Home Blog Small Business Saturday: Meet the Floret Team
November 26th 2016

Small Business Saturday: Meet the Floret Team

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heatherpayne_floretjuly-20I’m asked all the time, “Erin, how do you do it all?”  And the answer is:  I don’t. There is no way I could do it all myself. But, boy, did I sure try for many years…and I came close to quitting more times than I’d like to admit.  

As I shared in a Design Sponge essay earlier this year, I used to think I should do it all, and that letting others help was a sign of weakness. I wasn’t that I didn’t want to relinquish control, it was actually that I was afraid for anyone to see what a mess my life really was. And while my inbox overflowed with hundreds of unanswered emails, my office was a total disaster and my work-life balance was insanely out of whack, I continued to try and do it all myself for far too long.

heatherpayne_floretteam_august_05It was only after I took a huge leap of faith and hired Jill part time to tackle some of the things that were falling through the cracks, that Floret really started to soar. Since then, I’ve worked really hard to open myself up and let others bring their magical gifts into my life. Over the past few years we’ve built a fantastic team of folks who work both on and off the farm to support our little flower business.  heatherpayne_floretteam_august_11In honor of Small Business Saturday, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to the amazing folks that I’m proud to call teammates, friends and part of the Floret family.  I can’t imagine how I ever did life without  them!

I asked each of them to share a little bit about themselves and their role here at Floret. If you’re a small business owner and you’re still going it alone, I hope this post will inspire you to at least consider getting some much needed help. I can’t even begin to describe how dramatically my life has changed (for the better) with the addition of each of these incredible souls. It can be hard to feel like you deserve to be supported, but the truth is, you really do. 

Since I try never to ask the team to do things I haven’t done, I’ll start us off:


Erin Benzakein

Role at Floret:  I handle the majority of our marketing and social media. I also do a ton of writing and product creation and work with our amazing team to bring all of our big ideas to life. I also lead workshops, plan out the fields and greenhouses, harvest, and fill in wherever I’m needed when we’re short staffed. 

Best part of the job: I have a few favorites! I love trialling all of the varieties for our seed company, especially sweet peas. I absolutely love growing every variety in a specific flower group and then observing each one individually, comparing them to one another and recording their special traits.

I love writing and creating new things with Jill. Whenever we have a big project that we’re diving into, we huddle around my dining room table, get out the whiteboard, the Post It notes and plan until our brains hurt. Once there’s a road map in place, we start writing. She sets the outline, then I fill in the blanks, and then we lob it back and forth (sometimes 15 times!) until we get it just right. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but it’s such a thrilling process because with each pass the idea becomes clearer and more real.

Lastly, I love capturing the magic of the flowers. After everyone has gone home for the day, I usually head to the field and harvest whatever is at its best. Then I haul out all of my funky old backdrops and make a big ole mess in the yard. When magic hour hits (the hour before sunset) Chris and I run for the field and frantically try and capture the magic before the light fades. It’s kind of stressful and crazy, but when we get “the shot” it’s completely exhilarating.

Favorite flower memory: Growing up I spent part of every summer in the country with my great grandparents. During the long hot days my Grammie would tell me tales of her flower garden back on their farm in Nevada. She’d always send me outside with scissors to pick a bouquet for her bedside table. While it was nothing like her old garden, there were always a few treasures to be had if you dug around long enough. Leggy snapdragons, a few hybrid tea roses and always a rainbow of sweet peas scrambling up posts by her backdoor. If I close my eyes I can still smell them.

Favorite place to find inspiration: When it comes to business inspiration, Marie Forleo is hands down the best source I’ve ever come across. I look forward to her newsletter every week and have taken both of her online courses multiple times. When it comes to personal growth inspiration, my Mom is certainly my biggest source. She always has some incredible quote that she’s just read, or some amazing heartfelt wisdom to share, or a special way of taking even the worst situation and finding the gold in it. Her nickname for me is “Champ” and whenever I’m feeling down, or discouraged she says,” Champ, you gotta get off the ropes. Keep your head in the game. You can do it!” Without her I would certainly be lost.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: My Farmer-Florist tool belt. Seriously, it changed my life! Now I never lose my phone, my jeans no longer have holes in the back pockets, and I can always find a pen or Sharpie when I need it. Sounds silly, but it really was a game changer for me.

heatherpayne_floretjuly-12Chris Benzakein 

Role at Floret: I take most of the photos, oversee the shipping end of the shop, run the farm with the help of Jill, Marlee and Erin, handle repairs and maintenance and fill in the cracks wherever needed.

