A Year in Review

2017 has been such an incredible year for my little business that I wanted to spend some time reflecting on all of the moments that I am thankful for and to celebrate on how much growth we have had, because after all- its important to pat yourself on the back! These are the moments that have grown this dream of mine, have forged amazing relationships in this industry, and have given me experiences that have molded me into a better business woman.

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2017 definitely started out with a bang! In January, Team TLB was invited to celebrate the release of Southern New England Wedding Magazine's annual issue. This night was extra special for me because a bridal bouquet I had designed was chosen to be featured on the front cover of their 2017 issue. The bridal bouquet selected was the bouquet I designed for a Fall-inspired styled shoot with the talented Maaike Bernstrom and a list of other talented, local vendors. This annual magazine would be printed throughout the year and distributed across Southern New England, meaning that my locally grown and gathered bouquet would be on shelves for 12 whole months! Not only that- but our entire photo shoot would be featured within the beautiful pages of the magazine, inspiring couples tying the knot in the Fall here in New England. This was a big moment for me because up until this point I had not had my designs published in print, so heading in 2017 this was on the top of my goal list.  I would say I was successful in accomplishing that goal! 

(For more on this styled shoot, check out my blog post on Feb. 10th, 2017 "American Grown Makes Front Cover")

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The winter of 2017 was also new and exciting for The Local Bouquet because the office/studio space that I rented in the historic and charming neighborhood of Tiverton Four Corners, had been newly renovated with a completely new layout, new furniture and lots of space to not only meet our wonderful clients in but also lots of space to be creative and share my love of flowers with others. This meant our calendar was filled with floral design classes along with other creative, hands on classes that fit well with The Local Bouquet brand. Throughout the year, I welcomed in and co-taught along side some amazing companies including Sip N' Script (a calligraphy company from The Boston area), Charlie Lou (an art company based out of Little Compton, RI) and even some private floral classes made up of close friends! 

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While we spent the winter months teaching floral design classes and meeting all of our wonderful bridal clients for the 2017 season, the spring quickly came, as it always does. In April I received a nice surprise from a local community college in MA, naming me the "Sustainable Entrepreneur of the Year". This was such an honor to receive this award, a moment for me to reflect on the mission The Local Bouquet is founded on and to celebrate the growth of the American Grown flower movement and my company's sustainability in an industry that doesn't always give that option to its consumers. 

The Local Bouquet was also honored with Wedding Wire's People's Choice Award for our level of service and the quality of our product for the 2017 season.  It is always rewarding to hear what our clients think of our work and our brand. It definitely is the fuel that keeps us working so hard!

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Before wedding season started, I was invited to go to Washington, D.C. to work alongside my dear friend and design powerhouse Kelly Shore from "Petals by the Shore". Kelly invited me to be on the volunteer design team for the First Lady's Luncheon hosted by the Congressional Club. This luncheon takes place every year and honors the First Lady of the United States. Kelly was named lead designer for the 2017 luncheon along with two other designers, colleagues of mine, who were also Chapel Designers. Kelly, Margaret and Christy lead a team of 16 volunteers made up of designers, American flower farmers and people who just loved flowers. 18,000 certified American grown stems were featured in all of the designs that we created, showcasing the hard work, dedication, and love of over 20 certified American grown flower farms. 

This was such a cool experience for me and one that I will never forget because it was a once and a life time opportunity to have 18,000 stems of American grown flowers all in front of me to design with and to experience. I was able to see new American grown product that I hadn't yet worked with, I was able to shake the hands of some of the farmers who grew the product, I was able to introduce myself to influential people in my industry and I was able to grow my company's name as a proud supporter of the American grown flower movement. 

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After a whirlwind of a start to our 2017 year, it was finally time to begin designing for our couples! 2017 was filled with a mix of new and also familiar color palettes, new design installations, and a bunch of new vendors. With the help of my amazing team, I was able to create weddings that were filled with seasonal, American and locally grown flowers that evoked our couple's personal style while highlighting the chosen time of year.

My relationships with my farmers grew stronger and my contacts within the industry grew larger as we began working with new companies and wholesalers to bring the very best product to our clients. I ended our wedding season feeling very grateful and also refreshed that we had such a successful year with wonderful clients who saw the value in our product, appreciated our level of service, and supported our American grown mission. 

Here is a highlight of some of the weddings we designed this year. For more pictures and a look behind the scenes, be sure to read our "Real Weddings" blog posts where we share the story behind each of these weddings. 

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Something else that we accomplished this year that I am super proud of is the huge growth of our annual "Farmer Florist" class series. In only our second year, we more than doubled our attendance at both of our classes this summer and were able to deliver rich curriculum for everyone to enjoy, while promoting the local flower movement! This class series is like my child, a creative endeavor I had dreamed up for for a few years in my head before bringing to fruition. The two farms that I have partnered with, Electric Moon Peony Farm & Weatherlow Florals, have proven to be not only amazing teachers in this series but also dear friends of mine who believe in sharing our love of flowers and the world of design. In 2018, I am so excited to announce we will be adding a third farm/teacher to the class series which will be announced on our website in a few short weeks, so stay tuned for that. 

