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Rising Stars: Meet Kelsey Herschel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelsey Herschel.

Hi Kelsey, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Back in January of 2021, I was laid off from yet another corporate sales job due to COVID. I called my mom in tears, as I had numerous times before, and expressed my continued feelings of being lost. I’d struggled to pinpoint a fulfilling profession post-grad, and couldn’t shake the immense generational pressure of finding instant success in a corporate career, along with a high salary. If I was expected to spend a great majority of my week, every week, for the next 30-45 years working, it only made sense to me that I do something I’m passionate about. I just can’t live my life any other way. My mom understood that and always gave me grace as I rode the rollercoaster that is “figuring it out.”

My mom raised me on 12 acres in the Missouri countryside and as I grew, I spent many hours in the garden alongside her sewing seeds and tending to the flowers. On that phone call with my mom, she began throwing out ideas of creative things I could look into. She suggested I look into floristry and apply for an apprenticeship on Florist Row. When we hopped off the phone, I did exactly that, and then put the thought in the back of my mind. If it were meant to be, it would be.

A few weeks went by, and I received a voicemail inviting me to come in for the trial period. I started in early March 2021 and took to the flowers immediately—thus beginning the path that felt most “me.”

I was in design for a few months learning the basics and creating arrangements that were to look identical to their pictures. I had a hard time with this “paint-by-number” with flowers concept. It’s hard for me to stay in the box. I was moved to wholesale, where I learned the scientific and common names of every flower that came into the warehouse, as well as how to tend to them. I became friends with a few people that ran the retail cooler, and that allowed me to design. I ran the wholesale side on Saturdays, interacted with other florists, rang customer orders out, and designed when it was slow. I documented my arrangements and hoped for the day I’d design full-time again.

One Saturday late last summer, as I was designing, I was approached by a wedding florist and asked to join her team. This was great because it meant that I could observe the ins-and-outs of how a small floral business operates, while sharpening my design skill set.

Fast forward to the first weekend in October—my first solo wedding and the ticket to where I am now. I flowered for two friends that were getting married, and from there, I gained traction from the photographs posted afterwards. Work started coming in, little by little, and by December, I’d booked my second wedding and this side-gig was suddenly becoming a lot more serious.

My mom went into hospice in early February 2022, and I was able to spend her final weeks processing flowers with her for jobs I’d already committed to and daydreaming about the future of my business. If it weren’t for her suggestion on that gloomy day in January 2021, I might not be here right now. We felt the universe couldn’t help but be to blame. If she had to leave this Earth, at least she could go with the ease of knowing I’d finally found what I was meant to do—especially considering all those years and all those phone calls filled with great uncertainty on the matter. And how beautiful was it that she lead me to this discovery. My mom passed away on March 5, 2022.

In the darkest of times this spring, and simultaneously the first time I’d ever felt true purpose, a career began to bloom in the grieving. I allowed flowers to let me feel my feelings and distract me from them at the same time. My mom raised me to be myself in everything that I do, to go my own way. No two flowers are exactly alike—Grow Your Own Way Florals was founded on the belief that no two arrangements should be either. I want my pieces to have feeling & emotion, to speak to one client and one client only. To me, flowers are an art form, not a mass-production or arrange-by-numbers. In every stem I touch and everything that I create, my mom and her “dare to be different” spirit will live on.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a botanical artist. I would describe my work as bespoke designs for the non-traditionalist. I specialize in designing for weddings, events, customs, installations, and set designs. As I build my business, I am also freelancing for other designers and retailers around the city (and country) that might need an extra set of hands. I strive to be the type of creative that never stops learning and growing, with help from other creatives around me. There are always new things to learn and different, more efficient ways of going about practices—collaborating with others will only help make me a stronger designer individually.

The St. Louis flower market scene is a generally traditional one. Because of our city size and location, we often miss out on a lot of unique flower varieties that other cities have easier access to. Despite that, I strive to use stems that aren’t so popular here and put my twist on the ones that are. As I build my business, I will continue to connect with more coastal direct wholesalers and continue finding ways to get my hands on those unique, funky blooms.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Wil Driscoll
Abigail Derrick
Emily Blackford

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