Best part of the job: Seeing our ideas and creations materialize. Witnessing the unique and powerful connections between people and flowers.

Favorite flower memory:  My grandmother grew hundreds of gladiolas at her Wisconsin garden every summer. She would pick them and always make the church arrangements. I remember her being the happiest in her garden, especially when she had a handful of flowers.

Favorite place to find inspiration: I love listening to books on tape when I do deliveries. I often listen to war stories and am inspired by the courage and tenacity that it takes to overcome such intense struggles.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: I love my Canon 6D and Mark III cameras for helping tell the story of Floret. On the farm, my favorite tools are my Kubota tractor and my Leatherman knife. I use both every day. 

floret_heatherpayne_floretteam_august_01Jill Jorgensen

Years at Floret:  I was the first florist to buy flowers from the farm when Erin was just starting out, over 8 years ago. I had a flower emergency and left a rambling message on her answering machine and the tape ran out! She kindly returned my call and we became flower friends. I’ve worked for Floret in an “official” capacity for 3 years. Prior to that I always worked traditional 8-5 jobs, but helped Erin grow Floret on the evenings and weekends, lending my creative writing skills and being a sounding board. It was a long time dream to work with her and her amazing family.

Role at Floret: It’s a beautiful mixed bag! Everyone calls me the “switchboard operator.” I help triage the work load, coordinate our workshops, and communicate with vendors. I also help Erin take smaller bites so her plate isn’t as full and break down daunting projects into achievable component parts so we can divide and conquer. I spend a lot of time at the Benzakein dining room table with Post It’s and white boards, and lots of strong coffee. 

Best part of the job: How much space do I have? There are too many “best parts” to count and very often I find myself thinking, I can’t believe I get paid to do this. I take a great amount of pride in the quality of our workshops and their evolution from the smallest seed of an idea. I love communicating with really enthusiastic, supportive people via email, and then sometimes I get to meet them in person which is always really fun – lots of hugs and squeals. I love having magical Floret flowers in my house, but I love giving them away even more. I love meeting people that also get so excited about flowers (like garden roses!) that they nearly hyperventilate. I could go on forever. See, too many bests.

Favorite flower memory: My grandpa George was a pretty amazing home gardener. He’d grow a lot of things in big, galvanized trash cans with holes in the bottom and line them on the warmest spots of their great big house. All fall and winter he’d layer them with maple leaves to make what he called “black gold.” I have a great picture of him standing in front of his prized dinner plate dahlias and Sweet 100 tomatoes on long ropey vines. I can still hear him lovingly say, “Jill, look at my damn tomatoes!”

Favorite place to find inspiration: I live about 30 miles north of the farm and work remotely for most of the week. When I drive south to work, there is a stretch of I-5 that drops like a chute into the Skagit Valley and the hills open up to this vast expanse of farm land swaddled by the Cascade Mountains. I always feel my tension release, my shoulders relax and I breathe deeper, and I’m instantly filled with appreciation and gratitude.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: In my own garden, I feel lost without a Hori Hori knife at the ready. I spend more time behind the computer though. My swivel chair, lightning fast laser printer and the Justin Bieber Pandora station make me feel like I’m handling some serious lady business.


Susan Studer King 

Years at Floret:  Wow, I guess it is going on three years now!  

Role at Floret:  I work remotely from Ohio to help pull together text and information for Floret newsletters, blog posts, story pitches, website pages, workshop materials or any other miscellaneous tasks that come my way.

Best part of the job:  I love working with Erin and the rest of the team to develop resources to support flower lovers, especially fellow farmer-florists.  Getting emails or reading comments from people who have been helped by something that I had a hand in pulling together is super satisfying.  I don’t think I’ve ever loved a job as much as this one.

Favorite flower memory:  Definitely my wedding flowers! I asked my mom to grow and design them many, many years before we started our own farmer-florist business. Every time I smell a stargazer lily, I’m transported back to that July day in 2000.

Favorite place to find inspiration: The farm where I grew up. I love exploring the windbreak with my mom and scouting for shrubs and plants for use in our design work. Plus, the barns and the attic of the farmhouse are great to explore and hold vast troves of  “treasures” (what some people might call junk) that are fun to re-purpose. 

