From running a successful Event Design business to buying a farm that you, together with your husband, develop into not only an Event Destination but also an educational venture takes serious hard work. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Holly and family decide to have a flower farm and more. By any standards, this is a remarkable success story but to then master the international stage takes the story to another level … what a fascinating story of courage, determination, and family.
1. How did you first become interested / involved in flowers?
My life with flowers began at an early age. My parents owned and operated a garden centre and a landscaping design firm. Botanical materials of all kinds were my constant influence and playground. We had fields and fields of plant stock, greenhouses full of flowers and plant material, and offices full of design inspiration. My world entirely revolved around flowers. Because flowers were my constant companion, it made sense that I would turn to them as a source of pleasure and income as I began my own life.
2. How long have you been professionally involved in the flower industry?
I have been a part of the profession all my life. As children, we grew plants, tended to their care, and waited on customers. I created evergreen centrepieces, kissing balls, garlands, and wreaths for my father’s garden centre as a young adult. I began my own business as a wedding and event florist at 22 years old. My first professional contract was the Washington International Horseshow. This very high-profile event prepared me for wedding floristry on a grand scale. My wedding business began when I was 26 years old. I have been a wedding and event florist for the last 29 years.
3. Do you see International Women’s Day as important and, if so, why?
I find it remarkable that it took a day like International Women’s Day to highlight women. It is mind-boggling that women have ever had to fight for their place in the modern world. My mindset certainly has everything to do with how I was brought up, and my life experiences. I had four sisters and no brothers, so I grew up thinking boys didn’t matter at all or that they were no more important than my sisters and me. So, I attribute so much of my belief in the power of a woman to my parents. My mother also had her own business, and she was a formidable force within our home. We were taught at an early age that we could do anything we set our minds to, no matter the task. I never once heard my father wish for a son, and he never put limitations on us; in fact, he believed we were capable of everything. My father was a man’s man, very rugged and tough, but he had the heart of a teddy bear; because of this, he nurtured and cultivated very strong-minded women. I realize the way I was raised made my circumstances quite different than most. Additionally, I have always been the owner of my own company. I have known the privilege of being able to move forward and do as my intuition suggested. My husband also played a role in my success because he was willing to leave his career to come and work within our business. While he did not always agree with my ideas or concepts, he always worked to bring my vision to life. I know for sure many women have not had the support or circumstances I have had.
So clearly for those not brought up like I was this is a day for women to be nurtured and encouraged to flourish. Because I strongly believe there should be no limitations for women in business, I love this day!!
4. Do you believe that being a woman in the flower industry is more challenging than if you were a man?
In my part of the profession, I do not, but each designer has unique experiences within the industry. Because I am primarily wedding-focused, I believe my sex made it easier for my clients to relate to me; this goes for all my clients, including my same-sex couples. I have a very motherly but confident approach. Clients of all sexes feel a sense of comfort and trust when working with me. I can confidently, firmly, and lovingly explain contract pricing, colour, types of flowers, the need for more stems, and for proper staffing.
Additionally, due to stereotyping, I think many have thought the world of flowers was a world for women. I find that problematic because flowers are for everyone, and there are many facets within the industry.
5. Do you recognise some common challenges that women face in this industry, and have you encountered some personally?
I can only imagine that competitive floristry, big business, or Brand repping was most likely more complicated. Hopefully, this is a thing of the past; the world of social media gave voices to so many small business owners, particularly women.
6. How did you go about overcoming them?
Once again, while I have not faced any personal challenges within the industry, I am sure others have. Like my father taught me, all that has come to me came from consistent hard work over many years invested. All that was due to me came my way and so much more than I ever dreamed of. If I didn’t get something I believed I deserved, it is because I hadn’t earned it, I wasn’t quite ready for it, or it wasn’t meant for me. I know I hold the power to make things happen, and my sheer determination will get me around any injustices that may or may not be visible.
7. What is your advice for young women starting out in this industry?
Keep blinders on; focus on yourself. Go after all that you want with intention and purpose. If you fail, do not look for excuses; find a way through the maze and win the prize. Redirecting and focusing on education and strengthening your skills is always productive. It is also wise to seek professional help to hone your skills or hire people to do the tasks that are not your strongest suit. Asking for help is a superpower, not a weakness.
8. What do you love most about your work?
I am a real “people” person; I love people as much as I love flowers. It brings me great pleasure to serve my clients and meet their expectations; this goes for my floristry students as well. My love for flowers is genuine and can’t be mimicked, my passion propels me to the next adventure within my career. Many have said they have never met a person that loves flowers as I do. I feel a deeply rooted correlation to people via flowers; flowers represent all the people I have loved in my life: my grandparents, parents, siblings, spouse, and children, and the many flower colleagues I have adored and loved along the way. Flowers have given me a better life than I could have ever dreamed of. They are my transport to where I want to be and to whom I want to be with or like.
9. What are some of the more significant milestones in your career?
When I think of significant moments, I have specific memories or visions, here they are – realizing that I could help pay the mortgage on our home – when I was able to purchase a second car for our family – when I realized I could afford to have the big family I dreamed of – when I created a network for wedding and event florists called Chapel Designers – when I had the opportunity to teach floristry and travel the world over – when I got to design at the White House and meet President Obama and Michelle Obama – when I was able to purchase a twenty-five-acre farm and turn it into a destination for florists and flower enthusiasts and move my business out of my home – when I developed my product line for florists via Syndicate Sales – when my flower story became a book called a Life In Flowers via Bloom Imprint .
10. Can you briefly describe some of your more special or most appreciated moments?
It has been so rewarding to see my husband Evan embrace the beauty of our farm and to watch him learn how to grow so many extraordinary blooms. Our travels together around the world were an unexpected part of our journey and watching him teach will always be a favourite. He is a remarkable teacher.
- Hosting designers from all over the world at our farm in Virginia.
- My mainstage presentation for AIFD and conquering that fear.
- The honour of becoming friends with Gregor Lersch and Hitomi Gilliam. I think it is remarkable that a home-based mom florist got to dance with the Kings and Queens of floristry.
11. Apart from flowers, what else are you passionate about?
My seven children and granddaughter have been my why. I aimed to build a legacy for them and show them that hard work pays off, just as my mom and dad showed me. My proof that it paid off is that I now have the margin to turn my focus back on my family in a time when I am greatly needed; that is a success. Understanding balance has been an issue for me, and I am thankfully tipping the scales in favor of family.
12. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it is easy for women to minimize or demean the importance of being a good mother as if that job isn’t significant enough, and I think that is a true shame. For some reason, society tells us success is being a business owner and or a leader. If your calling is to mother and that is all you want from this life, be proud of that work and never let anyone sway your calling. I was born to a strong German man who was quite frankly a workaholic. Somehow, I became a solid mix of a workaholic and a mother. If flowers were not truly my passion, loving and caring for my children would surely be enough however, flowers pull me in a way I can’t describe; perhaps it is because they signify family to me, so in essence, I am always focused on family. On this day, I would like to celebrate the women who find a way to care for themselves, their families, and their businesses if that is what they so desire. Remember, we are the makers of our dreams, we have the power, we are women, and we can do anything!!