A magazine photo inspired a new career
A photo in Martha Stewart Living led Kelly Perry to a career in flowers.
The former event coordinator recalls seeing a photo spread in the iconic magazine featuring images of women walking down the streets of New York with buckets of flowers, and feeling “called” to learn more. She found the florists—Nicolette Owen and Sarah Ryhanen of Little Flower School—online, and traveled to their New York studio to take a class.
“A part of me woke up,” she recalls. “I floated out of the workshop and into a taxi so excited about flowers.”
Inspired by the class, Perry traveled around the country participating in several more floral design workshops. She loved turning single stems into colorful, well-designed bouquets but had no plans to turn her passion for flowers into a full-time job.
When a car accident left Perry with near-constant headaches and a need to find a career that was more flexible than event planning, she knew flowers were the answer.
Perry launched Philosophy Flowers in 2012, designing flowers for weddings. Her portfolio ranges from bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral crowns to centerpieces, garlands, and napkin embellishments. The florist drove hither and yon to meet with growers near her Boone, North Carolina, home to source local blooms for her wedding arrangements. The ASCFG online directory proved an invaluable resource to find local growers.
“I love to know where my flowers came from and who grew them,” she explains. “Local flowers tell a story. You can feel the love in their petals!”
As her wedding business blossomed, so did the idea for a second business.
Perry wanted to provide a place where growers and designers could come together to learn from each other and share ideas; she believed a virtual gathering space would help those in the industry feel less isolated and provide the support and resources they needed to build their businesses. Team Flower launched in 2014.
“Whether we grow them or arrange them, flowers are an opportunity to build relationships and community”, she says. “Regardless of what part of the business you’re in, Team Flower is a place where we can all connect and talk about where the floral industry is headed.”
Team Flower offers resources, online classes, an annual conference, special events, and a virtual community all aimed at professional growers and designers at all stages of their businesses.
“Team Flower exists because I don’t want anyone to quit a life with flowers because they have run out of the money or strength they need to keep going”, Perry says. “For us to focus on our passions, we need a solid understanding of the business side. There are so many ways to think through revenue streams. We want to help people figure out their next steps.”
In addition to being the founder of Team Flower, Perry is also a customer. She has participated in Foundations for Growing Cut Flowers, Growing for Fall Weddings, and Growing for Spring Weddings classes to learn more about the grower side of the business.
Perry teaches design and business classes, including Principles of Design and How to Photograph Flowers but she relies on experts like Kathleen Murphy and longtime ASCFG member Linda Doan to teach the foundations of flower farming. She maintains a small cutting garden at her Boone, North Carolina, home, using techniques she learned in the classes to grow beautiful blooms.
“We don’t have a lot of space so each year I try something different,” she says.
This season, she’s experimenting with dahlias. Eventually, she hopes to have enough land to maintain test gardens for Team Flower.
In addition to maintaining a blog and libraries of articles and how-to videos on the Team Flower website, Perry launched a podcast in 2017. The episodes feature interviews with industry experts about topics ranging from branding and marketing to balancing work and family. What started as an experiment turned into a hallmark offering for Team Flower.
“Working with flowers is a solitary business,” Perry says. “The podcast is another place where we can come together.”
Like all of the Team Flower offerings, the podcast is geared toward industry professionals who want to grow their businesses.
Perry is focused on growing her business, too. Philosophy Flowers has been featured with Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, The Knot, and Southern Weddings; Team Flower has over 2,000 members in its online community from 30-plus countries—and Perry attributes the success to the fact that Team Flower is a team.
She operates both businesses in partnership with her husband, Jesse, who handles all of the high-tech, behind-the-scenes logistics that make Team Flower tick. The business also employs four additional staff that handles tasks ranging from social media and copywriting to marketing.
Perry isn’t sure what the future holds for Philosophy Flowers or Team Flower, explaining, “As an entrepreneur there are a thousand different things you could do next. Knowing which one is next is what I find challenging. With that being said, I have no idea what either of these businesses will look like in five years but I do know we’ll still be here doing what we are doing now: connecting and encouraging people.”