Honeysuckle Hollow, LLC

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Birthday Flowers - A Photoshoot

Photography, Shop, SpringSummer Amman1 Comment

Our friend Sarah (of Sarah Ann Photography) stopped into our shop during the April Open House, which happened to be her birthday! Her sweet husband surprised her with a birthday bouquet, and they picked up some coordinating goodies. Below is the lovely outcome of her creative styling. (I actually gasped when I saw these gorgeous photos by Sarah.) We love the incredible lighting and dark backdrop, which makes the arrangement look like a Dutch Masters painting! We are so happy to know and get to work with such an amazing artist!

Valentine's Day 2017 | Team Honeysuckle Hollow

Shop, Family, HolidaysMercedes IvenerComment

The old adage “many hands make light work” comes to mind when looking back on our Valentine’s Day this year. They certainly helped to lighten the load and bring merriment into a floral holiday that can be overwhelming and exhausting. There were so many helping hands this year and so many great things about Valentine’s Day 2017 at Honeysuckle Hollow that I just had to put them in a quick post. 

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Shop Improvements

The three weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day this year were like a whirlwind. Amidst my ordering craze to find the best flowers in the world (literally, I bought from the Amsterdam worldwide flower market, among a variety of other places), we decided that some improvements to the shop were absolutely imperative. Dearest Vanessa was handed the task of figuring out how to get a walk-in cooler installed, my design room improved with better storage and raised up designing tables (to help all of our necks), along with building a new checkout counter to better serve our customers’ check out process. This was no small task, and in a very short amount of time, she had orchestrated and accomplished everything! I am not sure she slept much, and her house was turned into a wood workshop, but somehow she got it all done just days before the flowers began arriving! It was incredible how much these changes helped streamline our process when the flowers started pouring in. There was no way that the amount of flowers I ordered would have come close to fitting in our old display cooler, so it was undoubtedly a necessary piece in the growth of our little shop. We are now WAY more equipped to handle large events. The shelves she put into my cooler are the absolute best because once all the flowers are put into buckets on the risers, it feels like I am shopping at a flower market each time I step in to pick out flowers to design with. Pinch me! The organization, utility, and beauty of it made me keep wondering how I ever lived without these additions. All of the new cabinets in my work area have given everything a “home”, plus they were green when we found them on Craigslist, and let’s face it, I love green (much to my staff’s dismay sometimes!).  All in all, the shop felt like a whole new place, and I kept gleefully working long into the night with a smile on my face. 

Many Hands Make Light Work

Not only did we have Vanessa and Summer helping at the shop this year, but we had all sorts of family and friends lend a hand. My son Cale was terribly sick during all of this, so he spent days sleeping on the floor while we worked away (thank goodness for a job where I can bring my kids to work with me when I have to!).  And of course, I thank those who pitched in to babysit Cale so he could rest at home too. My daughter, Everly, as always was a huge help with everything from checkout to cleaning up the shop at the end of our open houses when I’m too tired to lug all the buckets and arrangements back into the cooler. Having Everly working with me is such a help with her efficiency, keen interest in the business of it all (always calculating sales throughout the day and evaluating expenses and profit), and her willingness to wake up at the crack of dawn and come to the shop on our open house days with her hair done, nails painted, and car packed up for me. Hopefully she will use these tools in her life as she learns about running a business, working in a family shop, the value of hard work, following your passions, handling customers, creative endeavors, floristry and so much more. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, Summer was, as usual, busy working behind the scenes – designing marketing materials, publishing blogs and newsletters, and designing flowers, as well as setting up our shop so it always looks beautiful. Everly, Vanessa, and Summer are incredibly proficient at running the shop for me so that I can create beauty and talk with my dear customers when they come in. I am incredibly fortunate for all of these ladies! 

I even had some friends from town come in on various days to help process flowers and do various other tasks around the shop.  One day the talented flower farmer-florist, Alissa, from Alissa’s Flower Farm in Hull, Iowa come down to design with me in order to get a start on the MANY, MANY flower arrangements that we created. As always, it was a pleasure working with her, and I’m fortunate for her willingness to help fill in during the winter months when I need an extra hand. 

