Florists’ Review spotlights and honors some of the brightest stars in the floral business.
Compiled and Edited by Jon Bell
One started a do-it-yourself floral design subscription company. Another added a cafe to her floral shop. And one teaches floral design at the University of Missouri.
The one thing that they — and 32 other floristry pros — have in common: They’re all 35 or younger and blazing new trails across the floral industry. They are Florists’ Review’s “35 Under 35” for 2017, some of the brightest stars rising to the top all across the country. Nominated by their professional peers, these 35 dynamos are keeping the industry vibrant, adding creative color to it and taking it to places it’s never been before.
Role: The owner and designer at Blakemore’s Flowers in Harrisonburg, Va., who bought the then-failing shop at 26 and has since turned it around into a blooming success.
Nominator: Haleigh Davis
Why: “She’s the kind of dream vendor that everyone wants to work with. As a stylist and coordinator, I’m constantly amazed by how she can get inside my head and bring to life my crazy ideas with little to no direction. This girl can make a $45 arrangement look better than what some florists can do with $200. Watching her work and create is magical.”
A bit more: A designer for 12 years, Abby has an immense appreciation for the traditions and history of floristry but values innovation in the industry among her peers. She is passionate about continued education and the exchange of ideas. She looks to cultivate new ways to make people fall in love with flowers.
Role: A fourth-generation floral wholesaler at Mt. Eden Floral Company in San Jose, Calif., who manages the supply department for two locations.
Nominator: Kristine Kratt, AIFD, PFCI
Why: “Alex’s involvement has not only reinvigorated and modernized the department visually but also successfully increased profitability with each season. His product knowledge and salesmanship has opened the door to new and trendy merchandise as well as a new following of customers. A truly inspiring person, Alex’s kindness, honesty and patience make him one of the brightest shining stars in the wholesale floral industry today.”
A bit more: The fourth generation in the family business, Alex’s passion for the flower industry comes from the family’s history and legacy as growers and wholesalers. His challenge is to maintain the culture of the company that has kept them going for 111 years while identifying and implementing the changes necessary to survive in today’s business environment.
Audrey Chaney, AIFD
Role: Not only is she the owner of Botanica Specialty Rentals in Sacramento, Calif., but she’s also a licensed real estate agent.
Nominator: Melinda Lynch, AIFD
Why: “With both of these businesses, she incorporates floral and green living plants. What a great way to promote the floral industry by bringing it into these two companies. She will stage a home on the market with her rental furniture and also add in flowers and plants to help get the house sold. The work that she is doing and how she is incorporating the floral industry in other ways is a huge asset for the future of the horticulture and floral-culture industries.”
A bit more: Audrey specializes in wedding and event design. She has been involved in the floral industry since she was 15. She has a degree in horticulture and has national awards for floral judging and has been featured in numerous national and international blogs, on television and in print publications with her design work.
Role: A general manager at Ocean Breeze Farms and a project manager at Mobi’s Bouquets in Carpinteria, Calif.
Nominator: Michael Furlong
Why: “As a young person in our industry, Cagney has shown tremendous leadership, a strong sense of duty and innovative and pragmatic decision making. She also is very cognizant of the importance of building and supporting a strong team. Her decisiveness and common-sense approach challenges and inspires the energy that will keep our industry fresh and blooming.”
A bit more: Mother. Wife. Farmer’s daughter. Cagney’s job in the floral industry has become much more than a career. It has been introducing her husband to farm life and raising their son to respect hard work and appreciate the beauty outdoors that is so often taken for granted.
Role: COO, buyer and founder of Going Bloom, LLC, a floral distribution company in Boise, Idaho.
Nominator: John Schwendig
Why: “Casey is creating a new type of business that will streamline the floral design business to the great benefit of designers by relieving them of the chore of finding sources for their designs. She has put this business together from scratch while raising a family and the myriad activities that involves.”
A bit more: Casey is a flower-loving creative and the founder of Going Bloom, which sources thousands of flowers and greens from hundreds of farms across the world. She is excited to supply talented florists with the living tools needed to create beautiful works of art.”
Christine Henderson, AIFD
Role: A faculty member in the College of Agriculture at Chico State University and owner of Garden Grace Designs.