Favorite tool on the farm or studio:  Fabric scissors. In our design studio, there is only one pair that works well at cutting the pretty ribbon finishes for handheld bouquets and we always seem to be fighting for it.

floret_heather-payne_-floret_june_portfolio_68Marlee Powell

Years at Floret: I stumbled into the Floret family in the summer of 2014.

Role at Floret: My job duties at Floret are ever changing. I started as just part time harvesting help, then into full time harvester and farm hand. With the expansion of Floret as a company, I am now in charge of shipping and seed packing. I work remotely about 30-40% of the time in the fall and winter months. During spring and summer I am the point person for all of our workshops to keep everyone on track. I’m the bearer of bad news, such as FIVE MINUTES LEFT! But I say it and mean it with the utmost love!

Best part of the job: The best part of my job is seeing the joy we bring to people. That makes me feel like the hours I spend putting my heart (and back) into digging thousands of dahlias is so worth it. The simple act of sharing flowers, or even photos of flowers, has the ability to transport people out of their own world, even for a short time. Another “best part” is that I feel a part of a second little family. Being able to combine work, family and balance in my life is so important and brings so much joy to my life.

Favorite flower memory: My favorite flower memory had to be around 12 years old and my little sister was 5. My Mom home schooled us and we found a project in a book called “How to grow your own flower tee pee.” Oh man, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to try this! The three of us worked so hard building our tee pee and then added rows of corn, carrots, and lined the 20 x 50 foot plot with sunflowers.Sadly everything grew EXCEPT my tee pee. But those sunflowers — I had never seen such a thing. I didn’t even know they could get that big! My sister and I would run thru them and hide in our little jungle land playing in the dirt.

Favorite place to find inspiration: I do CrossFit as exercise, a sport, and something to have fun and enjoy my community through. I actually find a lot of personal inspiration with CrossFit and how it brings people together and lifts them up through fitness.I also find a lot of inspiration through pictures. I especially love the January image on Floret’s 2017 wall calendar shot by Chris. That photo of our green houses in the morning frost is so real to me. I feel the cold in my bones when I look at it. I love that a photo can make you feel very specific feelings.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: Favorite tool has to be my Farmer-Florist tool belt! That baby makes me feel powerful and like some kind of flower pirate. Not to mention it’s HIGHLY functional. You can keep so many goodies in there! Snips, phone, rubber bands, chocolate bar, maybe some gummies…lots of things. And the tape machine is a close second. Thanks to you all, that thing is getting a workout!


Jill Powell (aka) “Angel Jill”

Years at Floret: 5 years

Role at Floret: I sow seeds, plant, weed, keep things clean, flip greenhouses (pull out spent flowers and replant), set up drip irrigation, get everything ready for workshops and help in the shop if needed.

Best part of the job: All of it. There’s always something different to do. Depending on the season it could be seed sowing, planting, weeding.

Favorite flower memory: The first summer I worked here we filled the entire truck with freshly harvested blue statice.

Favorite place to find inspiration:  Working across from Erin because I realize I can go even faster than I thought ; )

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: The pallet forks on the tractor, the battery operated compost tea sprayer, the electric stapler and the Japanese weeding hoe.

floret_heatherpayne_floretteam_august_43Meg Almanza

Years at Floret: Almost two years now.

Role at Floret: I help manage the house, keep things clean and organized. At the workshops I help set up and breakdown the events, plus handle the food and hosting guests. I also work with Erin to tackle big projects like reworking spaces for maximum efficiency, setting up systems within the business, and keeping inventory organized and accounted for.

Best part of the job: I love contributing to the ongoing success of Floret and assisting Erin with the home and the business. I get the most out of my job when I am making someone else happy and I strive to do that every chance I get.

Favorite flower memory: I never had an appreciation for flowers until I came to work at Floret. But after seeing them growing at the farm and the sheer magnitude of their beauty, they’ve taken over my soul. Seeing the way that people react to the beauty of them at the workshops is overwhelming. My biggest joy is when Erin sends me home with buckets of leftover flowers. I fiddle around putting them together in little arrangements and put them all around my house. They make me smile when I get up in the morning.

Favorite place to find inspiration:  I love to go junking, “lookie looing” around and finding special things for people in my life to make them feel good.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio:  My wagon cart! I can haul all kinds of stuff and it helps me save time when I running back and forth. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing a whole lot of stuff in a short amount of time. floret-erikaErika Stephens

Years at Floret: Two years.

Role at Floret: I help with the Floret workshops and have helped with weddings.

