Planting Seeds Of Hope For A Brighter Tomorrow
Article Michelle Guerrero | Photography Provided
Hope blooms in the heart of Judy Taylor, the owner of Designing Women of Arizona, a thriving floral and event business in Chandler. She is preparing to open the doors to her floral school that will hold its first session this fall. According to Taylor’s research, it’s the only nonprofit floral school in the state. There are shops that teach floral design, but not the floral business.
Taylor added a few special twists to her business plan. She’ll teach her students much more than flower arranging: she has a full curriculum that delves into all aspects of the floral business, including management, marketing, retail, buying and horticulture. And although her school is open to anyone interested in a career in the floral industry, she will provide scholarships to survivors of domestic violence, military veterans and the homeless.
“Victims of domestic violence can find lodging for four months, but if they don’t have a job at the end of four months, they are going to end up in the same situation. If they don’t have a job, where’s their money going to come from?” says Taylor.
Taylor was inspired to open the school for several reasons. One is because she wants to bring back quality into the flower industry, after witnessing an overall decline through the years. But more importantly, she felt it was her time to give back. She sold two full bridal shops and three successful floral shops in California, then moved to Arizona with her 20 years of experience. She opened the Chandler shop in 2003. Taylor feels very fortunate for her accomplishments and wants to share that good feeling with others.
“God’s been good to me over the years. I’m the girl from the wrong side of the track and they didn’t expect me to go anywhere after high school. I like to share with young people that there is life after high school,” says Taylor.
The floral school includes a retail front and students will have the opportunity to work in the store and on events to gain real world experience. It’s important to Taylor that her students have every opportunity to find a career in this field. She has even collaborated with other local businesses about partnering with her to help students find jobs after they have gone through her five-month training program. The students will need to get the jobs on their own steam, but she can help open doors.
“You don’t have to be a floral artist, there are many jobs in the industry from owner, buyer, manager, importer, wholesaler, etcetera, and by working the retail side, students will also learn to have good healthy interaction with people. When you give a person flowers you can see the smile on their face. It just lightens up everything,” says Taylor.
She recognizes that it’s not all about being a designer. Maybe someone has the skill set to manage a floral shop or nursery. Students will learn everything about this trade from the ground up.
Classes are to be held Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The school provides students with all the supplies they need, including knives, scissors, a caddy, vases and two shirts per person. They will also receive a binder with educational materials, as well as real and silk flowers to hone their flower arranging skills. There will be between ten to 20 students to a class and students will rotate work stations so they get the opportunity to pair up with different classmates. This is all part of the design, to teach students to work with different personalities and styles.
Currently, they are fundraising for scholarships, and seeking qualified board members. They are also accepting donated vases and silk flowers for students to use. The five-month program costs $1500, which, according to Taylor’s research, is extremely affordable for the education offered. She does expect scholarship students to be responsible for $500 of the tuition, but is comfortable splitting that amount into payments.
There are so many reasons Taylor is passionate about flowers. She sees flowers as a way to bring joy to both her clients and students.
“We want everyone to be a part of the flower delivery process because people are so happy when they get them, they will even hug and kiss you, and possibly give gratuity,” says Taylor. “Flowers are peaceful, make people happy and help alleviate depression. They are always a positive thing, and they don’t intimidate. It’s amazing what they can do for someone,” says Taylor.
Taylor has a great “can do” attitude. The day I called, she was swamped with a rush order of 10 arrangements for a patient at Scottsdale North. The giver wanted to make sure this friend, who’s battling cancer, was surrounded by flowers when she woke. They were also preparing for a Saturday event, and towards the end of the day they received a call from a parent anxious to get a couple of corsages for a father/daughter school dance.
“I can’t resist the kids. They came all the way from Maricopa for the corsages and still tried to tip us. We said no, but they insisted in donating it to the school,” says Taylor. “We try to do our best no matter what.”
Taylor hopes to do much more than educate her students. She wants to do more than help them find a job. She wants to plant seeds of inspiration and hope in the hearts of her students so that they can grow strong roots, find joy in a job well done and learn to bask in the sun when it’s time to bloom.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
Learn more about Designing Women of Arizona Floral School at DesigningWomenOfAZ.com or find them on Facebook at Designing Women of Arizona.
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