Nominator: Melinda Lynch, AIFD
Why: “It is about the education part of our industry. Floriculture education and training of people entering our industry has a huge impact on our future. Christine has a passion for teaching, learning and sharing her knowledge.”
A bit more: Christine has taught and coached nearly 1,000 floral design students in California. Giving back to the education profession, Christine has mentored and coached dozens of agriculture teachers through workshops and classes over the past 10 years. She currently teaches at the university level, preparing new teachers for the industry and helping them become qualified instructors for their students.
Role: A Northbrook, Ill.-based assistant manager and buyer for Kennicott Brothers Company, a national wholesale florist specializing in fresh flowers and supplies for florists, planners and designers.
Nominator: Libbie Conley
Why: “Christopher is very personable, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and he is a go-getter! He is just what we need in this industry. He has so much drive, it’s exciting to see it, and the floral industry needs more of this.”
A bit more: This industry gives Christopher the opportunity every day to assist artists and entrepreneurs achieve their and their clients’ dreams. He believes that this floral world we all share can touch so many without any words and that it’s important to always share your passion with the world.
Role: Design room manager at Twisted Stem, a floral shop in Crystal Lake, Ill.
Nominator: John Regan
Why: “Most impressive to me is Craig’s drive to research his craft and bring that information back into the shop. From his studied research into the best and most current Chain of Life flower processing and handling procedures to his curiosity into developing styles of contemporary floral design, Craig is a constant source of information and inspiration.”
A bit more: At his core, Craig is a naturalist, a mixed-media artist and a floral jack-of-all-trades. Working in the industry has expanded his botanical awareness for everything from exotic blooms sourced from specialty growers to the depth of diversity of humble mosses and lichen from the Northwest.
Role: Co-founder of BloomNation, an online floral marketplace based in Los Angeles where people can list, discover and send unique bouquets from local florists around the country.
Nominator: MaryJo Malloy
Why: “David Daneshgar and the BloomNation team are revolutionizing the ‘wire service’ industry for retail florists. They have developed a floral marketplace in which florists can actually be profitable and not end up working for the wire services.”
A bit more: The co-founder of BloomNation, David leads the company’s sales and business development efforts. A former “World Series of Poker” champion, he brings a unique set of analytical and interpersonal skills to the competitive world of online flowers.
Derek Woodruff, AIFD, PFCI, CF
Role: Owner of Floral Underground, a do-it-yourself floral arrangement box company in Traverse City, Mich., that delivers flowers to be arranged and designed in your home or office.
Nominator: Julia Marie Schmitt, AIFD, EMC, ICPF
Why: Julia praises Derek for his “forward thinking of how to market to and engage a new generation of flower buyers with his inspired and genius Floral Underground business where he is embracing social media, YouTube and do-it-yourselfers.” She also highlighted his talent during on-stage floral presentations and his winning the 2016 Sylvia Cup Design Competition.
A bit more: At the age of 16, Derek began working with flowers. What started as a trade-school class and a co-op job quickly became his passion and, to this day, is all that he knows. What he loves most is working with consumers. Sharing flowers with people brings him great joy.
Role: Owner of Lizzie Bee’s Flower Shoppe in Richardson, Texas, which she opened at the ripe old age of 23. She also has begun supplying design products, such as metal hoops and flower walls, through her other company, Floral Mechanics.
Nominator: Miranda McKinney
Why: “Elizabeth has built her flower empire from ground up. She is a wonderful mentor and an educated teacher. Her dedication and passion for floral pushed her to build Lizzie Bee’s into what it is today.”
A bit more: At a young age, Elizabeth began working at a local flower shop. After studying nursing in college, she realized her love for floral and opened her own shop at 23, Lizzie Bee’s Flower Shoppe, and followed with Floral Mechanics. Creating, growing, loving is what she does
Garrett Skupinski, CF
Role: Lead designer at The Crimson Petal, a floral design business in St. Louis, Mo.
Nominator: Kelly Jurotich
Why: “Garrett is an integral player in floral world. He devotes himself fully to floral design, and his eye for aesthetic is second to none. He has pushed me to be a better designer, encouraging me to travel, enter contests, play. His artistic talent is just starting to blossom. From Michigan’s ‘Designer of the Year” to his successes in Fusion Flowers’ “International Designer of the Year” contest, he is truly an upcoming talent.”
