be big enough!
What’s your earliest memory of London?
Wondering around Trocadero after school (there were some good sweet shops in those days!) and popping to our local cinema in Richmond with the family. It was such a great location with the river so close by and the beautiful little boutiques in the side streets. If I want to take a literal walk down memory lane it’ll be Richmond riverside that I go back to.
What makes London special to you?
So many things. I love the creative buzz in London and how easy it is to connect and meet other like-minded people. On starting my business, I was unsure of how to find other creative business owners but quickly discovered that in London there is literally a group for everything, Platforms like Meetup and have been invaluable.
London is also beautifully multicultural. The wedding flower designs we create are always so unique as they reflect the differing heritages of our couples, so we always get to create something new every time.
The architecture too. In fact, The Royal Exchange is one of my favourite buildings. I’m very lucky that I get to create permanent floral displays for some wonderful venues in town.
How would you describe London in three words?
Ambitious, creative, resilient
What’s your usual morning ritual?
Most mornings I pop to New Covent Garden flower market in Vauxhall. It’s an early start (5.30am) but it’s a great way to begin the day, seeing familiar faces and choosing fresh flowers for the week’s events. On a weekday, I’ll follow that up with some networking – all done on Zoom at the moment but during non-Covid times it was a chance to have nice breakfastmeetings in the City.
On a weekend I’ll go for a run. Hampstead Heath is a hilly enough challenge for me or if I’m feeling a bit worse for wear, I might choose the flatter ground of Regent’s Park.
I often spend a large part of the morning driving (either to the market, our workshop or to visit a new venue that we might be decorating) so I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks. Audiobooks have been a revelation. I can now manage almost 3 books a week, when I’d be lucky to do that many in a year before.
What do you do to keep a good work-life balance?
I’ve always been someone who focuses intensely on one thing and my training as a medic probably has something to do with that. I have to be quite conscious to schedule in time for family and friends. I now have regular engagements with family and friends scheduled in the diary and I’ve given them strict instructions to make sure I don’t flake out.
I find routine helps with exercise too. After reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear I’ve arranged things in the house so it’s easier for me to get into my running wear than it is to find my other outfits, hence pushing me to get out and run.
And as a treat you can’t beat a good massage from time to time.
What activities, habits or rituals have you found help you to maintain good mental health through challenging times?
Fixed sleep and wake up times have really helped me to retain a sense of normality. I use the sleep app on the iPhone to give me a reminder of when I should be heading to bed. It’s so easy to get sidetracked as there’s always something else to do.
Walking out in nature helps when feeling overwhelmed, as well as providing me with necessary design inspiration.
I’ve also started an online Pilates class to counteract bad posture, as I’ve been spending so much time hunching over my devices and on Zoom calls.
Are there any particular resources that you use to help keep a positive state of mind?
I’ve been very lucky to have my WIBN (Women in Business Network) to lean on during the pandemic. The members have kept me buoyant and kept my sense of humour going during the tough times.
From a business perspective I’ve been listening to a lot of Gary Vee recently. He’s not for everyone but I agree with the way he encourages you to keep going with an idea and not focus too much on what others are saying.
The book I’m reading at the moment is a classic. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. As a creative I find it easy to get lost in my own thoughts and this book is a good reminder of the futility of focusing too much on what’s in the past or what’s yet to happen.
Walking out in nature helps when feeling overwhelmed, as well as providing me with necessary design inspiration
What do you like to do to relax?
Running. I love the simplicity of it. All you need is a pair of running shoes. I’ve rediscovered my love of reading and painting during lockdown, too. It’s amazing how many of our childhood loves we give up when we get busy with our ‘adult’ lives.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past six months?
Hamnet by Maggie O Farrell. In fact, I would credit this book for getting me back into reading. The characters are beautifully drawn and the emotion so powerful.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I can’t claim to have been given this, but I came across a quote a few years back: ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.’ I now try to focus on thinking about the bigger picture in my life and business and make sure I keep things moving forward.
What thought always puts you in a good mood?
Thinking of all the exciting floral displays we’ll be creating now that we’re emerging from lockdown. I can’t wait to get back out in the open and flowering up London again. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to have some of London’s most beautiful venues to use as a canvas.
Shilpa Reddy started her eponymous floral design company in 2015, following a career change from medicine, creating beautiful floral displays for weddings and events in and around London. Her mobile flower school provides corporate companies and private individuals with luxury flower arranging, terrarium making and Christmas wreath making workshops. Shilpa also creates long term silk floral installations for some of London’s most renowned venues. Find Shilpa on Instagram @shilpareddyflowers and at shilpa-reddy.com
The Royal Exchange is partnering with Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest to encourage conversations about mental health, wellbeing and community spirit. For further information on Mind in the City, its support services – a range of innovative and collaborative services to support people’s mental and physical wellbeing, resilience and recovery – and how you can get involved with campaigning, fundraising or volunteering, please visit: mindchwf.org.uk
Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest is part of the national Mind network, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing difficulties, visit mind.org.uk to access information about a broad range of topics and services, designed to help you overcome the challenges of this difficult time