Living the Dream: I’m a Florist
Does it get any better than turning beautiful bouquets into a full-time job? Here's how one woman brought her dream job to life.
Welcome to Living the Dream, a Livability.com series about people who made their big dreams a reality - and the places and communities that made it possible. Do you know someone who's carved out a unique lifestyle or business in a small town or small to mid-sized city? We're always looking for great stories. Email our editor for a chance to be featured!
Today we're talking to Christy, a florist in Fargo, ND.
Name: Christy Tehven
Occupation: Florist and owner of Love Always Floral and Events
Location: Fargo, ND
What about flowers speaks to you?
It’s the messages behind them. Whether it’s a delivery because you beat cancer, or a funeral arrangement for a loved one, or congratulations on a new baby, or a delivery for an anniversary, there are so many awesome moments of joy and love that we get to be part of.
Making people happy sounds really fun.
One of our delivery drivers got to deliver an arrangement to a grandmother from her grandson. The delivery driver had to clear off the table to place the flowers there, then she had to read her the card because she couldn’t quite see very well. The grandma started crying and just loved it so much. Then the driver ended up taking out her trash for her because she couldn’t lift it. I think moments like that are so cool to be a part of.
Like, when you hand a bride her bouquet, the bride tears up and then the mom tears up and they’re hugging, and then they’re hugging you! You feel almost part of their family. I cry all the time at this job from moments where you get to hear someone’s joy or feel their pain or be a part of a big event. Then you know you’re in the right space.
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Did you always know floral design was the right space for you?
I double-majored in PR and business marketing at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, and at 24 I started doing corporate events for a retailer—store grand openings, press events, groundbreakings. It gave me a ton of experience, but after three years of working 55- or 60-hour weeks, I got really burned out. When an ad agency recruited me I took the job, and once I had a little more free time I started to work Thursdays and Fridays at a floral design shop after my full-time job, doing bouquets and designs there. I really fell in love with it and would look forward to doing it.
How did that turn into a business idea?
When that florist decided to sell her company, I made an offer, but our prices were on opposite ends of the spectrum. I walked away from that but couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to do something different. In November 2015 I took three days off work, went to a cabin in Minnesota, and worked through Danielle LaPorte’s Fire Starter Sessions [a self-help guide about “creating success on your own terms”]. It was really within those three days that I realized I had to try and see if I could make it work and start my own business. At 9 o’clock on Monday morning I went back and told my boss I was leaving. It was one of those “rip the Band-Aid off” moments. Luckily she cheered me on and buys flowers from us today.
Was your family just as supportive?
My husband Greg was my biggest cheerleader by far. The whole time we were looking at buying the other floral business, he was like, “Why not start your own instead of paying for someone else’s?” He’s the executive director of Emerging Prairie, which is a nonprofit that helps build the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo. Tech is their main focus, but Emerging Prairie does a good job supporting new entrepreneurs who are non-tech.
What was your approach to starting a business from scratch in Fargo?
That first year we worked out of my house, which let us build some cash without having a lot of overhead. Greg was overly patient; there were leaves and flowers everywhere in our house that summer. But I was lucky enough to start the business without taking a loan out. That’s been really helpful with getting a minimum viable product out and doing it without a lot of frills. We’re still working on getting a logoed delivery van.
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You worked with other local entrepreneurs too, right?
I did partnerships right away. I partnered with a downtown wedding shop called Your Day by Nicole, and they’re wonderful. I also partnered with White House Co., a retail shop that also does vintage rentals; they’ve been a huge supporter and a massive creative driver. We styled shoots to get our name out there and show people what we could do. We put together a fake wedding scene and got tons of photos from it; that helped to get my website going.
"A lot of my first customers were entrepreneurs. They inherently know how hard it is, and that any sale that comes in during that early time is so uplifting."
It sounds like Fargo’s entrepreneurs really support each other and want new businesses to get off the ground.
Absolutely. I know I’ve changed my philosophy as a consumer on how I buy products based on what I’ve gone through. Where I buy my clothes or where I buy my birthday gifts is through local retailers, because I know how important that is for businesses to survive. I think other entrepreneurs in town get that.
A lot of my first customers were entrepreneurs. They inherently know how hard it is, and that any sale that comes in during that early time is so uplifting.
Are you from Fargo originally?
I grew up in Langdon, ND, a small town just 15 miles south of the Canadian border. I ended up going to school in Moorhead, MN, just across the river from Fargo, and I’ve stayed ever since. I always thought I’d be the girl that went away to Minneapolis or flew to California, but I loved my friends and family and my job, and I was really happy here and didn’t feel the need for a change. I’ve call Fargo-Moorhead home since 2006.
What do you love about living in Fargo?
I just love the heart of our city, the kindness that is shown towards others. Starting a business, you never really know how people are going to show up and support you. When I asked for customers and asked for people to help support me, they totally did, no questions asked. We’re right next to Twenty Below Coffee downtown. In the morning I can go in and get a coffee (my favorite chai latte in all the land), and I know them all by name, and they ask how things are going.
The hearts of the people here are really genuine. They want the best for you, not like, “I hope this person doesn’t make it.”
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What’s your typical day like?
Today we’re going to do a couple centerpieces for an event this afternoon, then we have some bridesmaid bouquets to do, since we have three weddings going on this weekend. We have some bride meetings to prep for as well. We do lots of wedding things: bouquets, boutonnieres, arbors, centerpieces, all those things.
During wedding season, on Saturdays my mom watches our 6-month old daughter Harper for me while my team meets at the shop anytime between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. We usually have groups of two people working together; we get them loaded up and they head off to weddings for setups. They come back anywhere around noon or 2 and we finish up.
Then I try to catch Greg and Harper or my mom at the farmers’ market. Saturdays are a little intense for us because Greg and I usually work, but on Sunday we walk downtown—we live five minutes away—and go to BernBaum’s for brunch. I get their egg bake, and they have an orange roll that’s really good. We’ll grab a coffee, stroll down to Island Park, and have a slow morning and just hang out and catch up and try to spend some time together as a family.
How do you get it all done?
We have a team of seven, and we’re looking to hire two more people, so soon we’ll be up to nine. The culture and the team we built, I’m really proud of. We’re all women that really love and respect each other and cheer each other on. I’m known on my team for just saying yes to everything and then we figure it out later. So we do some really cool installs that aren’t necessarily floral-related over our mall fountains. Our mall has actually been a really wonderful partner!
Thinking of those projects on a grand scale, I’m so proud of our team for being up for anything and thinking creatively and outside the box, instead of saying “we can’t” or giving up. They’re in the mindset of, “Yeah, we can figure that out, yeah we can do it.” That’s my most proud moment, the way they work together and serve our customers.
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Does running Love Always help you feel part of the Fargo community?
Oh yeah, absolutely. We have some loyal and faithful clients that we’ve done their corporate events, their proposal arrangements, their father’s funeral bouquet, their son’s baby shower. You’re a part of their family events. Then when you see them on the street it’s fun to catch up and see how the new baby is doing or how the wedding planning is going. And our downtown community has been so wonderful at supporting us and welcoming us.
The excitement is growing but I also think our confidence is growing. I just love our city and I love the people that are in our community. It’s just a special place to live and raise a family. I couldn’t imagine rooting a company in love and joy anywhere else but Fargo. It’s wonderful.