A bit more: Garrett brings to his designs his whole heart. For Garrett, his passion for fashion rings through his floral artistry. He is well known for creating innovative, attention grabbing, edgy wearable florals. Garrett has traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe training in design techniques and learning from the most renowned florists and fashion designers worldwide. His travels, training and passion developed signature, unique concepts, which he now shares with other designers.
Gina Thresher, AIFD
Role: Owner and designer at From the Ground Up Floral in Kent, Wash.
Nominator: Juliana Blanks, AIFD
Why: “Gina is a dedicated mom, business woman and student of the floral arts. She is a talented floral designer, she’s involved with AIFD regional promotions, and she constantly attends educational programs to learn new things and network with industry professionals.”
A bit more: Gina is also a Chapel Designer. Her focus in floral design is mainly weddings and events, but she is gradually growing and branching out. Gina recently started a podcast for the floral industry and enjoys interviewing, teaching and being more hands-on in the floral industry.
Role: Floral designer and owner of Creative Concepts by Jeff in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Nominator: Jen Catanzariti
Why: “Jeff is a wonderful human with an amazing vision. He creates beautiful arrangements and has an ability to turn simple materials into stunning works of art. His pieces vary from simple to traditional to super chic, and he creates them effortlessly. But the best things are Jeff’s ability to listen and his humble nature. He is part therapist, part Zen master and part creative genius.”
A bit more: When he’s not picking thorns out of his hair and building foliage chandeliers, Jeff hangs out with Foxy Roxy (his cheerful canine) and hunts for natural elements to incorporate into his designs. He wonders if other florists have the same compulsive habit of buying every new pair of pruning shears they come across, like he does.
Role: Agriculture educator at Gridley High School in Gridley, Calif.
Nominator: Vickie Harrison
Why: “She is making leaps and bounds teaching hundreds of young people how to create in the floral industry, sharing her passion of flowers to keep the industry alive. I am amazed at the work she and her high school classes are doing.”
A bit more: A high school agriculture teacher entering her third year of teaching, Jennifer took two years of “The Art & History of Floral Design” through our agriculture classes in high school and realized she wanted to become an agriculture teacher herself. Her passion for the floral industry has grown stronger than ever and has granted her the opportunities to explore her professional development through additional courses and internships. When she’s not designing, she is typically planning what she’ll do next.”
Jenny Van Houtte
Role: Floral designer at GardenView Flowers in Grand Rapids, Ohio.
Nominator: Ellie Van Houtte
Why: “Jenny is more unique than any flower you will find. There are florists. There are farmers. But she wraps the two together as a business partner at GardenView Flowers — a family-owned and -operated farm started nearly four decades ago by her father. She is also the founder of GardenView Weddings.”
A bit more: Jenny’s passion for flowers takes root on the family farm in Grand Rapids, Ohio. She launched GardenView Weddings to marry her creative skills with her green thumb. Her stunning creations using seasonal flowers inspire the imagination.
Role: Lead designer and master grower at Harmony Harvest Farm, a cut-flower farm in Weyers Cave, Va.
Nominator: Chris Auville
Why: “Jessica is a rising Chapel Designer with a fresh perspective for design and composition. Not only that, she is also a respected flower farmer to boot. Jessica has so much passion for the floral industry that she, along with her sister, purchased the manufacturing of metal flower-frog production from Dorothy Biddle Service and are continuing to bring these timeless mechanics to our industry.”
A bit more: Artist, farmer, daughter, sister, wife and mother. All of these roles make up Jessica’s life and her passion. As co-owner of both a fresh cut flower farm, Harmony Harvest, and flower-frog manufacturer, Floral Genius, she gratefully spends her days surrounded by the things and the people that inspire her. She lives her mission to provide quality foundations from fresh flowers and staple mechanics to classical design.
Role: Bouquet and Arrangement department manager for wholesale florist Koehler & Dramm in Minneapolis, Minn.
Nominator: Bonnie Melin
Why: “She is a stellar designer and is in charge of the design and bouquet departments at one of the nation’s largest wholesalers. Her department’s sales figures have gone up significantly since she took the helm, largely in part to her design aesthetic. Her wedding designs are out of this world. She created a rehearsal bouquet made of vegetables for a chef’s wedding and incorporated asparagus spears onto the handle of the bridal bouquet. Both were works of art.”
