The Beginning….learning to design.

I’m often asked how I learned about floral design. The truth – it’s in my blood. I come from creative types and I’ve been around flowers and plants all of my life. I was a 4-Her, very involved in growing flowers and vegetables and showing them at the county fair. My dad, a high school teacher,  taught floriculture and nursery landscape and you better believe I was in those classes. In high school I competed in Nursery Landscape contests in both 4-H and FFA and went to nationals, placing in the top five for both. I knew my stuff, scientific names and all.

An After School Job

When I knew I really wanted to design for customers, not just myself, I pestered one of the two flower shops in our small town to hire me. Looking back I got really lucky, I can’t imagine that happening these days, though flower people are a kind bunch.

Once the shop owner finally realized I was serious and not wasting her time she gave me one of the more interesting interviews I’ve ever had. She handed me a pot, some foam and some dried flowers and said go. Her hiring process was to only hire people that had natural talent she could fine tune. My interview had me working on what would become the most important arrangement of my life.

I passed and was hired. From that point on I absorbed all I could from my boss. She was a wonderfully talented woman that did things a little outside the box and free form. I learned about flexibility and creative thinking, design, colors, flowers and using materials that were a little odd but always worked. I also learned about wedding magazines…that may be where my obsession began.

I designed the corsages for my high school proms, created and delivered arrangements for every holiday, created lots of freeze dried wreaths and potpourri and made way too many trips to the local funeral home to deliver and stage flowers for funerals. I also learned the trials and tribulations of owning a flower shop and how much work really went into it. Flowers are not just about the pretty, they require lots of long hours, no weekends and a lot of cleaning, cuts and hot glue burns. I also learned that weekends don’t exist and florists should never pay for a manicure.

The Big City

I worked at 3rd Street Flowers in my small town until I moved to Denver for art school. About a year into school, a guy I was sort of dating said his employer was looking for someone with floral experience. I was already waiting tables and making pretty good money. The lure of working with flowers again was enough for me to work two jobs and go to school. I was hired at Design Works and wow, did I learn a lot. I was also incredibly lucky to have worked for such an amazing company. I LOVED going to work, even when it was four am and I knew the day wouldn’t end until midnight. The talent and amazing ideas that the team at Design Works has blows me away to this day. I cannot even begin to explain the pieces I was able to work on and the creative genius they hold.

This job was really eye-opening in that I was able to witness what flowers and events can be with a budget. I’ll never forget the week I spent in Aspen working on one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever seen. We glued galax leaves on a canvas runner one at a time and created the most stunning aisle runner ever. We wired what felt like miles of fresh garland and created a chuppa out of aspen trees. It took a refrigerated truck and then some and a team of about 15 to create the bride’s vision and when the moment before the ceremony started I remember standing back and saying “this is what I want to do”.  I wanted to make brides tear up with joy every weekend. I wanted to be a part of making their biggest day special.

I look back at the opportunity, knowledge, guidance and inspiration I received while working there and can honestly say it was one of my favorite jobs ever. It also shaped my future and what Quintessential stands for.

Moving On Up

Once I graduated from school I decided to give it my all in graphic design, after all, that’s what my degree was in. Sadly, finding a job in the design industry wasn’t as easy as I had thought. I ended up bartending and eventually went to work for Marriott as an Event Services Manager.  I managed 20 some ballrooms and meeting room events every day with a team of men from Morocco. It was not easy, one of the hardest jobs I’ve had simply because of the cultural boundaries that were a part of the hotel world.

The team I managed was comprised of Arab men from Morocco (one of them an actual prince of some sort of tribe), I was also the only female on the entire event floor team. I was terribly young, probably a little too young for the job. My “team” did not have team spirit for their leader. They consistently sabotaged me –  setting up rooms incorrectly, not answering their radios and ignoring my directions. I tried everything my young self knew how to do to team build. I tried to join them at lunch and dinner but women weren’t allowed to be at the same table in their culture. I tried to bring donuts in on crazy days, I asked them to teach me a little Arabic and to tell me about their homes, anything I could do to make me seem like just a person and not their boss. It didn’t work.

I came to a breaking point one evening, more like night since my hours consistently ran into 3 and 4 in the morning. I was tired and one of my team members decided to share with me in a not so nice way, that women should not be working and definitely should not be telling men what to do, among other things. It hit a nerve, a big nerve.

I stood on my tiptoes (he was well over 6 ft tall) and yelled, when I say yelled, I mean yelled. It was a good thing it was the middle of the night. I’m not sure exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of “you work in America and you have to deal with society in this country, if you do not want to work under a woman then find a different job or go back to Morocco”. I was MAD, so mad that I said things that the HR department probably would have fired me for had they heard. That was the tipping point. Once they knew I meant business they were on my side and we were eventually nominated for one of the best Event Services teams in the country. They also nominated me for the Service Award of Excellence (something like that)  and I won.

When I left Marriott to become a ski bum (a whole other story) with my husband, I treated my team of wonderful men to lunch and they even shed a few tears when I said my final goodbye. That job taught me more about myself than any other. Adversity, perseverance and hard work will take you further than just about anything else in this world.

How did I get to Quintessential

Well, that story only takes you up to about 2004. There were a few years of being a ski bum and a few more years just working the events world. I’ll fill you in on more another day…..