Updated: Jan 13
Like everyone else, 2020 was not what I was expecting... especially not for my first year growing and designing with flowers. Had I known a global pandemic was on the horizon, I wouldn't have decided to launch a small business and invest money into growing cut-flowers in winter 2019. For growers, the purchasing of bulbs, corms, seeds, and tubers comes early. As we speak I'm finalizing my seed order for the spring so I can hopefully snag each new variety I want to try growing next season. We have already ordered all our ranunculus and anemone corms and planted the tulip and daffodil bulbs last fall. It takes many long nights of planning and research to decide on the growing plan for the next season, so when the lockdown came last March I was left wondering whether to postpone my plans to launch or to continue "growing" with the plan.
Instead of focusing heavily on planting flowers, there was a local need to help get blooms into the hands of customers safely. Local farmers were losing hundreds of dollars on wasted flower crops due to cancelled events and closed flower shops. Seeing all the photos and videos of farmers throwing out perfect flowers was so heartbreaking to me, especially in a time when so many people needed beauty in their lives. Although it was late in the season, I was able to join The Local Flower Collective as a florist due to the high need to sell local flowers. Through everyone's support and encouragement, I was able to start delivering locally-grown blooms no-contact to help prevent wasted flowers and to raise some money for organizations that were making a difference during the pandemic. Gaspar Cafe partnered with me to help me sell leftover blooms with 100% of the profits being donated, and we were able to raise $600 for Black Lives Matter Toronto with all your support.
It was at the beginning of the pandemic after ordering freesia flowers that I had the idea for my 'Make a Stranger Smile' campaign. I was self-isolating for a few weeks after waking up with the symptoms of a cold. Since this was early when testing was only available for those who had been traveling, I was instructed to stay home from my job as a mental health research analyst and began working from home. I was experiencing a large amount of anxiety and stress-related to the pandemic and wasn't able to calm my worries like I typically could, but receiving flowers made me smile everyday for over a week. Their smell filled the room and they helped me feel a bit lighter whenever I was near them. Flowers have always made me smile. Whether it's a walk around the block to look at what is blooming in the neighborhood, watching our homegrown flowers grow, or picking up some local blooms from the farmers market... they always brighten my day and give me something beautiful to focus on. I wanted to share this feeling with others that were having a hard time accessing flowers or positive thoughts during these times.
I decided to start a campaign called the 'Make a Stranger Smile' campaign where a bouquet could be donated and delivered no-contact to a stranger in Clarington or West Toronto who was struggling with isolation or loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. $5 from each donation went towards the COVID-19 Mental Health Resiliency & Coping Fund by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Anyone could nominate someone in their community with an anonymous note about why they could use a smile, which was passed on to the stranger who donated them the bouquet. We were able to spread 32 smiles through the campaign and raise $160. I'm so thankful to everyone who donated to a stranger and helped spread some joy in a time of such darkness and uncertainty.
Through my membership with The Local Flower Collective, I was able to use the leftover donated flowers from the collective and the farmers to sell with 100% of the proceeds going to Sundance Harvest and The Black Women's Agricultural Freedom Fund during June. Grower members at The Local Flower Collective (THFC) donated blooms to raise $2,400 for Black Lives Matter Toronto, African Food Basket, FoodShare Toronto, and Raven Trust. TLFC donated the leftover flowers that did not sell to us weekly and we were able to bundle them together and fundraise $1,215 ($405 for Sundance Harvest and $810 for The Black Women's Agricultural Freedom Fund). We would not have been able to do this without the help of Gaspar Cafe, who partnered with us to sell the bouquets for the fundraisers. Thank you so much to everyone at The Local Flower Collective, with whom we collectively raised $3,615 for BIPOC causes. To everyone in the community who supported us this year, thank you for helping us give back to these incredible organizations.
Most of the weddings that were booked for our first season were cancelled due to the pandemic, but we were able to design for two weddings this year! We were also able to play around with offering bouquets for sale at Gaspar Cafe, Neon Commissary, and through our website and Instagram. We offered subscriptions through September which was so much fun and was the best way for us to estimate the flowers needed for the week. We will be continuing to offer subscriptions through the growing season (you can pre-order now)! This year was nothing like we expected, but it allowed us to figure out where we belong in the flower world, and for that we are thankful.
I may not have made a lot of profits this first year, but raising $2,975 for organizations that need it more could not make me happier. Thank you for following along, for your support and encouragement, for allowing me to do what I love, and for waiting for us to bloom again. This has been a dark year but doing this work has given me a reason to get up every day, so thank you for that.