I ran into an old colleague the other day who I hadn’t seen in a few years. He isn’t a social media type of guy, so we spent a few minutes catching up on family and mutual friends. He talked a bit about his current job and asked what I was up to. “I own a floral design company” wasn’t the answer he was expecting! You see, J.Blu Design is what I’m calling my “second act”. I made the decision eighteen moths ago to start something new. To put a hobby and passion to work and make it my new career. It was a leap of faith and it has proven to be a wonderful decision. Here is a little background on how I got to where I am.
As much as I am passionate about weddings and floral design, I am equally passionate about agriculture. I grew up in a farming family; participating in 4-H, showing cattle, surrounded by farm fields, and learning from some of the best people on earth. From an early age, I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. High school chemistry and math pretty much put a nix on that dream. Writing, public speaking and literature were where I really excelled, so when the time came to pick a major at the University of Illinois, Agriculture Communications – Journalism seemed like an obvious choice. Turns out creative writing and AP style journalistic writing are two VERY different things!
The amount of red ink and low grades my first semester was just too much for my Type A personality to take. I started to question my path. Maybe public relations was a better choice? My mom and grandmother were teachers, maybe elementary education was where I needed to be. I struggled to know what to do next. One night, out of the blue, I decided that I was switching my major to Horticulture, I was going to be a florist and own a flower shop. (something I had absolutely no experience or inkling of an idea how to do) My mother, in her infinite wisdom, laughed at me when I told her my grand plan. No way she said, not until you work at a flower shop for at least a year. So off I went to a local florist and asked for a job.
I started out as front desk help; answering the phone, helping customers, typing enclosure cards, and watering plants. During slow times, the owner taught me how to make bows, balloon bouquets and put together bud vases for the hospital gift shop order. A bit later, I started helping process flowers as they came in from the wholesalers and spent a good amount of time washing buckets. Nothing glamorous, but I loved it. With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, my next lesson was a dozen roses vased with filler and a dozen roses presentation style in a box. I was excited to actually be “designing”. (It’s ok to laugh at me and my naïve-ness)
And then Valentine’s Day came. Whoa! Ho-Ly cow! I remember feeling like I never wanted to see another red rose again in my life! Holidays in a flower shop are no joke. I answered phones all day, helped with orders as I could and spent from closing time till the wee hours of the morning cleaning roses and sweeping up stems. After a few more months, the shininess and “oh how fun” was starting to wear off. I was starting to learn that owning a flower shop wasn’t the carefree, beautiful, “I get to work with flowers all day!” type of life that I thought it was going to be. Seriously, kudos to all those flower shop owners and designers out there. I continued to work at the shop throughout college and learned so much from the wonderful group of designers. But, as far as a career goes, I decided to stick with agriculture and got a degree in Ag Education and Communications.
So, for the past eighteen years, I have worked primarily in youth education and development. I spent several years as county and state staff for the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program writing classroom resources, leading teacher workshops and teaching kids about crops and livestock. I also had the great opportunity to work at a national cattle association managing youth development and cattle shows across the country for a few years. Once my husband and I were married, I came back to Illinois. My first pregnancy had some pretty serious complications forcing me on bed rest for 20 weeks. Thankfully, we welcomed a healthy baby girl, Avery, in 2009. Our son, Landon, was born eighteen months later and our youngest, Delaney, was born in 2013.
During that time, I began working from home, part-time, as a consultant. For the past nine years, I have worked with various agriculture groups on special projects. From managing youth events to writing education resources and association newsletters, I have been able to work in the industry I love while still being able to be home with our kids. Most recently, I was fortunate to write a children’s book about soybeans for the Illinois Soybean Association. It’s an amazing feeling to know that a book I wrote is in classrooms, libraries, and homes all over the country. It is a crowning achievement in my career.
That brings us back to my friend’s question the other day…where did this flower business come from? As our youngest started preschool, it was time for me to start thinking about what I wanted to do once she was in school full time. While my husband and I discussed what we felt would be best for our busy family, my love of floral design kept coming back to the conversation. Even though I decided not to pursue the flower shop back in college, I have continued to design all this time. I would often create for baby showers, anniversary parties and engagements of family and friends.
Years ago, my best friend asked me to do her wedding flowers. I was hesitant at first, as I was also in the wedding party and it was a large wedding. It was probably one of the most hectic and stressful weeks of my life, but you know what? I was hooked! I loved.every.minute. When I placed her bridal bouquet in her hands I knew this was something I wanted to keep doing. Since then, I have designed all our family weddings and several for good friends.
So, as I thought about what I wanted to do in the next season of my life, I knew wedding florals were my new path. Luckily, with the growth of social media, the concept of a studio florist has expanded. Working from a home studio allows me to still be present for our family and affords me the opportunity to really focus on weddings. No daily orders, walk-ins, or funerals; just wedding and special event flowers. I am committed to outstanding customer service and only take one full wedding a weekend. This allows me to let this business grow slowly and with a strong foundation and still be able to run my kids to preschool and after-school practices.
There is something so special about being invited into a couple’s life as they are planning their wedding day. I love helping them select flowers and arrangements that evoke the look and feel they want as they are surrounded by their family and closest friends. I love knowing that as my brides walk down the aisle they are holding a bouquet that I designed. And, that for years to come, those flowers will be in pictures that hang on their walls and in albums they show to their children and grandchildren. I look forward to every wedding with great anticipation and love that floral design is now my job. Who knew that all these years later that crazy plan in college would actually become a reality!