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Life In Bloom – The Early Days

Last night I had the privilege of attending the Wyffels Hybrids Employee Appreciation Dinner.

Wyffels Hybrids has several employees who have worked over 20 years for the company.  A man by the name of David Strawn, a District Sales Manager, is one of those long-term employees.  Last night, he gave his retiree speech and it was very inspiring to me.  At the end of his speech he stated that, “There is no better company in seed that you can work for.  This is it.  Wyffels.  Legacy.  Values.  And the Best seed out there.”

A little back-story about Wyffels Hybrids… My father & Uncle took over the company after the untimely passing of my Grandfather (their father) and grew a company with just under a handful employees to the business that it is today with over 120 full time employees.

Their entrepreneurial ways, inspired me to follow in their footsteps even at a young age.  I also like to believe that my approach to the exceptional customer experience also stemmed from the early days of watching how they did business.

My first business ‘venture’ was selling sweet corn on the sidewalk right outside our home.  My brother and I would wake up early in the morning in the dead heat of summer, head out to the humid & sticky fields and pick as many buckets as we could, load them up into a wagon and our Dad would drive us back into town.  The rest of the day was spent selling ears of corn to passer-by’s by the dozens.  I distinctly remember one elderly couple who came by and purchased a dozen, only to later on bring it back saying they didn’t want it because it wasn’t ‘Peaches & Cream’ a bi-colored hybrid.  What they didn’t know is that this particular hybrid was actually far superiors to ‘Peaches & Cream’ and usually costs even more.  However, we let them return the corn and learned a very important lesson that day that has stuck with me ever since: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.563903_10101748178073940_929624352_n


No business would succeed without their customer base.  Just like my Dad & Uncle always placed a high priority on the customer experience, which is to this day, what sets them apart from any other seed company.  This is what I try to remember every day at Life in Bloom.

Growing up in an agriculture & entrepreneurial family I always knew in the back of my head I wanted to start my own business some day.  That being said, I had no idea it would end up being in the wedding industry.  I attended school at the University of Illinois and majored in Hortictulture.  I was planning on becoming a landscape designer, taking every single plant identification & care class that was offered.  Junior year Spring semester, I needed to fill a time slot with a few extra credits and randomly selected floral design because I thought it may be something fun.  I was HOOKED.  That Spring, I probably emailed over 50 florists in Chicago looking for an internship.  Only two people got back to me but between the two I spent more time over the summer learning the craft of floral design and soaking up every piece of knowledge that I could!  I loved it.  The event industry gave me such a rush on install day when we would set up everything that we had produced that week.  I came back to school and knew that I had a new-found passion for flowers and specifically, events.


I graduated college in 2010 right after the economy tanked and full time jobs were hard to come by.  After a series of random part time jobs, I landed a freelance design position at HMR Designs, one the more prestigious design companies in Chicago.  I learned so much while working there and while it was hard work it definitely paid off.  Winters were slow as events weren’t as steady and I wasn’t a full time employee so I ended up taking a landscape job which didn’t end well.  Long story short, 2 days after I returned from my honeymoon I was let go with one of the reasons being that I was a women and ‘women like to move back home after they have kids’ which I had no intention of doing anytime soon…

So this really pissed me off, and looking back, it was probably what pushed me over the edge to take the gamble and start Life in Bloom. The idea had been in the back of my head for a year or so and I thought, ‘well I’m already unemployed, now is as good a time as ever to take the leap.’

So 2012 was the start of Life in Bloom.  I spent all of June making a website and putting together arrangements here and there to add to my embarrassingly small portfolio.  Networking was key.  I had no idea what I was doing at first, so I tried emailing as many planners & photographers in the wedding industry as I could.  Most did not respond, but I am still so thankful for those that did, as it led to great advice and some of my first few clients.


There are a few people who stand out in my mind who really helped me get going that first year:

-First was our wedding photographer, Kina Wicks.  An amazing photographer and also a great mentor.  She offered so much advice and I’ve really enjoyed becoming friends with her over the years.

-Second was Joan Cinquegrani of Fivegrain Events who introduced me to the networking group of Thursday Therapy!  I met so many wonderful industry people through these events and still attend as frequently as I can today.

