Small Business Interview: Leyla Bilali - Floraley

Leyla Bilali

Yup two interviews in one week :) Meet Leyla Bilali. Leyla is a Pediatric Oncology nurse who is pursing her passion for floral design and recently opened her own part-time floral business. She's gone from doing florals for friends to full blown weddings in just a short matter of time,  all while working as a full time nurse. She is a testament of the fact that you can pursue your career and your passions at the same time.

Enjoy her interview!

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
My name is Leyla Bilali and I am a florista, as I like to call it. I am the owner of FloraLey, a floral boutique that is unique in that consults and brainstorming are free and there is no minimum charge for parties, showers, weddings, etc. I simply ask for a budget and work within that whether it's just for the bridal parties' bouquets or an entire event, for example.

Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I am a full time nurse in NYC having worked in Pediatric Oncology, well Child Pediatrics, and I'm currently at a private fertility clinic. At first making flower arrangements was a relaxing hobby but then people started asking if they could pay me to make arrangements for them - birthdays, anniversaries, etc. From there I was introduced to a legitimate small floral business owner by a friend and I started working free lance for her both as a designer and an on-site manager. So I work full time as a nurse and have this small business on the side.

Do you take any special training? 
I dibble dabble in various classes offered by the New York Botanical Garden and my friend's company that I work for. But I don't have an actual degree/certificate in floral design.

What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
In terms of accomplishments I think the biggest thing for me is that I was able to design and execute full weddings out of my small NYC apartment with just my husband's help throughout. Arrangements for showers and parties are manageable but I never thought I would be able to do anything on that scale with little experience, space or manual help. It just shows how much hard work and self motivation pay off - I think these are the most important elements of running a successful small business.

What mistakes have you made with your business? 
In terms of mistakes not saying no when I'm in over my head would have to be my biggest. Knowing what you can and cannot feasibly do is huge. While you want to please your clients and potential customers you have to be honest with yourself in terms of what you can handle, both logistically and mentally. At one point when the clients were pouring in I was just saying yes, yes, yes and my sanity was suffering as a result. Between my nursing job and my small business I was constantly stressed and anxious. You really have to be organized with your time and again, very honest with yourself. 

What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Getting your name out there and making profit is important but if you sacrifice your well-being for it you end up losing more than you gain. 

Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
In my case having a partner who works in finance has been very helpful because otherwise I would be lost. I have zero background in business and if I didn't have him I think I would definitely invest in a financial advisor.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years
In five years I hope to transition my nursing career into a part time position & have a flower shop of my own to operate out of.

Please share a fun fact about yourself
I love to dance and I take Banana Skirt dance classes in NYC. But I can get down anywhere!!

Thank you for such a lovely interview Leyla!

You can find Leyla via her website at

Bola Onada Sokunbi

Bola is a Certified Financial Educator, money coach, finance writer, business strategist, social media influencer and founder of Clever Girl Finance, a platform that empowers and educates women to make the best financial decisions for their current and future selves and to pursue their dreams of financial independence in order to live life on their own terms.