A bit more: Jessica’s career as the design manager for one of the largest floral wholesalers in the country is fueled by an insatiable hunger to learn and apply new techniques and design styles. She feels blessed that her days are filled with inspiration, like-minded people, beautiful blooms — and plenty of coffee.
Role: Manager and designer at Event Floral, a wedding and event flower design business in Loves Park, Ill.
Nominator: Nicole Osibodu
Why: “Jordan is one of the most talented people I have ever met, and he is so young! His knowledge of floral design is unsurpassed. He has designed multiple events for The White House and has a passion for creating the most magical experiences, which shows through in his designs. He also has keen business sense and knows how to grow his brand and surpass his clients’ dreams.”
A bit more: Jordan’s background in events, along with his modern, upscale design aesthetic, have been the perfect combination for launching his floral career. He enjoys designing custom large-scale floral installations and bridal bouquets. His work has taken him to Chicago, Milwaukee, L.A. and Washington D.C.
Katie Noonan, AIFD
Role: Owner and designer at Noonan’s Wine Country Designs, a floral design company specializing in wedding florals in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Nominator: Becky Knieriem
Why: “Katie is at the top of her game. Her passion for the industry is incredible, and she delivers magic every single time. As a fellow floral designer, I am constantly in awe of her beautiful flowers, creativity and attention to detail. I find inspiration from her work and am lucky to know what an incredible woman she is as well.”
A bit more: Katie has worked in the wedding and event business for more than 10 years. At Noonan’s, she strives to be ahead of the floral design curve and is always looking to make her clients’ visions come to life. She enjoys working with clients and opening their minds to create events that will leave lasting impressions.
Role: Owner and floral designer of Ruby’s Floral Factory, a floral shop and design business with locations in Bethlehem and Allentown, Pa.
Nominator: Heather Williams
Why: “This guy is doing something right. When he opened four years ago, he was in one small shop. Since then, he has expanded to three retail locations. He designs weddings for brides in Philly and New York City and does events at the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park, and his client list includes more than a few who’s who.”
A bit more: Keith is a 35-year-old floral designer and shop owner. In just four short years, he has grown his company to three locations. He eats, sleeps and dreams flowers. Keith lives by the rule that you’re never to old to learn, and if you think you know it all, it’s time to stop what you’re doing.
Role: Graphic Design Manager for Syndicate Sales, Inc., a manufacturer of floral supplies and floral foam in Kokomo, Ind.
Nominator: Laura Shinall
Why: “Kim is not only a creative talent, but she also possesses a strong business mind as well. She is now a key account manager for Syndicate Sales and utilizes her creative and business acumen in product development as well as sales and marketing. While other companies see millennials as a necessary evil, Syndicate Sales is fortunate to have someone like Kim on the team. She has an amazing work ethic, a positive outlook and boundless creativity.”
A bit more: In addition to her position as key account manager at Syndicate Sales, Kim is also a former co-chair of WF&FSA’s Marketing Committee. Her love of flowers and this industry began while working in Syndicate’s creative department. Kim’s experience in both graphic design and sales brings a fresh perspective to her accounts throughout the industry.
Role: Designer, general manager and head of Kern Park Flower Shoppe, a 102-year-old flower shop in Portland, Ore.
Nominator: Holly Itami Springfels
Why: “Kimberly was born and raised around the business and was trained by her uncle and her great-grandmother. Being the fifth-generation and just 27 years old, she is already a star in our area. Her passion for her designs is as great as her passion to make her clients feel like they are the only ones that matter to her.”
A bit more: Kimberly developed her love of flowers growing up in her family’s flower shop that her great-great-grandfather started in 1915. At the age of 28, not very many people can say they’ve been lucky enough to have been trained by four generations of their family and still often get to work alongside their 95-year-old great-grandma.
Role: Marketing manager at Sunshine Bouquet, an international grower and seller of fresh-cut flowers based in Miami, Fla.
Nominator: Debora Coleman
Why: “Laura is a go-getter and has risen from working under others to now handling the entire staff in her area. She works with the whole floral industry and has an eye for new and exciting ways to promote flowers in our industry. She has a can do attitude and works well to promote the industry as a whole, understanding that we all have a responsibility to do this.”