Here are some pictures of our workshops from this year's series, "Perfect Peonies" at Electric Moon Peony Farm and "Dahlia Dreaming" at Weatherlow Florals. (For an even closer look at both of these workshops, read our blog posts reflecting on all the fun we had.)

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After spending the Fall and holiday season teaching more design classes at new and cool venues including West Elm, Weatherlow Farms, and Pottery Barn I spent the last few weeks of 2017 savoring some quiet time with my little family! If it wasn't for the love and support my husband and my extended family gives me, I definitely wouldn't be able to balance being a mom of three and running this company! Well....I should say a mom of 4! This February we will be welcoming our fourth child. While we are unsure whether it will be a baby girl or a baby boy, one thing is for sure- our 2018 year will be even more beautiful. Babies and beautiful flowers- not sure it gets much better!

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A TLB Real Wedding: Vintage Vows

When a couple describes their wedding style as vintage with a focus on "garden romance", my mind immediately starts envisioning the most perfect soft and neutral color palette for the flowers and lush greenery for that natural garden texture. When the couples also tells you that their venue will be a historic colonial home with winding paths through sprawling gardens, you know its a match made in "floral" heaven!

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Boston residence, Eliza and Jay, chose to gather 130 of their closest family and friends for a perfectly styled and welcoming wedding on a warm summer's evening on July 22nd. Amongst Linden Place's beautifully manicured gardens in the gorgeous town of Bristol, R.I. Eliza and Jay tied the knot. 

Eliza's amazing style was showcased throughout this entire wedding starting with her amazing Jenny Packham dress and beautiful dusty purple bridesmaid dresses, varying in styles and cuts. Simple, classic, and elegant was the feel of this bridal party, with the groomsmen and Jay sporting sharp blue suits. It was important for us to create lush garden-inspired bouquets that felt not only seasonal but vintage and soft. 

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For this ceremony, we purposely chose to keep the focus on not only our bride and groom but the beautiful landscape that surrounded them. Eliza and Jay chose to gather in the quite and secluded garden at the back of Linden Place's property. With the cutest garden shed as the ceremony's backdrop, guests were seated in a sunny and lush oasis filled with the sweet smell of rose bushes. We designed aisle arrangements for the chairs that would line the center aisle, creating a soft and natural feel for the ceremony space. With the bridal party's bouquets and Eliza and Jay's sweet vows, this ceremony was sweet and simple. 

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Following  the couple's intimate ceremony, guests were welcomed into Linden Place's carriage house ballroom, where round tables and a grand head table set the tone for a comfortable yet classic feeling. The entire interior at Linden Place is a terra cotta colored brick, so Eliza's peach and neutral color palette fit perfectly within the space. To compliment the vintage feeling, we chose golden bronze compote containers in which we designed low and lush garden-inspired arrangements. These centerpieces were filled with so much locally-grown goodness including dahlias, mini zinnias, sweet peas, snapdragons, lisanthus, and stock. By choosing foliages that typically grow in a garden like trailing ivy vines and scented herbs, the decor felt familiar and classic. 

One of my favorite things to do within a reception space is to add focal points for the guests to enjoy and that serve as a backdrop for your evening. We chose to create a really lush and full mantle that was the backdrop to the head table. By designing with ivy, eucalyptus and other lush greens, we were able to give the reception space a very romantic and elevated feeling without taking away from the rest of the decor. The bride loved greenery and had a natural approach to design- so this mantle was a representation of that!

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Meet the Farmer

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I am excited to wrap up the 2017 season with one last "Meet the Farmer" blog post. This week I am featuring the talented farmer, Anna Jane Kocon.  Anna Jane has been part of The Local Bouquet family since the beginning, when I first started this company back in 2013. I was one of her first weekly customers when she began her company, Little State Flower Co. in 2014, so my relationship with Anna has always held a special place in my heart. We have watched each other build our companies, supporting one another along the way as female entrepreneurs and as people who believe in the local flower movement. 

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Anna Jane and I first met at a farmer-florist pot luck dinner one chilly winter evening at a fellow flower farmer's home. At the time, Anna Jane was in the very beginning stages of starting her company. I remember this young and spunky chick who shared the same locally grown mission as me and who clearly had a great work and business ethic. I could tell from our first encounter that this girl was solid and that somehow our paths would cross again soon. Business cards were exchanged and we went on our separate ways that evening. 

A few months later, Anna Jane called to re-introduce herself and initiate what would become a beautiful and supportive business relationship. Anna shared more with me about her new company, Little State Flower Co., her mission to grow some of the best blooms in our little state of Rhode Island and her vision to provide floral designers like me with fresh and season blooms.

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What did you want to be when you were growing up? A veterinarian, everyone knows I love the fuzzy creatures of the world!

Why flowers? Flower farming combines art and farming on a daily basis. Our products are based on aesthetic….color, shape, texture, etc. AND we work primarily with florists and designers who are working to achieve a certain theme or vibe in their projects. So there is a lot of creative conversations that go on with my clients.

