A Piece of Kaci's Story
Meet Kaci! She's a studio florist who shows off her creativity through incredible floral arrangements and displays for different events! Read more about how Kaci started got started as a florist and how she is working on creating her very own urban flower farm!
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW?
My primary focus is as a studio florist, serving wedding and corporate event clients. I also have weekly floral deliveries to restaurant and private residences in West Michigan. My design style tends to feel lush, romantic, organic, and free-spirited. I get really excited about working with seasonal flowers, foraging locally, and integrating interesting textures and unexpected color combinations to my work. I source my flowers from traditional wholesalers, and increasingly from local farms.
Alongside Floristry, my husband and I are building an urban flower farm. At this point it’s too modest to call a farm, so I affectionally refer to it as a ‘Farmette’. This will be our second growing season, and I am so pumped! It was a project that started with my passion for seasonal flowers, and my husband’s desire to be a “gentleman farmer”. (I also suspect he wanted an excuse to buy a tractor one day, because he has a normal full-time job). Growing flowers is a great compliment to the Floral Design company. I personally love that I can offer my floral design clients flowers that I poured a lot love into growing, and blooms picked at peak season.
I am not really a morning person, so I like to create a calm start to the day before I jump into business. Normally, I wake-up with Elliot, walk, have breakfast and coffee while creating a to-do list for the day. I always re-write and prioritize that list, then I get going for the day! When I’m officially done with the work day, I’ll often turn my phone on airplane mode to help me detach from work. I can almost feel my shoulders relax when I turn my phone off, I highly recommend it.
SO, TELL US HOW YOU GOT STARTED WITH YOUR BUSINESS, DAMSEL FLORAL CO.! WHAT SPARKED YOUR LOVE FOR CREATING SUCH BEAUTIFUL FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS?
My love for flowers, and having my hands in the dirt was sparked when I was a little girl spending time at my Grandparent’s home in Upper Michigan. They had forty acres of land, and had a HUGE garden. I’d spent ample time with Grandma picking weeds in the flower beds or smooshing potatoes bugs in the vegetable patch with my cousins. They are some of my most cherished childhood memories.
I worked in corporate offices for a number of years before going out on my own. I have to say my husband’s moral support and his deep well of business savvy really gave me the confidence to cash in my 401K and take the leap into business ownership.
I started designing flowers for my wedding planning clients about five years ago. (I also have an event company called Just Delightful Events, where I offer wedding coordination and event styling.) Initially, floral design was a great way to bring my planning client’s aesthetic full circle on the big day, but the more I learned about flowers, design, floral conditioning and researching varieties the less I wanted to plan events, and the more I wanted to focus on the blooms! It really felt like I stumbled into my real passion, so I created a separate company exclusively for floral design. Over the years, my businesses have continued to shift away from event planning, to focus on floral design. Plus, I have some very Type-A friends who are better at planning than me, so I’m always happy to refer inquires onto my peers. I’d prefer to excel in flowers, than to be too spread thin.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST, THE PROCESS OR THE RESULT?
The results are the reward! What I love most about the process is the people on my team that I get to work alongside. I am lucky have some amazing gals who are crazy talented and fun, and make work a joy. I also love my clients and vendor friends that make my work so sweet.
WHO/WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION WHEN DESIGNING? OR MAYBE YOU HAVE A CERTAIN ENVIRONMENT THAT INSPIRES YOU?
I have loads of admiration for flower farmers Floret Flowers, and Saipua who create gorgeous bouquets with couture blooms grown from their own properties. As a whole, I’m inspired to see the floral design industry as a whole shift to using cottage flowers in arrangements. My industry icons are floral artists. I think they are taking the craft to a new level; Bows and Arrows Floral Design, Siren Floral, Shotgun Floral, Sarah Winward, Amy Osoba and Tinge Floral. Early in my career I made a choice to pursue workshops and training from florists I admire. I think it’s important to stay inspired and keep pushing to improve my personal skills, so I’ve attended floral design workshops all over the country from Brooklyn, Santa Barbara, Dallas, and next month I’m headed to Utah!
HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN?
Phew, this is a tough one. I invested in Day Designer this year, and it has worked wonders for me. I’ve burned out in the past, so this daily planner has really been a game changer, because as long and I get some of those “most important tasks” accomplished first in my day, I’m getting better about ending my work day without feeling like I’m drowning.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT GRAND RAPIDS? GIVE US YOUR TOP FIVE PLACES (RESTAURANTS, BARS, MUSEUMS, ETC.)
