Oh my goodness! What a night! It was quite a surprise when my husband walked out onto the stage at the Cirque de Soiree Annual Recognition Banquet at the Great Lakes Floral Expo! It actually took me a few paragraphs until I realized what in the world was going on. This was my face…
My handsome husband was in Grand Rapids, MI…. But he was supposed to be at home with our 2 year old son, Cooper! But he was up on stage and telling the story of my career! Cue the tears…. Please check out his amazing speech below!
I’m honored to be the presenter of the Certified Florist of the Year Award for 2017. You might be asking what qualifications I have to be the presenter, and the answer is, I have none, but the reason I’m up here will soon be revealed.
This year’s winner got her start in Sylvania, OH around 1995. During this time, our recipient happened to be in the fifth grade and she and a group of friends started their very own bead business. Designs ranged from bracelets, to necklaces, to…. Well that’s pretty much it but you get the point. This year’s winner was such a savvy business owner that she wouldn’t even allow her partners to spend their earnings on ice cream. I’m going to assume that she instead suggested that they should invest their money into retirement savings, to which Emily and Rachel probably replied, “What’s a four-oh-wonk?”
Once the bead business fizzled out, our winner moved on to typical teenage jobs like babysitting, taking care of a family friend’s horse, Central Tennis Club, and Subway. The last job continues to put a strain on her marriage since she can no longer stand the smell of that eating establishment. During her high school years, our award winner would spend some spare time around the major flower holidays working at Schramm’s Flowers and Gifts in Toledo, Ohio, which was owned by her best friend’s parents. Perhaps it was at this time that she was bitten by the flower bug and she and her friend decided to enroll in a floral design class at her high school. There must have been some type of bait-and-switch scheme going on at the time because the floral design class turned into general horticulture without them knowing. Our recipient and her friend Emily were known as the intelligent, well-behaved students who would study and get their work done. This quickly put them into the good graces of Mr. Fredrick, which allowed them such perks as leaving school to go get Burger King breakfast croissant-wiches.
Her love for floral design continued on to Ohio State University, but since there wasn’t a major that matched exactly what she wanted to do, she decided to get her Agricultural Education degree. Our recipient never quite fit in with the agriculture crowd, and it has been reported that she asked questions in class like, “Why do we want to dry our corn out in silos? I like mine nice and juicy when I eat it?” which I’m sure caused eye rolls and shoulder shrugs from her fellow classmates who wore faded jeans and Carhartt shirts to class.
Her degree landed her a horticulture teaching job at her alma mater, Southview High School in Sylvania in 2006. She worked there for two years with her former teacher, Mr. Fredrick, before switching to the Natural Science and Technology Center in the Toledo Public School system. While there, she dreamed of bigger and better things for herself. Teaching was great, but it wasn’t a passion. She dreamed of opening her own flower shop and rediscovering her entrepreneurial roots that started to grow way back in the fifth grade.
The dream of a stand-alone flower shop was still out of reach at this point, so it all began on a very small scale with a wedding floral business out of her house. She would meet with brides at local Panera’s, carrying pictures, books, and a laptop as her only evidence to prove to brides how talented she was. Now, getting a bride to book was the easy part. She needed to figure out how to get the flowers since wholesale houses wouldn’t deliver to residential addresses. The solution was found when a saleswoman at Mayesh Wholesale Florist in Detroit, who lived in Toledo, volunteered to bring the necessary flowers home with her. The flowers would be picked up, brought back to the house, and turned into beautiful bouquets and centerpieces that wowed her brides. Of course, there were snags to this system. We can probably all relate to a time when the lilies wouldn’t open… am I right? (I use the term “we” very liberally; I’ve never been in that situation, but probably 85% of the room can relate to something along those lines.) Long story short, between the hair dryer and the direct sunlight idea, the lilies got a little, let’s say, well done.
The business continued out of the house and grew from 12 weddings in year one, to 34 in year two, to 56 in year three. All of this was happening while she maintained her teaching job at NSTC. Also during this time that she met a strapping young man that brought joy into her life and made all of her previous crushes and boyfriends fade into the past. After things didn’t work out with him, she settled with me. And I should have known that the flower life was for me, because we were actually introduced by one of her brides who happened to be a guidance counselor at the high school where I teach.
Our relationship grew and our bank accounts grew fat on a combination teaching and weekend wedding business salary. We decided to purchase the flower shop at the tail-end of 2010. It was located just off of Main Street in downtown Sylvania in what used to be an old dental supplies office. After months of tearing down walls, painting, and rewiring, Beautiful Blooms had changed from a wedding-only floral service to a full-functioning everyday flower shop by the new year. The dream was alive and kicking.
After months of trying to make teaching and running a flower shop work, our recipient decided to hang up her fashionable FFA polos, retire from teaching, and become a full-time flower boss. She was able to do this because our relationship had progressed from dating, to engagement, to “I now need insurance.” I know you guys are all probably shocked to hear that a teacher’s insurance plan is a little better and a little cheaper than a small business owner. I know right? Don’t feel bad for me, once you see her up here, you’ll see why I’m totally OK with being used for my body and my insurance coverage.
It’s now been 6 years as a fully functioning flower shop and I see my wife’s creativity, drive, and need for more space grow more and more every day. The flower shop finished last year with 125 weddings and five-and-a-half employees. I can only assume that her assistant Colleen was trying to take a jab at me with the “half” of an employee comment. If you must know, my job as the self-appointed vice president includes gutter cleaning, maintenance of the 2 x 10 foot patch of grass in front of the shop, delivery driving when she’s desperate, and holding the cooler door open for our two-year-old son while he smells the flowers.
The saying goes that a new small business is not supposed to make money for the first two-three years; well whoever came up with that doesn’t know my wife. She not only runs a successful flower shop, she participates in the Downtown Sylvania Association, is an extremely active member in her local BNI, and basically does everything in our family that I am not capable of, which is basically everything.
So without further ado, I present to you the winner of the 2017 Certified Florist of the Year; my wife, Jen Linehan of Beautiful Blooms by Jen.
What an amazing surprise and honor! I love being a part of a great organization like the Michigan Floral Association and man am I lucky to have such a supportive and talented husband! The work that I do would not be possible without him!
And thank you to my awesome staff who kept this a secret because it was such a great surprise, and work so hard because I couldn’t be where I am today without them either!