For those who do not believe that taking part in competitions encourages participants to ‘grow,’ they need look no further than the international career of Deborah De Le Flor. She has not only had the privilege of representing her Country in the World Cup, but has gone on to become a judge, and, together with her husband Gus, founded the Gateway to the Americas International Floral competition in 1996. This is now considered to be the premier floral competition throughout the Americas.
1. How did you first become interested/involved in flowers?
As a child, while on vacations, I would remove seeds from flowers and bring them home to South Florida and try to grow them … some grew others did not. I learned quickly what I was able to grow in the Sub Tropics.
2. Have you been professionally involved in the flower industry?
43 years. I started working in flowers in 1980.
3. Do you see International Women’s Day as important and, if so, why?
I am proud there is an International Women’s Day. I am proud of all the Women who came before me in history, who made it possible for women to vote and speak out for the rights of all Women.
4. Do you believe that being a woman in the flower industry is more challenging than if you were a man?
This thought has never even crossed my mind. I have never felt in any way that I was not up to the job of owning my own business regardless of what industry or field I may have chosen.
5. Do you recognise some common challenges that women face in this industry, and have you encountered some personally?
6. How did you go about overcoming them?
7. What is your advice for young women starting out in this industry?
My advice is to go for it! Start small so that your business grows at a comfortable rate. You must have great work ethics, be extremely organised and hire staff to do the things you aren’t the best at. Always be the Cheer Leader for your staff, you will build loyalty for years to come. If someone is not a good fit for your business, don’t be afraid to have them move on as soon as possible. You don’t need to have a bad apple.
Your business will become a well-oiled machine! When the holidays come around it’s busy, but smooth sailing all the way! It’s a glorious thing!
8. What do you love most about your work?
I adore the FLOWERS of course! Every little blossom makes me happy.
9. What are some of the more significant milestones in your career?
Representing the USA in 2004 in the Interflora World Cup of Floral Design in Melbourne Australia, the experience to last a lifetime.
Being asked to Judge that very same Competition years later! 2015 in Berlin, in 2019 in Philadelphia and now I am thrilled to announce I will be Judging the World Cup once again in Manchester, England 2023! I absolutely adore this extremely important task, which I take very seriously having been a competitor in the past. To view all the extraordinary floral artistry each competitor has created, is truly something to behold!
Such an honour!
10. Can you briefly describe some of your more special or most appreciated moments?
I am so extremely blessed to be appreciated in this industry. I’m not really sure what exactly I have done to deserve all the wonderful recognition I have received. So many wonderful awards over my 43 years, and shocked and surprised to receive each one of them.
11. Apart from flowers, what else are you passionate about?
Life! Nature! Mountains, creeks, the woods, animals, people! Everything!
It doesn’t take much to excite me! I love everything and everyone!
12. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our members?
Know how very blessed we are to work with God’s incredible creation of flowers! Keep sharing the beauty, joy, and comfort that flowers bring to the world! One blossom at a time!