How did you come up with the name of your company? It took a very long time to come up with our company name. We were searching for something that was very local Rhode Island, with no specific gender, definitely not too whimsical and with a nod toward nautical. Also, we do not own a farm, we work several leased parcels so calling it a ‘farm’ did not make sense to us either...Hence choosing ‘company’ rather than farm.

When did you start Little State Flower Co.? Founded November 2014, first season selling was 2015

How many years experience did you have before you started this company? For about 10 years I farmed along with teaching adjunct drawing and art history at the Community College of Rhode Island, before I started Little State Flower Co.

How many acres are you currently growing on? We are currently farming 5 acres. 

How many different crops? I am not totally sure. It can change depending on the time of year...and now we have planted large amounts of perennials so I am not totally sure....probably close to 100-120? 

How big is your team? I have two field employees and one florist that work for me. Also my husband is heavily involved in equipment and structure maintenance etc.  and we have periodic helpers that pop in and out for specific jobs or when we need more sets of hands involved...such as dahlia digging/processing and putting up greenhouses.

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What inspires you when you are building your brand? I am super proud and dedicated to growing organically. I am also inspired by the flower movement that is happening in our country right now. I love being part of the resurrection of the US flower farmer. We are working to show florists and designers there is another way to do things. You can, quite literally, think outside the box.

What inspires you as an entrepreneur? Independence and creativity. I love to be in control of my days, my year, and of my money. I am not a control freak, in fact I love delegating. Before LSFCo, I worked for so many other people...I worked the hours they wanted me to, for the pay rate that they were willing to pay me, and did whatever they needed or wanted me to do all within THEIR vision. Though I am very thankful for the invaluable experiences I gained during these times...once I started LSFCo, I realized how little control I had for so many years day in and day out. I now feel I control everything about my life and my company and all within my own creative vision. Obviously there are issues and difficulties with being self employed, but I would say the same about working for someone else too.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?“Crawl before you walk, walk before you run” I have taken this to heart and really believe trialing new and different crops before going big with them.

Name the biggest  lesson you’ve learned in running a business? Surround yourself with smart and positive people.  “Heavy wears the crown”  and my crew is a bunch of smart women (and one man…) who keep me laughing and help me stay focused on the positive. Both these things are invaluable to me.  

Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experience? The accessibility that people feel to my company. I work very hard to market our product and our brand every day through social media. I love to show people how we are building our dream and this has really translated into a story that people are wanting to be a part of.

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Which of your traits are you most proud of? My ability to make something out of nothing or very little...I built this company with my little savings account and a unique vision and I am very proud of that. I have earned every single thing we own now from hard work and a strong vision.

Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to? Lark Roderigues, the woman who owns the first of my leased land parcels. Lark is also self employed and owns two successful, yet unconventional businesses that I have worked with her on periodically over the years. She has always showed me that there is another way to be in the world. When she offered to lease the 2 acres to start Little State Flower Co,  she looked right at me and said  “I know you can do it. I know you can 100%” and I believed her. Without her giving me the opportunity and encouragement, Little State Flower Co would never have existed.

What does success mean to you? At this point, success is being happy and proud of my project. I feel proud to say I own LSFCo, a business I have built with my own strong back, my own mind and my own money.

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Favorite season for locally grown flowers? Fall...definitely Autumn! Especially in New England. The temperatures cool down and the work starts to shift towards Fall planting and planning for the following season...I love planting planning and conceptualizing all the possibilities of the next season.

If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Lisianthus. There is just something so remarkable about the strength and toughness of such a seemingly delicate flower. We are growing over 10,000 plants of it in 2018!

What is one thing you couldn’t work without? Food. It takes a lot of food to keep this machine running!

What kind of music pumps you up? I do not listen to music to get pumped up...My days are so busy and complicated I actually listen to music to relax and decompress. I have always leaned towards calming music.

What is one thing you never leave home without? My clippers!!!! One never knows when a cutting opportunity will present itself.

 

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What's one of your biggest dreams for Little State Flower Co. in the coming years? To be able to round out the seasons with flower options for my clients. We are great at Summer and Fall, but definitely need to work on Spring production and that is specifically what the new high tunnels are for.  We are also focusing on early season perennial bulbs such as hyacinth and fritillaria, etc.

Any predictions for floral trends for 2018 for the local flower scene?  In the New England area the color trends have been the same for a long time, whites and greens, blushes, peaches, grey foliages...and then heading towards Fall there is a high demand for burgundy flowers and dark foliages.  I do believe that the flower farming scene is very strong specifically in Rhode Island and I think that a coming trend is that florists and designers are going to start seeking new options from us specifically, local and interesting options that are not offered from the import market for one reason or another or simply do not ship well. I think that WE (local flower farmers) will start creating the local flower trends by simply working with the seasonality of New England.

If you weren’t flower farming anymore, what would you be doing? Probably teaching drawing or painting. I still teach adjunct now at CCRI and I love it.

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Photographer: Maaike Bernstrom

Farm: Little State Flower Co. Portsmouth, Rhode Island