Padiham iflorist enjoys international success

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Chrissy Price at home Chrissy Price at home

Diane Cooke speaks to the florist whose spartan childhood laid the foundations for the multi-million-pound success she enjoys today

CHRISSY Price has been cuddled by A-list actor John Lythgow and had her face licked by comedian Keith Lemon.

Such is life these days for the international florist who grew up as the eldest of five siblings on a farm in Todmorden with no running water or phone.

Despite being a “miserable failure” at Todmorden High School, Chrissie’s humble upbringing armed her with an outer plating of stoicism and creativity which has helped her cope with a crippling illness and the rigours of global business.

Chrissy, 46, who now lives in Padiham, is creative director of iflorist, an internet business she founded with her husband which has grown enormously in the seven years since it was started.

She trained at her mother’s Littleborough flower shop and spent 14 years in Australia and New Zealand where she arranged flowers for the State Opera House, and global brands including Saatchi & Saatchi.

More recently she’s created floral displays for film premieres PS: I Love You and the British Comedy Awards – hence the Keith Lemon encounter.

It’s a world away from the life she once knew in Dobroyd, Todmorden, where she would collect pails of water from two wells and heat them up on the stove for a weekly bath.

“We had an unusual childhood in that we were really behind the times in the eighties. We had no phone, car or TV until I was 15. In fact, we got our telly in time to watch Charles and Di’s wedding. We made our own entertainment, but we were never bored. We walked everywhere so I was as fit as a butcher’s dog.”

School held no interest for Chrissy, so as soon as she was able to leave she joined her mum in the little florist shop, rising at 3am to buy flowers at Manchester’s Smithfield Market. “I had a natural ability for floristry and I’ve always been ahead of the trends. You see people at their happiest and saddest, at all stages of their lives. It’s a wonderful job.”

At 19 she decided to visit an aunt in Sydney. From there she went on to New Zealand where she met and married her first husband, the father of her two grown-up children.

“I was trained in the traditionally English Constance Spry floristry. They’d never seen anything like it over there, so I soon found work at a florist.”

Desperately homesick, she came home with her children in 2001 and split from her husband. She found work with the Department of Work and Pensions.

But when she met her future husband, Burnley man David Price – a financial systems and internet whizz – he persuaded her to open a flower shop in Nelson.

But illness struck. Chrissy was diagnosed with ovarian tumours and lost a baby as a consequence. “I was very poorly and couldn’t work in the business so I had to give it up. I was off for two years which gave me plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do.”

But David knew exactly what Chrissie could do without having to over-exert herself. They set up an internet floristry business in the attic of their Burnley cottage. It took off when David approached 1-800flowers.com, a huge American e-floristry corporate. They wanted to expand into Europe and bought a small share. They now own 51 per cent of the business, the workforce has swelled from five to 29 and they’re now selling in 120 countries. This year’s turnover is £12million.

Chrissy understands that celebrity endorsement is a great way to promote a brand.

“People overseas love an English accent. We needed a strong, flamboyant character so we signed up Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. We rang his agent and were invited to his manor house in the Cotswolds. His home was stunning. We knew he’d be perfect for us and the Laurence Llewellyn bouquets are our upmarket brand.”

The successes keep flooding in. Last year the company received the Queen’s Award for International Export. “We took the staff on the East Lancs Railway for afternoon tea to say thank you.”

The company has done a deal with Walt Disney for the new Muppet movie, but it’s under wraps for now.

“I never thought I could be this successful. It has been extremely hard work, but if my teachers could see me now they’d be gobsmacked.”

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