FRANCES Jn. Baptiste is an extraordinary woman. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jn. Baptiste recently and I must say, she truly is an inspiration. She is the owner of FJB Events and Rentals (also known as Floralight Bridal) a company born out of sheer love.
Her passion for business is incredible and naturally she climbed the success ladder. I listened to her story intently and I absolutely love it.
“I’ve been decorating since 1995. I’m a retired teacher; I taught at the Ave Maria Girls Infant School for 35 years, so I taught and decorated. Sometimes I had jobs in the morning and I’d still get to school on time. After school, I would go on jobs and sometimes I reached home about 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. (Still) my class was always perfect,” she said enthusiastically.
We were sitting in her gorgeous two-story building on Brazil Street. The pink and white coating reminded me of a wedding cake and the décor seemed like it came from a fairytale.
“I wanted to learn how to do floral arrangements in ‘95. There was (an instructor named) Mrs. Blackman who was giving classes at the Corinth Secondary School and I heard about her classes, so I went. I was living here in a wooden structure and when I started she said ‘I think you should take that up and be serious about it.’ I used to go by JQ to pick the ‘gros ponpon’ plant and I also went to the Fond d’Or beach to look for drift wood and conk shells. I made a lot of dried and silk arrangements,” Jn. Baptiste explained.
I was fascinated. Her words sounded like magic to my ears as she told the story so beautifully.
“She (Mrs. Blackman) came here one day and she told me ‘you have to start this as a business.’ I put a piece of canvas outside and I worked under it making floral arrangements. Then (the business started to grow) so I had to take a piece of the house. I brought my dining table to the school because I wanted the dining area to start the business. It started picking up (even more) so I (had to use) my living room. We learnt how to make flower girl baskets, corsages and so on, and that led me into weddings. When I had no space again, I went to rent somewhere else and then I opened up the whole place and (turned the house into) a store,” she added.
Like most businesspersons, she’s a risk-taker and when she got the opportunity to expand her business, she seized it.
“My son’s godmother was leaving for the U.S. and she had a lot of things for weddings: gowns, suits, a printing machine; all that stuff. I bought it and that’s when I really opened up into a bridal store,” Jn. Baptiste revealed.
But if she loved decorating this much, why did she become a teacher? I couldn’t put my finger on it.
According to her, “that was my first job. I started teaching at 18; I taught at the Derniere Riviere Combined School in Mabouya Valley for seven years and in 1990 I moved to Ave Maria Girls Infant School and that’s where I taught until I retired.”
Now she’s a full time decorator. Jn. Baptiste is extremely gifted and her work is simply breathtaking. She’s one of the most sought-after designers and she has worked for a number of companies including FLOW, Digicel, Republic Bank and JQ Motors. She’s also decorated the JQ Mall, Blue Coral Mall and many other places. Jn. Baptiste is in a league of her own and she worked hard to get there.
“I had many sleepless nights. I made many sacrifices and I have spent a lot of money to reach where I am. I put in a lot of work and a lot of effort,” she stressed.
“One thing I always say to those who want to go into business is take your time. Many persons hop from business to business trying to find a business (that works); make sure that’s what you want to do. When you know that’s what you want to do, you should start jotting things down and start thinking about it. You should eat it, you should smell it and you should see it,” Jn. Baptiste added.
She continued: “If you want to become a decorator and you don’t do research, you don’t start going to places where they sell decorations, you don’t start watching people’s decorations and looking at ideas, you’re not ready yet. When you get what you really want to do, read about it and if you don’t have the finances start small. When I started I didn’t go for a loan. Also, save a lot and always add new things to your business because people get tired fast; you have to be innovative.”
The designer does it all: weddings, birthdays, showers, anniversaries, funerals, first communions—you name it! She also rents arches, tables, center pieces, back drops, flower girl baskets, runners, sashes and more. And, she makes wreaths as well.
She’s moving to the U.S. after Independence, however, and hopes to have a store there in the future. But, if it’s a big event, she said, “I’ll come down just to do it and go back.”
Jn. Baptiste hails from the Dennery Valley but one could say she’s a city girl, since she lived in Castries for over 30 years. She’s a mother of two (she has a daughter and a son) and she’s been married for 34 years.
Follow ‘Floralight Bridal’ and ‘FJB Events and Rentals’ on Facebook and Instagram to see more of Jn. Baptiste’s designs.