A bit more: Prior to joining Sunshine Bouquet Company, Laura knew two things about flowers: She wanted them, and her dates would serve well to give them. After five years at Sunshine, Laura learned that her passion for creating her own beautiful bouquet collections could replace any wily suitor.
Role: A third-generation florist and part owner of Madeline’s Flowers, a 66-year-old flower shop in Edmond, Okla.
Nominator: Lacee Bilke
Why: “After graduating from college, Lenzee decided to become a part of the family business. Her focus is on the business side and social media outlets of the flower shop. Lenzee not only takes care of the shop operations and social media but also is a talented designer. She is an asset to the family business.”
A bit more: Lenzee Bilke graduated with honors from the University of Central Oklahoma with a bachelor’s in fashion marketing and a master’s degree in adult education training. Lenzee is a board member for the Oklahoma State Florists’ Association and the Ozark Florist Association.
Lesleighan Cravens, CFD, PFCI
Role: A floral design instructor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
Nominator: Diana Fox
Why: “Lesleighan is an excellent floral design instructor, a passionate advisor for Mizzou SAIFD, and a friend who encourages us to step out of our comfort zones so we can grow. She is so encouraging to every student, whether or not he or she has talent for floral design. She builds her students up instead of knocking them down. You can tell that she wants every one of her students to succeed in whatever path he or she chooses. I’ve never had a more passionate or encouraging teacher in my life. She’s made learning about the industry fun and exciting.”
A bit more: Lesleighan’s passion for education and love for flowers led her to find her niche within the floral industry. She truly enjoys instructing students at the University of Missouri and advising the student chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD). With her PFCI accreditation, she intends to continue spreading floral knowledge throughout the state(s).
Role: Graphic design manager for Syndicate Sales, Inc., a manufacturer of floral supplies and floral foam in Kokomo, Ind.
Nominator: Laura Shinall
Why: “Lindsay’s ability to spot trends never fails to deliver, always keeping Syndicate Sales fresh and current. The greatest compliment Syndicate has ever received was due to Lindsay and her team’s work on the 2015 catalog. A retailer called me to tell me she was getting out of the business as she felt that in the past 25 years she had done all she could do from a design perspective. And then, she opened our new catalog, and she told me she was so inspired by our photography, settings and designs that she decided not to close her shop. That was powerful. That was Lindsay’s vision — speaking right to the heart of that retailer.”
A bit more: Lindsay was introduced to the floral industry in 2010 after graduating from Purdue University and joining Syndicate Sales’s creative team. She’s passionate about keeping up with trends and loves designing the annual catalog. For Lindsey, it’s a thrill to plan photo shoots and seek out perfect locations and props to bring scenes to life.
Role: Owner and lead designer of the floral event and wedding design company Petaloso in Charleston, S.C.
Nominator: Michael Baskin
Why: “Lori is a creative, hard-working florist. Her cascading arrangements are elegant, wild and fresh. Not only that, she offers more daring services to her clients, such as full floral wall installments and living dresses. Lori’s character also shines through in all she does. Match that with no-waste procedures and primarily locally sourced flowers, and you get one of the best up-and-coming florists in Charleston.”
A bit more: Lori’s love for floral design began in college while interning with a talented designer. After graduation, she designed her best friend’s wedding and never stopped designing. Lori craves the creative process and has attended workshops from Chicago to London. She enjoy thinking outside the box and creating unique show-stopping pieces for her clients.
Mary Kate Kinnane
Role: Owner and lead designer at The Local Bouquet, a floral and wedding design business in Little Compton, R.I.
Nominator: Kelly Shore
Why: “Mary Kate is one of the first floral designers who has committed to and based her entire business around American-grown flowers. She supports local and American-grown farms by buying only from them, and she inspires others to do the same by never wavering in her commitment. She designs beautiful events and does not let seasonality limit her creativity.”
A bit more: The Local Bouquet specializes in weddings, events and seasonally inspired floral design classes. With a core mission to bring clients products that are seasonal and sustainable, the company has committed to buying 100 percent locally grown and American-grown flowers.
