The process of reviewing applications and choosing our Floret Workshop Scholarship winners is one of the high points of the year for the entire team. While reading all of the heartfelt stories from every corner of the globe, we learn so much about the hopes and dreams of the flower community. Last year’s common themes included pursuing passions and dreams, paying it forward, and creating places for healing, as well as creating a haven for pollinators, people, and our planet, and connecting with family and childhood memories. Inevitably, more than a few essays bring us to tears, and so many humble and inspire us.
Providing the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the last decade as a flower farmer has been one of the greatest and most unexpected joys on this flower-filled journey. And giving this opportunity to those who may not otherwise be able to participate in a workshop continues to be extremely important to me.
I’m thrilled to be offering a total of eight scholarships for our 2021 Floret Online Workshop. We are accepting applications September 8–16, 2020. You can read additional past recipients’ stories and learn more about applying here.
In preparation for this year’s scholarship announcement, the team and I reconnected with some of last year’s scholarship recipients to catch up; find out how the Floret scholarship impacted their farms, their careers, and their lives; and see what advice they’d give to those considering applying for this year’s scholarship.
To kick it off, meet Sharon Kamau-Ledwaba in Nakuru, Kenya. Sharon and her nonprofit organization, Neloshan International, work with small-scale co-operatives in Kenya to provide training and business skills development to single mothers. The organization is creating a social enterprise that will purchase flowers directly from these cooperatives at a fair market rate, and all profits from the sale of the flowers will be put back into the organization to expand its reach.
Since receiving the scholarship and taking the Floret Online Workshop, Sharon and Neloshan International have applied for donor funding that will allow them to bring on the necessary skills to help develop the workshop and training program that they will then pilot with a group of single mothers. They are also in conversation with two other nonprofit organizations with a similar mission, to see how they could replicate their social enterprise model in other African countries, potentially expanding the impact and reach on the continent. Here is more of what Sharon shared:
This scholarship has been a blessing to me and my team as it’s allowed us to not only dream beyond—of what could be—but it has given us the practical tools, strategies, and inspiration we need to take our idea and turn it into a reality. Without this scholarship, I don’t think we would have had access to any of the incredible knowledge, tools, and resources that were made available to us in the course.
One of the things I appreciated about this workshop was the holistic view it provided in terms of actually building a flower business. From the practical aspects of starting and growing a business (goal setting, business models, sales and marketing, etc.) to the technical aspects of how to successfully grow flowers. I walked away from this course feeling confident that I have what it takes to build a solid business because of the awesome foundation it provides.
Another big takeaway for me was seeing what other people are doing well. This helped sparked other ideas that I hadn’t considered, causing me to pause and look again at my own idea and how we could build a social enterprise with a triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet (environmental sustainability).
Sharon offers this encouragement to anyone thinking about applying for this year’s Floret Online Workshop scholarship:
The world needs that dream, that idea that’s inside of you. It is worth investing in. Spend time nurturing it and put in the application because you never know who might be inspired to come alongside and partner with you to bring it to fruition.
Next up, meet Marianne Mogendorff and Camila Klich of Wolves Lane Flower Company in London. Marianne and Camila are committed to a belief that beauty and diversity needn’t be compromised at the expense of the environment. With a tiny growing area that consists of a 0.3-acre plot and 40-meter glasshouse, the duo applied for the Floret scholarship needing to dramatically increase their production and improve efficiency in order to meet rapidly increasing demand. When we reconnected with them this is what they had to share:
It was incredible to have Floret’s and Erin’s endorsement of our tiny enterprise. We only got started a few years ago with a very rudimentary and basic knowledge of horticulture, so receiving the scholarship, with all the incredible advice, teaching, and resources that it involved, was very exciting for us. We talked in our application about how the demand for British flowers in London has exploded in the past year, and the scholarship has really given us the tools to apply the learning to help us—and to enable others, in the future—to meet this demand.
We have made sure to plan things in a much better way. Erin’s work-it-backwards method, where she details each and every step that it takes to execute an order/project, has stopped us from overstretching and made us focus on what we can realistically achieve. We did exactly what Erin describes in her video; we planned out in detail a new initiative for a CSA scheme before deciding we just don’t have capacity at the moment. And that was weirdly empowering! We’re also far more diligent in planning the plot. We weren’t quite in time to apply the lessons about managing your planting plan for this season but are determined to start the autumn with it all in place this year!
We have so many big takeaways from the workshop! To be ruthless about your time and who you take advice from. To decide NOT to do something because it’s not the right time made us feel so much more in control. The need for meticulous forward planning when it comes to succession sowing and planting. Our glasshouse is probably our biggest opportunity and asset, but crops grow fast and go over even faster in there, so applying the methodology from the spreadsheets to plan this to the nth degree is going to transform our yield next season. And finally, the attention and importance Erin gives to soil health and strength is something we continuously think about.
Thank you for noticing our tiny business and giving us this invaluable leg up in the industry. While it has been at times overwhelming (in a kind of kid-at-Christmas way!) to have access to so much in-depth information about growing productively and efficiently (and we have learnt SO much), the endorsement it has also given our business within our immediate community has been amazing. Covid-19 felt like such a blow back in March. All our weddings were cancelled, and we didn’t know how we were going to be able to pay our rent. What’s actually happened is that we’ve transformed into a wholesaler (albeit a tiny one) for London florists and have grabbed the attention of the well-known names (Rebel Rebel and JamJar Flowers) alongside the smaller independent designers. And the attention the scholarship has given us has definitely been a big part of that.