-Lastly was Kelly Cavenaugh of Clementine Custom Events.  She was the first planner I met with.  She told me that she remembered what it was like to start out and never says no when new business people wanted to meet with her.  I’m sure I was a train wreck in our meeting, as I didn’t have too much figured out about my business yet but she was so helpful and offered me so much advice and I will never forget that!

In 2013, I booked and produced 15 weddings, all from our tiny little 800SF 1-bedroom apartment.   Most weddings were produced on our outdoor porch when the weather was nice with a few produced in our tiny den, which I put an AC unit in and turned into a makeshift walk-in cooler.  My husband and Mom were my extra hands on install days.  Even my Dad came down to help with a few installs that year.

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Life in Bloom

Next came 2014; 2014 seems like such a blur.  We moved into a condo with a second bedroom and I set up shop there.  An industrial tarp from home depot and a giant U-Line wire cart were my best friends along with my high-powered window A/C unit. All vases & props were stored a few blocks away at the nearest U-haul.  That year I produced 33 weddings out of our 2nd floor condo out of an 8’x10’ room.  Don’t ask how we did it.  There were even a few weekends where I produced two weddings from our tiny condo!  Thank you Tim for putting up with boxes, tarps, buckets of flowers, bouquets in the fridge and ribbon scraps everywhere.


Living Room?! What Living Room?!IMG_2371

As 2014 came to an end I knew business was doing pretty well and I knew in order to continue growing I would need a real space to work from.  In early 2015 I moved into a shared space with Rent Vintage Chicago.  I went from about 90 square feet to 600 square feet and it was amazing!  Not only did we gain a workspace in 2015 but we also purchased a giant display cooler to keep everything fresh and also added a few freelance designers to help as the weddings started to get bigger.  2015 saw huge growth in both the number of weddings and the scale.   With a larger studio we were able to create custom backdrops & props and also produce events for 300+ guests!  We produced 39 weddings and several other corporate events in 2015 and it was our best year yet which brings me to 2016.


2016.  I am so excited to see where this year goes.  As I’ve been reflecting over the past few years and dreaming of where I want to take Life in Bloom in the future I know two things are for certain.

  1. I want to continue to bring the best possible customer service to my clients and ensure their experience is nothing short of amazing. The best marketing is a great customer experience.  Happy clients will share their experience.  Unhappy ones will do the same.
  2. I want to produce beautiful work; the best that there is. Period.

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I am so lucky to be where I am today.  It’s literally my dream job and I couldn’t imagine life any other way.  There has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears along the way but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I am so happy to have had such a great support system through it all.

To my wonderful clients:  Without you this business would be nothing.  Thanks for placing your trust in Life in Bloom on one of the most special days of your life.  It has been such an honor to work with so many loving, caring, and creative couples.

To my husband: As always, thanks for all that you do.  Without you, this business wouldn’t be what it is today.  You are my right hand man and always there for support whether that be helping me on your weekends (days off) or listening to me rant about how something went wrong.  Your unconditional support means the world and this business is yours as well.

To my parents: Thanks for always believing in me.  This goes far beyond my years as a business owner back to when I was a child.  You always let me believe that anything was possible as long as I worked hard for it.  Thanks for instilling hard work, perseverance and showing me every day what it was like to be a good person and Dad, how to treat your customers & employees.

2016 is going to be a great one, here’s a preview of what’s to come!

Bridgeport Art Center Rendering








  1. Molly says:

    You are such an inspiration, Rachel! You epitomize a quote I tell my students all the time: “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” Your work ethic, courage, and commitment to providing high quality service are evident in every step of your journey!
    So proud of you!!!

  2. Emily C says:

    Hi Rachel, I recently found your website and work. This post really resonated with me and I found it extremely inspirational, as I am looking to make a career change into floral design. In my previous life I was a scientist and currently work in scientific publications for a company. However, eventually I would like to make the switch to full time floral designer. I am wondering if you would be interested in giving private lessons in design. Besides my hobbyist passion of creating my own arrangements I don’t have any other experience, but I am so eager to learn. Your work is stunning and it seems like you understand what it’s like to just be starting out. Thank you and look forward to hearing from you!


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