Then, the big fun this year, was that my Mom and Dad agreed to travel 16 hours from their home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming to help out at the shop. They arrived early and helped to cook, clean, and take care of my household (of course along with my sweet Hubby) while I was working at the shop processing and designing flowers in the week before Valentine’s Day.  We were open at the shop 3 full days this year for Valentine’s Day so that we might best serve the community in this busy floral holiday (as opposed to our usual one day per month that we open shop to the public). I was ever so glad to have all the extra hands because it was BUSY! Word must be getting out about our little flower shop because we did a LOT of business in the three days we were open. It took My Mom, my daughter, and Vanessa to take care of check out and packaging. Summer was in the back with the flowers helping customers with me, and then on Valentine’s Day we had my Dad, Vanessa, and my dear mother-in-law running deliveries for most of the day. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without all of you! The best part was, it was fun. Yes, it was busy, but with so many people that I love involved in the adventure, it was truly a pleasure to create and deliver beauty to the community. I was able to focus on the art of floral design while everyone helped to run the shop and take care of our customers. I have a variety of things I can improve upon for next year, as always, but overall this was our very best Valentine’s Days to date. For this, I thank everyone who helped out and, of course, everyone who bought flowers from us this year! 

We even had television station show up to do a segment on our shop. That, combined with our article in the Siouxland Life publication, seemed to help business for sure. That and social media. Thankfully, Facebook and Instagram posts keep spreading the word about the type of natural beauty that we create and the fascinating and beautiful flowers we use. All of this seems to be working to bring customers in our door! My gratitude for the growth of this business is immense. 

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Lastly, I would like to thank dearest Sheila, of Blooms Floral in Omaha, Nebraska who is kind enough to provide occasional advice to me (as she has been in business for at least 15 years). When we were talking just before Valentine’s Day, she reminded me to have fun and to serve my community. So many florists get caught up in dreading Valentine’s Day with its achingly long hours of work, but she said simply to enjoy it. Enjoy all the flowers you get to order. Enjoy working late by ordering food and making it fun for your helpers. Enjoy the creative process. Enjoy bringing beauty to your customers and to those they love through flowers. Enjoy the simple act of sending messages of love through flowers. I honestly think those insights were what helped to make this holiday what it was - a joy. Thank you for reminding me of all of this, Sheila, at just the right time.

After everything was over, I did enjoy a weekend away with my husband in the wide-open abyss of the prairie in the Sandhills of Nebraska, camping and riding horses all day in the unseasonably warm, sunny weather. During these two days away (thanks to my in-laws who watched my kids) I had time to catch up with my Hubby, sleep for endless hours, enjoy the outdoors, be with my pets, and truly rest. It was most rejuvenating, and I returned ready to get back to the shop and my family. It is amazing how little time it truly takes to recuperate if just given the time and space to do so. For me it requires the wilds of nature, a loved companion, and lots of sleep!

And now with Valentine’s Day over, I am headlong into wedding season. I am doing consultations for new brides, proposals for weddings, last minute meetings with brides to discuss final details, ordering, sourcing beautiful hard goods and ribbons and the like….that is the fun part about being a florist. There is never a dull moment. 

New Years Resolutions

Beginnings, Design, Family, ShopMercedes Ivener3 Comments

I’m big on New Year’s Resolutions. For me it’s the perfect time to set goals for the upcoming year. I always make two sets: one for my personal life and one for my business. My Mom used to be a firm believer in writing down your goals and putting them somewhere you could see them every day. She used to cut out pictures and put them on her desk. They might be photos or words representing an idea, or item, that she wanted or wanted to create in her life. Sometimes she cut out pictures and put them on a poster board. I didn’t pay much attention to this, but over time, I realized that a good deal of her pictures and words from her poster board really did pass into our lives. I think sometimes it is as simple as just defining what you want so you can begin consciously and unconsciously taking steps towards that goal. 

Honeysuckle Hollow started with a New Year’s resolution.  

Well, this flower journey actually started much earlier. I digress. I was in love with flowers when I was born I think. At least I know I was by the time I can remember. I had a small vase collection at a very young age and spent my time gleefully amidst the gardens of my mother, grandmothers, and aunts. I was always the one insisting on cutting the flowers and bringing them inside to be arranged and enjoyed up close. I wanted to look at them, inspect them, smell them, and do it all again and again as I went about the house. I wanted them all over our house. I can honestly remember how cheery they made a bathroom feel or how I could smell them by my bed in the night. My mother is a master gardener, and we always had gardens at every home we lived in, or my mother would create one. I come from a long line of gardeners, and flowers are in my blood.

 My mom working in one of her many gardens.

My mom working in one of her many gardens.

 My childhood vase collection.

My childhood vase collection.