Grand Rapids has a vibrant food scene.
- During the summer months, the Farmers Market on Fulton Street on a Saturday morning is my all-time favorite. I’ll grab a coffee and breakfast from a food truck, and then shop until I can’t carry any more food or flowers.
- My favorite coffee shop for a chai tea and work date is Lightfast Café
- Sovengard Restaurant always has innovative entrees and drinks
- Donkey Taqueria has margaritas and tacos that are unbeatable
- And if it’s a Sunday morning, then you’ll find me at Winchester. The brunch menu, complimented by their Mimosa + bloody Mary bar is amazing. Few things are better than Brunch on Sunday morning after working an event the night before.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING ON A DAILY BASIS?
Feeling like every year I get better at serving my clients, and feeling the accomplishment of being a business owner. I also have amazing clients who trust us to do our very best for them! I am always, always anxious when we deliver to a wedding, just praying the client will love it. I truly care that our clients to know that I heard their vision, and that we made it happen. There is nothing like a happy client! It keeps me going!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FOUR PERSONALITY TRAITS AND WHY?
Creative: I think flowers are my favorite artful and special medium
Hard Worker: Flower farming and studio floral design is fun, but it’s not glamourous. Trust me, it’s a hustle.
Adventurer: If you ever need a travel buddy, I’m game! Road trip, hiking trip, world travel – count me in!
Easy Going: I don’t like to sweat the small stuff. I can also keep a cool head, and clear focus on event day when our team has a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. And it has to be executed as close to perfection as possible!
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN CREATIVE? WHAT THINGS HAVE YOU CREATED IN THE PAST AND WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO CREATE IN THE FUTURE?
I feel lucky to have stumbled into my passion. Some people grow up knowing what they want to do with their lives, but I was not one of them- lol. I almost went back to college for my Masters in Social Work, until I worked in the field for a year, and was miserable. When I wasn’t clocked in, I’d spent my free time doing things that gave me joy, like volunteering for events, and painting. One thing led to another, and I finally found flowers!
In the future, I hope to expand the farmette into a real flower farm, and hope to find ways to bring more traction to the value of local Flowers in our local economies.
DO YOU FIND THAT YOUR CREATIVE PERSONALITY RUBS OFF ON OTHERS? HOW SO?
The majority of my favorite people are creatives; painters, web designers, interior designers, photographers, event designers, etc. I’m not sure if I rub off on them, but I always feel energized being around friends who are pursuing their own thing and making it happen! Also, collaboration is king in my book, because it’s fun and cool to see what happens when you mix different creative skill sets.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’VE LEARNED SO FAR THROUGH YOUR EXPERIENCES? WHAT CAN YOU TELL A YOUNG GIRL THAT WANTS TO PURSUE SOMETHING SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
First, I would say to the aspiring florist, “Do it sister! Start small, and dream big”
For advice, I still feel like a newbie, but I’ve learned that growing a business will hold your feet to the fire, and eventually you’ll feel the stress of all the responsibilities. About a year ago I came across an article on the blog, Design Sponge, that was a game changer for me about coping with it all. Here’s an excerpt: “Too often, we beat ourselves up over our weaknesses when we should be celebrating our strengths and seeking out the right partners. In the early years of business, Erin Benzakein of Floret had a tendency to get overwhelmed with her never-ending list of emails and paperwork aspects of her business. Each morning and each night, she’d beat herself up about everything she failed to do in a day — something many business owners do when trying to juggle it all. It wasn’t until she recognized her strengths and began celebrating them, rather than focusing on her weaknesses, that she came to realize that doing it all wasn’t something to be proud of — and similarly, failing to do it all wasn’t something to be ashamed of. Although it felt like a huge leap and financial stretch at the time, enlisting the help of a friend whose strengths were all of Erin’s weaknesses led to exponentially more business, and made Erin’s job far more enjoyable; which not only made her happier, but a more productive, better worker.” Design Sponge (http://www.designsponge.com/2016/01/life-business-growing-a-great-team-by-erin-benzakein.html)
I had needed to read that, because I was trying to do it all and feeling burned out. The next day I jumped right into hiring a helper that could compliment my weaknesses, and my life was changed! My business nearly doubled that year, and I was a MUCH happier person.