It isn't a secret that Mum's Flowers of Whitefish, Montana is in a league of its own.
You've probably been to a local wedding and seen their gorgeous arrangements, or made somebody's day with a market wrap bouquet.
Mum's has a unique and somewhat modern take on the centuries old flower shop idea.
Whenever I see a new species of flower, or a covet-worthy vase - chances are it's from Mum's.
Additionally, it's probably the cutest little gift shop you've ever seen.
Enjoy this behind-the-scenes interview with owner and operator, Cara.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER?
It's so hard to choose just one, it's like saying you have a favorite child. I think for a long time my favorite was the ever-evasive peony. It has such a short season but its velvety soft petals and delicate scent are unmatchable. More recently I've fallen hard for Hellebore; gardeners also call it the "winter rose." I am so intrigued by the intricate details on each stem and often unusual shapes and unexpected textures. It adds a touch of botanical whimsy to any bouquet.
HOW DID MUM'S FLOWERS START?
Mum's Flowers has actually been in business for over 50 years (I wish I had more details about its actual start date), but I purchased the business just over 6 years ago. I graduated with a degree in business at the same time the market crashed and with zero experience in the floral industry, decided to create a job for myself. Originally, I planned to rebrand and flip the business but unexpectedly fell in love with the art of floral design and quickly learned that a small business is most successful with the owner's daily involvement.
ARE YOU A SELF TAUGHT FLORIST OR DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR?
A little of both! I learned a lot from my first employee when I purchased the business and from there I continued to learn from attending various workshops every year and some great online tutorials. I've always been the type of person to say yes and figure out how to make it work later so I learned a lot by trial and error as well. But I'm a big believer in constantly refining your skills and since trends are changing so quickly, it's extremely important to constantly be stretching yourself as a designer and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Every year we are looking for new, inspiring workshops to attend as a team.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
Everywhere! We joke that our phones are filled with photos of random shops, restaurants, gardens, and instagram screen shots. My team has started a shared photo stream that we all post inspirational photos to ... some are new products we want to carry in the shop, others are beautiful bouquets by designers we admire. I religiously read Martha Stewart, Elle Decor, and Dwell but then we of course drool over anything Anthropologie, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware produces.
YOU LIKE TO INCORPORATE SOME LESSER KNOWN VARIETIES INTO YOUR ARRANGEMENTS - HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DISCOVERING NEW AND INTERESTING BOTANICALS?
We see some things on Instagram when other designers that we follow and get inspiration from post photos. But a lot of it comes from our wholesale reps. Because we are located so far from an actual wholesale market, all of our flowers are pre-ordered and flown in or trucked here from California or Washington. So our wholesale reps are our eyes in the cooler and at market. We often tell them the texture, type and color of blooms we're looking for and they will source something that is in season for us. Sometimes it's something we've never heard of and sometimes we love it and other times I ask and they never send it again. It's a bit of a gamble.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
Natural, whimsical, and romantic with a modern touch.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
The people! I absolutely love standing behind the counter and serving our customers. From first time flower buyers, to weekly regulars, chatting with our customers constantly puts a smile on my face. And then I have somehow accumulated this incredible team of girls who all LOVE coming to work every day because we love spending time together. Everyone has different strengths but always the same end goal. Our business (especially weddings) is very goal oriented and everyone works so well together to achieve our goals and meet deadlines. It's so rewarding to see a task to completion and know that you all had an integral part in its success. Not to mention, the finished product is so beautiful!
BESIDE RUNNING A GORGEOUS FLOWER SHOP, WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
I would be lying if I didn't say that my business is definitely my life. It's hard to find daily events that aren't somehow connected to my business in some way. But when I'm not working, I love spending time with my husband, our son Archie, traveling, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT GO ALONG WITH YOUR CRAFT - AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM?
Our number one challenge is dealing with such a perishable product in a very remote location. For weekly orders, the majority of our product is trucked in from Spokane. But since flowers have a very short shelf life (a week, max) if all the product isn't sold, it cannot be sold the next week. Also, since shipments only arrive twice a week, we can sometimes run out of flowers when large orders for funerals or parties come in last minute. This year we are working closely with Flathead Farmworks to procure as much locally grown product as possible.
For weddings, everything is pre-ordered 3 weeks in advance and flown in on airline cargo from California. It's impossible to guarantee the freshness of the product that was shipped and also what shape it will arrive in. Due to delays and weather, shipments have been stuck on tarmacs for days or exposed to extreme temperatures. Sometimes the product arrives moldy or even frozen. Over the years we have found a collection of the best wholesalers and shipping companies that have proven to be most reliable, but things still happen that are out of their control.
Another program we have been working hard on is finding ways to recycle wedding flowers. We do roughly 120 weddings per year and most clients don't have the ability to take home all of their flowers. Usually, when we are tearing down the event the next morning, the flowers are still in good shape. We have found a way to use recyclable liners that can be removed from our containers so we can deliver the flowers to retirement homes and hospitals. Instead of throwing the flowers out, owe are so excited that the flowers are getting to brighten more faces.