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Conversations with Laura Dooley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Dooley.

Hi Laura, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
LoKey Designs started in January 2016 out of my desire for low-maintenance plants to use as home decor in my own home. I loved having fresh-cut flowers around my home but wanted something longer lasting but also something I could set up high on a shelf, away from my plant-eating cats. I started with a few different plants, potting them up and sharing photos with friends. Interest in what I was doing grew quickly and I was asked by friends if I could teach them how to plant and care for low maintenance plant arrangements. I taught some classes to friends in my home, which lead to teaching classes publicly at local shops and soon turned into retail opportunities selling my made arrangements. It all happened so quickly, transforming my small home project into a business in the course of a month.

I worked my little business on nights and weekends alongside a full-time marketing job. I was also growing my family at the same time. By the time LoKey Designs was 2.5 years old, I was laid off from my full-time job, headed into maternity leave with my second child. I was at a crossroad in life. I could take on another full-time job with stability and a predictable schedule. Or I could take a chance on myself and go full time into my small business. I thought, if not now, when? And if it works out, it meant spending more time with my kids while growing my business.

Now, 5.5 years into my business, I am so grateful I took that leap. I believed in myself and what my business could grow into. I have my own studio in the Shaw Neighborhood in St. Louis Louis where I have weekly hours for clients to come shop, I take appointments to work with clients on plant projects and even host events in the space. It’s truly my dream job. I’m so grateful.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road to discovering LoKey Designs has been long and meandering. People often ask if I went to school for botany or horticulture. I quickly say no. This isn’t at all what I imagined I would be doing. I went to school for Fashion Communications. My first job out of college was with Burberry in their Americas Headquarters in New York. I was Internal Communications Coordinator for Burberry Americas and on the Special Events Team. My dream back then, in 2010 was to work in NY for a few years and then move to London where I could work at the world headquarters. I had it all planned.

Unfortunately, working in New York in the fashion industry ended up being a lot like The Devil Wears Prada. My boss bullied me and diminished all my confidence and squashed the dreams I had for working with the company. I ended up leaving New York, moved back home to Wentzville, MO and got another job in fashion. I was working desperately to find myself again and build back up my confidence. I had a few jobs in accessories manufacturing. I enjoyed what I was doing but always felt like something was missing. I left my job in fashion and started working for an online company in marketing.

It was the stability I needed at the time. I felt secure enough to start my little family but the day-to-day job was really unfulfilling for me. I deeply craved creativity as my 8 hours a day, five days a week were spent staring at a screen. When I would get home at night, I would dive into hands-on, creative projects. I couldn’t get enough. I felt so inspired when I started working on my little projects in my make shift basement workspace.

Soon, I started working with plant starts I got from my Aunt Barb. Little by little, I added more plant projects and turned my workspace into what I lovingly called my basement plant lair. This is where I hosted my first classes with friends. This is where LoKey Designs grew and ran out of until I moved into my solo studio in June 2020.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
In my work with LoKey Designs, I want to help bridge the gap of plant love and plant care. When my clients come to me, they will know about the plants they are getting and will be consulted on the proper care before they take their new plant babies home. I offer low-maintenance plants as home decor for clients in their own homes, offices or to give as gifts.

At my studio in the Shaw Neighborhood in St. Louis, MO, I offer an array of plants, pots and plant-related items. I offer plant consultations where I can work with clients on care for their existing plants. I also offer consultations helping clients to find the right plants for their own home, working with their particular light and environment, plant styling if you will.

I also work on a lot of custom order arrangements, offer plants for special events and also can host planting events in my studio.

When clients walk into my studio, they are immersed in plants from floor to ceiling. It’s an inspiring space. But if I don’t have something they are looking for, I work with clients to special order as well.

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
The plant love, even though I am not professionally trained or specifically educated in horticulture or botany, it’s been in my family for generations. My great-grandma was the president of the African violet club, my grandparents owned a nursery, my uncle was a horticulturalist and also owned a nursery and many of my aunts, uncles and my parents have sprawling yards with gardens and greenhouses that I grew up around. There is something so magical about plants. I am so honored to share it in my work. I’m grateful this is what I get to do.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Headshot photographer: Joan Fisher

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