I worked at garden nurseries when I was in college and in a small florist in the mountains one winter. I had always wanted to be a florist, but when I actually worked there, I found that it wasn’t as inspiring as I had imagined. We got nearly the same flowers in every week, and they weren’t very beautiful (with a few exceptions). They were just the plain ones you might expect: roses, daisies, carnations, iris, and a tulip or two. I found it hard to be as creative as I was when I made arrangements out of my gardens. And so, I decided that maybe being a florist wasn’t for me. I continued on and graduated with a business degree. I went on to law school because I love the English language. I actually love deciphering meanings out of words and researching (and nerdy things like that). What I hadn’t considered was that I do not love conflict. After 14 years of being a lawyer and representing children who had been abused and neglected and fighting on their behalf, I began to search out creative projects more and more. I spent more time with my horses, in my gardens, cooking up elaborate meals, knitting, reading, and dabbling in watercolor. I needed the process of creating things, of creating beauty…it kept me going. I included my kids in these pursuits, and we had a grand time. 

 Watercoloring.

Watercoloring.

 A fairy garden my kids and I made.

A fairy garden my kids and I made.

Inspiration Came Along

Sometime in 2013 I was reading Victoria Magazine, as I always do since my grandmother and mother have been subscribers for years. There are always feature stories about women entrepreneurs and their creative endeavors. I had an epiphany. I wanted to be one of those ladies. I wanted more creativity in my life. I wanted to have at least a side job that I loved and that was artistic and filled with beauty. In January of 2014 I actually made a secret New Year’s resolution. It was simply “ to do something creative for pay”. I wrote it down and stuck it in my wallet. My goal had been set. I had no idea what I would do…maybe some type of cottage craft that I would sell on Etsy or something.

Then we had a long, cold, dreary patch of days as we often do in our Midwest winters. I craved flowers in my house. I went to the grocery store, and I could not find one single flower that looked beautiful in the way I remember my flowers in the garden looking beautiful. Many of them were dyed. I became a bit crazed at finding a flower that made me swoon like they used to. I went online and found some bright, cheery, and very fragrant narcissus (little daffodils) from a West Coast retailer (on a referral from an article I read about seasonal flowers). I thought they were just what I needed to cheer up my kitchen table. Now, normally, I would have just ordered some for myself and that would have been that. But for whatever reason, I decided to fly in extra and call up some friends to see if they would like to buy some for their homes. They did. They were as starved for living beauty at this time of year as I was. I decided I would do it every month. I would find flower growers with special, seasonal flowers and then buy them and set them out on my kitchen table and invite friends to stop in and buy some.

 Narcissus: The first flower I ordered!

Narcissus: The first flower I ordered!

I found that I had to get a wholesale license to buy from some farms; so I did. I had to come up with a name, so I called it Honeysuckle Hollow because that was the name of my farm. We had wild honeysuckle growing all over the woods, and I had named our farm that when I moved in. I told my husband that I was going to have this little side business. Yes, it was going to be my little creative endeavor to bring beauty into my life. My resolution came to fruition in less than 60 days from the time I wrote it on a piece of paper. 

 Wild honeysuckle on my farm.

Wild honeysuckle on my farm.

The Start of Our Monthly Flower Sales

I sent out little invitations for my monthly flower sales to friends.  They came and brought a few of their friends. It was such fun. Here are a few pictures of the flowers I sold out of my little cabin on our farm.

One month I was reading my favorite flower book “Bringing Nature Home: Floral Arrangements Inspired by Nature” by Ngoc Minh Ngo and Nicolette Owen. I noticed a fun flower tutorial in the back about creating an arrangement in a newer, more natural style of arrangement than I had been exposed to.  At my next sale, I followed the design tutorial and created a unique arrangement out of the flowers I had brought in that month. I put it out for display at my sale. Everyone asked about it. I didn’t sell it because I said it was just display but I quickly realized that people didn’t know what to do with all the single flowers sitting on my kitchen table. They wanted them arranged, and they were intrigued by this unique, natural style of arrangement. I decided to do more arrangements in the future. I began looking at every article and book I could find about this new “garden style” of arranging.  

By now, it was Mother’s day of 2014. I ordered in a bunch of flowers, including a LOT of incredible coral peonies. In fact, I had coral peonies in every room in our house it seemed. My husband and kids had to wear sweaters because I had turned down the heat to keep the flowers fresh. They couldn’t even get into their dresser drawers to get out clothes because there were buckets all over! That Mother’s Day, my then-nanny Vanessa, who most of our customers know, and I set out loose flowers as always to make it like a European flower market, but I also made up quite a few arrangements. Lots of people came up my bumpy dirt driveway to buy special my special flowers. Those coral peonies blew them away. Most people had never seen them before. Honestly, those peonies jump-started my business. Word of them carried through town. In reality, it was not me who made waves, it was those incredibly gorgeous, huge flowers that stole the show. I saw how much people desired different flowers. Flowers and arrangements that were wilder, more natural, more romantic, more fragrant, and WAY more inspiring. I have had friends tell me they actually teared up when they brought some of the flowers home. I told them that I have done the same. Sometimes real beauty can well up inside of us. It feeds the soul, they say. 

