Photos by Mat Bobby

Rachel Mann: A Florae

Tell us about yourself.

Oh boy. Not sure where to start with that, but the simple answer is that I am a carefree spirit, who loves what she does and hopes to expand my business to provide the city with quality goods/gifts and consistent floral design. I’m hardworking, loving and always try to stay positive. I’m from Iowa and have lived in Colorado for a little over 6 years with no plans of leaving. I’m in love with my dog and happy she can be with me every day at work.

How did you get started/interested in floral design?

I completely fell into the trade of floral design. After college I moved to West Palm Beach Florida where I tried out a few different jobs trying to figure out what I would like to do. I had mentioned to my aunt that I might be interested in event design and she suggested I go check out a company called Sutka Productions, Int’l. They do large-scale events for all occasions and I happened to get the job!

I wasn’t going to be able to be an event planner right away, so I had to do all kinds of different odds and ends jobs, including helping their florist. I had Art as a minor in college and never thought that I would do anything professionally with that, but when I started helping the florist with the floral designs, a lot of the things that I learned really came into play in that moment.

I always felt average in many things that I did in life, whether it was sports, school or whatever; but when I started working with those flowers, it was the first time that I ever felt like I was really good at something and it came naturally to me. There was no looking back after feeling that.

How long have you been doing flowers?

A relationship I was in at the time moved me from Florida to the San Francisco bay area, which was a blessing in disguise because that put me in one of the most prime locations for floral design in the US. In 2004, I took a job at a small flower shop in Walnut Creek, CA. For the next three years while in California, I worked for four different floral designers, three of which we won the award for ‘Best of the Bay’ and ‘Best of the East Bay’ in floral design. I have been working with flowers ever since, so I am now almost at 13 years.

Why floral design?

Answer #2 kind of answers ‘why floral design’ for starting out and giving it a try, but why I have stuck with floral design is a whole different story/answer. It’s really quite hard to explain without being too wordy because it comes with such a personal journey.

I went through a divorce, learned how to survive on my own, learned I am a very strong individual and in so many ways discovered an identity about myself that existed through the life of flowers. It’s been a journey of immense growth and profound appreciation: appreciation for flowers giving their life to create beauty for humans; for flowers keeping me company; for flowers teaching me what hard work really is about; and for flowers encompassing the passion in which my soul found a peaceful way to breathe and to “be.”

Working with flowers is far more than a job to me. They are my way of life and constant companions; they are the foundation to why I get up every day and feel happy. They are also the greatest source of human connection, giving me the beautiful opportunity to be a part of so many love stories every week.

Any challenges to getting started?

There were many challenges. For one, I started from absolutely nothing — not a dime in my bank account to attempt anything such as opening a business. I also had no clue how to even run a business. I looked into getting a small business loan and could have been granted one, but I chose not to go that route believing that I would not respect the money because I did not work for it.

Instead I got a bartending job as a second job and worked at that for six years while getting the business up and going. I left that job at the start of 2016, so this has been my first year just doing flowers. The biggest thing I am most proud of is that I did everything on my own. No help from mom and dad, no loans, not a cent taken from my divorce when I certainly could have. I wanted any possible success, whether big or small, to be simply because I worked really hard for it and not because of any handouts.

Doing everything on your own calls for many challenges to be faced. Constantly working, giving up personal time, getting out of a healthy routine, being stretched extremely thin, exhaustion, worry, etc. But starting out, none of that was strong enough to hinder me from going after something I believed I would be good at doing and that would also allow me to provide a service with a big loving, caring heart.

What is an important lesson you have learned?

Believe in yourself. Doubt is a dangerous feeling to have and can sway you from a path you should be taking. I’ve learned that it takes some belief to keep you trying every day. I have also discovered that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone else, just myself. Also, never be closed off from learning — stay humble and gracious to life’s lessons and think of those you meet along the way as teachers in disguise.

How did you end up in Longmont?

My sister has lived in Longmont for 15 years and I would visit a lot. When I knew that I wanted to move out to Colorado to take a stab at running this business, I looked everywhere between Longmont and Denver. I eventually found a small studio space in Longmont that was a perfect starting point.

What’s next for you?

The biggest thing that is next for me is attempting to make a small bohemian-inspired retail shop in the front space of our new location (which will open the week before Valentine’s Day). I’ve only done wedding/event design thus far, but I want to make use of that space and think it would be great to bring such a store to Longmont.

What’s your vision for the future of Longmont?

Growth! I love that Longmont is continually growing and expanding in what the city is offering. It has been so neat to see even in the 6 years that I have lived here. More small businesses are popping up left and right and I’m most excited that we are getting away from chain restaurants and more into small, locally owned businesses.

I also hope to get Longmont connected to some nonprofit organizations that do amazing work in third-world countries. Many of the items I plan to sell in my new shop will be sourced from such organizations around the world, but I also definitely plan to offer things made in Longmont and Colorado. I just want to provide a positive experience through my work.

Visit A Florae.