Role: Owner of Michelle Edgemont Design, an event design and floral business in Brooklyn, N.Y..
Nominator: Mary Neupower
Why: “After five years in business, Michelle has carved a niche for herself for colorful, unconventional, and fun weddings and events. She runs her business with grace while being the mom of a toddler. She is always willing to share information about mechanics, give her sound business advice and even share her props with other florists in her neighborhood.”
A bit more: Michelle’s specialization in unconventional, whimsical floral design draws clients to hire her to be their event designer and florist. Through floral design, she finds purpose in creating atmospheres that are interestingly beautiful and that bring happiness to the experience of life.
Paul Latham, AIFD, KMF
Role: Co-owner of Fleur-de-Lis Events & Design in Louisville, Ky.
Nominator: Alex Hunnicutt
Why: “Paul’s adult life has been dedicated to floral artistry. I have been his business partner for nearly a decade, and his love for floral design has shaped our business into a center of floral creativity. Paul consistently pushes the envelope with his floral mastery. He never fails to amaze our clients or me with what he can do within the confines of a budget. Paul just celebrated his 30th birthday. It is exciting to think what he may accomplish by 35!”
A bit more: Paul is the co-owner and creative director of Fleur de Lis Events & Design, The Foundry at Glassworks, and The Gramercy. He is the lead floral designer for Lauren Chitwood Events; Olio Event Group; and, when possible, Paradiso Parade Floats. He is also the public relations director for the Kentucky Florists’ Association.
Samantha Bates, AIFD
Role: Owner and designer at Especially for You Florist in Ponchatoula, La.
Nominator: Beth Simoneaux
Why: “Samantha is the most strong-willed and resourceful person I know. When we are at the shop, whatever crazy thing a customer wants, she somehow makes it happen and makes it the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. She is totally committed to becoming the best designer she can possibly be and is constantly creating new things and going to as many educational programs as possible.”
A bit more: Finding the beauty in an object and transforming it into art with flowers is Samantha’s passion. She loves playing with the colors and textures that the earth provides, and she believes having the opportunity to express an emotion through flowers and foliage is truly amazing.
Role: Creative director at Accent Décor, which sells vases and décor in Norcross, Ga.
Nominator: Karla Taylor
Why: “Sarah has put Accent Décor on the map as a leader in the floral design industry, and she recently spearheaded the creation of Accent Décor’s holiday line. It’s Sarah’s touch that has come to define Accent Decor’s cutting-edge brand. Under Sarah’s leadership, Accent Décor is also aspiring to more ethical and sustaining trade practices. Sarah’s pragmatism, creativity and dedication toward ethical business practices are changing the way the floral industry buys and sells both domestically and internationally.”
A bit more: Sarah hopes to inspire the floral industry with containers that are as design-centric as the floral arrangements that grace them. She aspires to make a positive change in the communities that Accent Décor touches, from employees and customers to artisans across the globe.
Sheryl Timmermann, AIFD
Role: Lead floral designer at A Special Touch Florist in Highland, Ill.
Nominator: Garrett Skupinski, CF
Why: “Sheryl believes to her very core in sharing all of her knowledge to continually keep our industry strong and is always striving to find the goodness in every situation. Very few designers have the wealth of knowledge and skill set that Sheryl has gained over the years. She will dance with you, laugh with you and inspire you — all before your morning coffee.”
A bit more: Sheryl has been designing with flowers for 18 years and has won numerous awards in the industry for innovative ideas and designs. Her passion to continually learn helps to propel her forward in the floral industry.
Stephanie LaPrairie, AIFD
Role: Director, creative leader and co-owner of Stems Flowers & Café, a full-service floral design, giftware, gallery and café in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.
Nominator: Brenda Grosenick
Why: “Stephanie is a creative who works from her soul and leads with her heart. She has experience and passion, always growing and exploring innovative ways to approach business and service. She is uniting borders; educating; and using sustainable, ethical practices. Stephanie is a vibrant and artistic presence in the industry, and her ability to lead and empower is outstanding.
A bit more: After 18 retail floral years, Stephanie needed to step inward and listen. Flowers are her storyteller. Her next chapter, an international, sustainable, trend-forward event company called Unite US Style that she co-founded with Kirsten Westby, launches in late 2017 in Mexico.