Community over competition
I came to floral design by way of botanical research. My formal education is in a subset of anthropology called ethnobotany. I have been interested in how people use plants since college when I interned on an organic medicinal herb farm in Wyoming. It was during that time that I really started to learn about plants and flowers as more than just parts of an ecosystem. The farmer I was learning from would pay attention to the smallest of details while we spent the day sowing seeds, harvesting flowers, drying the harvest, and processing plant parts into medicine. He was connected to the earth and the crops and knew when they were ready and when they were thirsty. I learned a lot from about paying attention to the details.
When I graduated and started my research position in a botanical research center, I learned about patience. My job was diverse. At times I was in charge of cataloging bundles of dried plants that have been collected in the furthest corners of the world. I would spend afternoons with stacks of brown paper packages full of newspapers written in foreign languages that were stuffed with plants that had no name. Flowers not yet known to science. It was a tedious job, and I learned how to keep my mind occupied. When I wasn’t in the herbarium, I was out collecting plants myself. Usually our travels would be around St. Louis, but on occasion I was sent to Peru, Madagascar, South Africa. In these experiences I learned the most about myself. I was once the only woman on a scientific research team through the Andes. I became the first woman from the United States to climb to a certain mountain forest in Madagascar. I was learning from everyone I crossed paths with in these travels whether it was about medicinal plant use, roles of the women in collecting plants, or color combinations of the basket found in the local market. I learned women were the backbone of every country, every village, every house.
The world of scientific research is intense and competitive. While I loved traveling and learning from communities the world over, I found myself in a familiar spot: desiring to farm on my own land. In all of my endeavors, I have looked to making connections with those who have experience or a unique point of view, so I started looking to social media to find like-minded flower enthusiasts. When I transitioned to floral design and flower farming I found a wonderful resource in Team Flower. Team Flower has a motto of “Community Over Competition” which sounded amazing coming from the cut throat research world. I was instantly connected to seasoned pros who had experience and wise advice for any situation. There were others just like me, starting out and asking every question possible. When I had an idea for an event, I found another florist on Team Flower who had a similar event and reached out to her. She was immediately available to talk me through the process of planning the event. And then she said something right at the end of our phone conversation. “Are you going to the Team Flower workshop?” I wasn’t. I hadn’t even given the workshop much thought. “I’ll be there! It’s my first one and I won’t know anyone there. But I think it will be a great experience and I am ready to start investing in my education and business.” I was instantly regretful I hadn’t looked into the opportunity for myself. But I struggle with identifying this as a business.
I struggle with the idea of me as a business owner. I honestly struggle with charging money for something I enjoy so much. My entire business was started in a moment of charity. The initial donation I was able to make from flower sales was so much more rewarding than anything I believe I could get from high profits. How do you build a business where profits are not the driving force? That's when I found the Feminist Business School. A feminist business plan is built on collaboration instead of competition. Resourcefulness, sustainability, gratitude, and generosity are all tenants of a feminist business plan. With these ideals in my tool box, I am now confident in my desire to create new economic values and experiment with power and resources. Education, generosity and happiness are so sacred to how I view flowers and farming. As I continue to grow my feminist business I pledge to continue to make it a source of happiness for myself and my community. I pledge to continue to give back to those in my circle and beyond. I pledge to invest in myself as an investment in my business. That's where I come full circle to Team Flower. Team Community Over Competition. Team Make Yourself Happy and It Will Show in Your Work. To attend a Team Flower workshop would be a big step forward in my investment in me and the flower community I aim to build in St. Louis. Maybe it will be setting aside the profits from a few events or holidays, but I pledge to get myself in the room where it happens.