So, this is what had come from that one little, simple yet monumental new year’s resolution…a little business that was filling our community with beauty.

My journey from there was a roller coaster. I quit for a bit because it all became too overwhelming and I wasn’t sure I should be neglecting my “career” as a lawyer to do this “frivolous” pursuit. I went back to law full time for a while, but I realized that I could not put the genie back in the bottle. I had been part of a business that was based on passion and creativity and beauty. Closing it for those brief months had felt like a loss. I mourned it. I started buying a few flowers for people who called and did a few small events because my phone kept ringing. I attended one of the life-changing Floret Flower Farm design workshops and before I knew it, I had run headlong into the business again.

Recommitting to the Goal

We had a family discussion and decided that I would go back to doing my once a month flower sales and continue with law. I opened a shop in a retail location for Valentine’s Day in 2015. It was thrilling to have made the jump for real this time. There was no turning back. We decorated the shop, ordered in a ton of flowers and that was that. 

I continued doing flowers part time and practicing law part time. It was wonderful, but far too busy and chaotic. I would practice law in the day, spend the evenings with my family and then run to the shop during the night to arrange flowers. Again, I ran into a wall. This was not working either. I had to make a choice. One or the other.  After many hours of serious discussion and thought and tears, I chose flowers. I took a huge leap and crossed into a new chapter of life. I have to extend a HUGE thank you to my supportive, generous husband who is the reason I was able to do this. I jumped into a new business totally unlike what I had been doing for the past 14 years. It was terrifying, and yet it felt right. It felt like what I had always been meant to do. Really, it did. It was as if I was truly myself for the first time in ages.  Who knows what the future will bring, so I of course maintain my law license as I am a lawyer and always have that to fall back on. Education is great that way. It is never a waste but instead a building block and no one can ever take it away. The interesting thing is that I don’t miss law. I don’t miss all the conflict, and I don’t even feel like a lawyer anymore. I feel like a floral designer. After doing flowers exclusively for a year and a half, it has become my new career. Aren’t we entitled to have more than one career in a lifetime? I’m inclined to say yes. 

Where We Are Now

Honeysuckle Hollow now is primarily an event florist (meaning we specialize in all types of events from weddings to corporate parties to private dinner parties and everything in between) but we also open up for one retail day to the public every month. These open houses are a wonderful way to showcase and sell our unique flowers and nature-inspired floral designs to the public. We bring something different in every month to keep flowers exciting.  Bringing beauty to our community is a wonderful pursuit, and I have met so many new people that I can hardly believe it! I have lived here for the past 20 years, but it has been flowers that have truly connected me with this community. My kids help out at the shop and on my adventures foraging flowers and greenery, and sometimes in the garden too. My husband has to help out with the kids a lot more during evenings and weekends when I am at the shop due to events, but we have adjusted to that as well. It has been a wild few years but I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything!

And with all of that said, it is January again and time to set new resolutions. Resolutions. That was where this blog started, wasn’t it?  Look what happened with one simple resolution. Incredible. 

With the power of resolutions in mind, I just finished a major goal setting/resolution-making meeting with Summer. We set down some very grand and some itty bitty resolutions for our shop this year. We are typing them up now and will pin them on the wall in our design room at the shop so we have to see them often. We are now working on the action steps to help us get to these goals. Frankly, it’s a bit daunting and scary. I look at these resolutions and wonder how they can ever come true, but that little twinkle of hope sparkles out there. Reminding myself today of what we have done already helps me believe that Honeysuckle Hollow can become all that we hope. 

I am thankful that my Mom still prods us each year to write down our resolutions and that she has always given us the courage to believe they can be accomplished.  I am also inspired by my husband, who sets the loftiest and grandest goals of anyone I know and achieves them! He has an incredibly huge one he just put out there into the world this year, and I laughed. Then I thought better of that. It’s possible after all, and so I remind him of it often and continue to throw it out to the universe. Who knows, maybe one day I will look back and remember that this was the year we imagined it. 

Here’s to 2017!!!

As for you, do you set resolutions each year? Have any of them changed your life? I’d love to know!