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13 December 2019

Advice from an expert: a thriving brand and business

Gynelle Leon had ambitions to become a forensic scientist, but her hobby in floral design grew into something bigger.

A line of cacti in a shop window

[This article is from the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of InTouch, your alumni magazine]

Gynelle talks to InTouch about how her time at King’s helped pave the way for a business that has blossomed beyond imagination.

A growing idea

I did a part-time contemporary floral design course while working a nine to five and became an intern in a florist. I had a growing cactus collection but found it hard to locate unusual, good-quality succulents, so decided to build my dream cactus shop. I sold my flat to give me the capital to start the business, and the freedom to research and get everything up and running. I had to dive feet first into the cactus world and focus on learning everything about business and succulents.

A scientific approach

My favourite part of my MSc was the expert witness training. You learn how to hold your nerve under cross-examination. This has endowed me with incredible public speaking skills and I am confident under questioning. Library reviews have taught me how to research and prepare a comprehensive report. Science in general teaches you to be highly analytical, to fact check, to forever question and look for new discoveries. Forensic science in particular teaches you the definition of integrity, which is invaluable when creating a strong brand.

Navigating challenges

Despite doing all the due diligence of trademarking my name and making sure there was no one in my industry with that same name, I was taken to high court for a ‘passing off’ allegation that was completely unfounded. I won the case and was awarded the cost of my legal fees; however, the plaintiff declared bankruptcy, leaving me in debt. I’m working hard to get my business back to where it was. I have learnt so many important lessons, like the ability to not let something negative take over – I was able to enjoy day-to-day life and not let it be at the front of my consciousness.


Enjoying success

My biggest success has been to create an incredible brand and a shop that’s known around the world and brings so many people joy. I’ve written a best-selling plant book called PRICK that helps you choose, style and care for your cacti and succulents. It is now sold worldwide and is currently available in six languages.

Word's of advice - feeling green-fingered?

  • When it comes to houseplants, choose plants to suit a location in your home instead of just buying a plant and trying to make it work. Do research on light and temperature before purchasing.
  • Learn the names of your plants and research their needs.
  • Choose a day of the week and make that your plant care day for watering and checking their health.

Keep up to date on Instagram: @prickldn

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