It feels like we really are able to play a central role in how London florists think about seasonality and source flowers, and we hope that the seismic events in the world of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement will continue to disrupt the status quo of how people consume and consider flowers. By being better growers, we can help be the disruptors and change-makers (without sounding too dramatic!), so thank you for seeing our potential at this crucial moment in our growing journey.
We also received an update from Sarah Dolan of Rising Tide Farm in Juneau, Alaska. With access only by airplane or ferry, Juneau’s landlocked location means residents rely on food, flowers, and other goods being shipped in from afar. Sarah started Rising Tide Farm with the dream of helping her community become more sustainable. She shared this with us:
Floret has changed my life. Without the Floret scholarship, I would have been delayed by at least four to five years in taking the Floret Online Workshop. The biggest takeaway from the workshop was succession planting. It makes so much sense, but never even occurred to me prior to the workshop. This growing season I have put that into practice and know that I’m going to have market bouquets for at least four to six weeks longer than if I hadn’t done succession planting.
The Floret Online Workshop gave me the encouragement to just get in there and do it. I’ve had several opportunities crop up since completing the workshop that are huge and scary. But I can hear Erin’s and Jill’s voices in my head telling me to go for it, and that it will be okay. Thank you for believing in me, encouraging me, and letting me know (without saying it) that I’m on the right path. I will forever be grateful to the entire Floret team.
Kylie Lewis has officially started her new flower farming business, Full Moon Flower Farm in Bellingham, Washington. After taking on the task of raising her younger sister while also navigating classes as a 21-year-old college student, she spent the next decade working as a field hand and manager at organic vegetable farms in Oregon and Washington. Kylie now grows flowers for weddings, special events, and bouquet subscriptions on a 1/8-acre plot. She recently gave the team this update:
I broke ground! I ventured into flower farming with so much excitement and so many seeds. Once you start growing it is easy to get swept away by all the work—I was so thankful that I came in with a plan. The workshop helped me refine my goals and map out my season. On my humble 1/8 of an acre, I am growing flowers, grasses, and ornamental wheats for fresh and dried arrangements. You can find my flowers at my neighborhood (Sunnyland) farm stand in Bellingham, Washington. The scholarship instilled confidence in me that this was a believable dream. Believing in yourself can be the hardest part.
There is so much to glean from the Floret Workshop. Every step of the way there was something to gain by going back to the videos or my workbook. My biggest takeaways are that you must break down every goal and plant intensively! And they will show you how to do it. Apply if only to see how badly you might want it. Writing about my flower dream was a rewarding experience in and of itself. And you just never know, you might get it.
Finally meet Deanna Petit-gas of La Petite Ferme in Saanichton, British Columbia, Canada. Formerly a grade 4/5 teacher, she had to give up her career in her late thirties because of profound hearing loss from an autoimmune disease. Deanna’s goal is to share her love of flowers and put beauty out into the world at an affordable price. She shared these thoughts when we checked in:
For the first two months of 2020, I enjoyed every video, Q&A session, and planning spreadsheet in the curriculum. Erin is a horticultural visionary with such a beautiful, clear, and encouraging way of presenting the material and sharing her expertise. In one 10-minute video in particular, she was able to teach me to set up a drip irrigation system so that I actually knew what I was doing. Imagine that; irrigation had eluded me for so long, and in a matter of minutes, she made it simple. Jill provides an excellent sense of organization and structure, allowing Erin’s expertise to flourish. As a result, my experience with the course was outstanding. My biggest takeaway was the confidence to grow any variety of flower from seed to field using proven techniques developed by Floret. This knowledge will last a lifetime!
By mid-February, I was all fired up, with perennial seedlings under the lights in the basement and packets of annual seeds lined up to go, when we started hearing more about Covid-19. When it was declared a pandemic, I realized that my plans would have to be scaled back; my medical condition leaves me immuno-compromised, and I knew I couldn’t risk exposure to the virus. My improved farm stand and bouquet CSA plans were put on hold, and instead, this has become a year for establishing perennials, experimenting with new cultivars, perfecting garden systems, cleaning up weedy patches, and growing food for the family. As it turns out, lettuce, arugula, and zucchini like Floret’s techniques just as much as flowers do. Next year I’ll be ready, and there will be so much beauty on offer from my farm stand that the entire neighbourhood will be overflowing with flowers. We’ll all need the joy and beauty to help us recover from the pandemic, and I may just earn enough to replace my old greenhouse.
Erin and Jill are now my all-time favourite authors, edging out J.K. Rowling by a fraction of a lead. I feel like I know them personally and consider them “flower friends.” I’d like to encourage anyone who is passionate about growing and selling flowers to take this course and apply for this scholarship if financial assistance is needed. Share your story and speak from the heart. They heard me and supported me at a time when I needed it most. For this I will be forever grateful.
Watching past Floret Scholarship recipients like Sharon, Marianne, Camila, Sarah, Kylie, and Deanna take what they learned through the Floret Workshop and go back home to transform their flower-based businesses is incredibly inspiring.
If you are ready to jump-start your flower-focused business with a little help from Floret, I strongly encourage you to apply for a scholarship. Learn more and apply here—but don’t delay; applications will only be accepted through September 16.
We can’t wait to read your application!