Best part of the job: I love to see the students as they come into the barn, feeling held and welcomed. The flowers. I love to watch people open themselves a bit more as they are given new concepts relating to their farms, businesses and their lives as a whole.

Favorite flower memory: Helping my grandmother Astrid cut and hang to dry roses for wreathes she would make. I loved to be close to her and the smell of the roses. I don’t know if it was actually the roses that smelled or she was wearing tea rose perfume. Doesn’t matter, I loved it all the same.

Favorite place to find inspiration:  I love to look at Andy Goldsworthy’s photographs and the concept that his art is ephemeral and a large part of the reason he chooses to photograph his pieces, so that they become “everlasting.” 

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: My Grundens rain overalls and Bogg boots. Close second, the flower snips.

 ninaNina Foster

Years at Floret:  I have been with Floret from the start! Erin and I met when our girls went to kindergarten together. We were each other’s first flower friend. While our kids played, we talked about our dreams and visions over coffee, seed catalogs, and Martha Stewart Living! 

Role at Floret: I now live in Vermont and fly back to act as the hostess for the workshops. My job is to make sure all the attendees are comfortable. I am a total mama bear to all.

Best part of the job: The best part of my job is meeting new flower friends, and getting to be part of their experience at Floret. It’s a beautiful thing to witness people following their hopes and dreams.

Favorite flower memory: My older sister Gray, taking me hunting for trilliums and fairies in early spring in the forests in Vermont. Those trilliums were pure magic.

Favorite place to find inspiration: When in Washington, my favorite place for inspiration would be Rosario Beach and Erin’s roses! In Vermont, I have trails in the forests I walk daily. Nature has always been my biggest inspiration.

Favorite tool on the farm or studio: I’d have to say my Floret tool belt is my favorite tool on the farm and in studio. It holds everything!  


The beautiful images in this post were captured by Heather Payne Photography.


  1. Elisha on

    I can completely relate. I am a very small shop and struggled just to allow help for flower delivery. I hope to make it to the next step of having another designer on hand this year. Growing our own flowers is a dream but it’s a ways out. Hopefully we will get there someday. Thanks for sharing and keep up the amazing work.

  2. Flowers in miami on

    Hi, I enjoy your blog, It’s awesome, Very well written. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Missy on

    So nice to meet you all! I hope one day to make it in person!

  4. Jill on

    Team Floret you continue to inspire and motivate me to figure out a way to fulfill my dreams and aspirations. I know attending your Floret workshop changed my life in so many positive ways. I loved this post and continue to follow and learn from each one of you. You are an amazing group of individuals, whose combined efforts make a fabulous team. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, beauty and love for flowers.

  5. Janelle Johnston on

    I have an organic flower farm at Byron Bay Australia . I read this and it was a reflection of myself so thank you. I hope my life will be less stressful and more successful from now on !

  6. Janelle Johnston on

    I have an organic flower farm at Byron Bay, Australia and sat down to have a break this morning and out of nowhere I connected with your message . I saw a reflection of myself as I think the same ! So thank you for sharing your experiences and I’m sure I’ll be on another pathway now – one less stressful and successful!

  7. K. on

    My heart was captured by Jill’s grandpa. “Jill, look at my damn tomatoes.”
    A wonderful post!

  8. Lori Hernandez on

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m starting a flower farm next year and have been freaking out a little, wondering how I’m going to do it all. This post made me realize that I simply can’t. I can’t do it all. I’m going to have to find help – farm planting help, flower farm maintenance help, harvesting help, marketing help, website/blog help, childcare help, cooking/laundry/housekeeping help, vegetable gardening help, farm help to care for our farm animals, etc.

    Finding help sounds daunting too, but I’m actually feeling relieved knowing that I don’t HAVE to do it all! Thankfully, we are surrounded by family and good friends that I’m sure would work a few hours a week in exchange for flower and produce. :)

  9. Mira on

    May be my favorite post ever ?✨ thank you!

  10. Katy on

    Love every single thing about you all! And I was so blessed to have met most of you all in person! Keep reaching…it’s so very refreshing to read every word from your team. Happy Holidays.

  11. Peggy on

    So fun to read everyone’s stories:) thank you for sharing. Keep up the Great work,it is a blessing to all!

  12. Kailla on

    So much fun to read and see your faces. Your flowers and your willingness to share the magic has made such an important impact on my life. Thank you all!!

  13. Mirmys Garden on

    Thank you for sharing bits of your lives with us and for doing what you do! You guys are all awesome!


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