Following her graduation from Wittenberg University in Springfield, floral hobbiest Rebekah Hart made her way to Amsterdam, Netherlands, to hone her floral crafting skills.
Upon her return to Springfield – and with encouragement from friend Audrey Vanzant – Hart’s dream blossomed into a successful small business known as Flourish.
Founded on the principles of uniqueness and sustainability with a local focus, Flourish was officially established in October of 2019 with Hart and Vanzant as cofounders.
They source blooms for their creative flower arrangements from local farms. Hart, whose favorite flower is a ranunculus, also grows some of her own flowers on her family farm, the Blooming Barn.
“When we started Flourish, we wanted a floral company that was going to be sustainable and support other local businesses; we didn’t want the ‘cookie cutter 12-red roses and baby’s breath’ kind of designs,” Hart says. “We wanted it to be natural. We let nature inspire the design. You are going to get something different in the spring than you would in late summer. So far, clients really like that.”
In its first winter months, Flourish succeeded as a thriving business with arrangements, grave blankets and wreaths of pine, also sourced locally. “Winter is tough in Ohio. Business is different,” says Hart. “I remember walking through woods with clippers harvesting pine.”
During the winter Hart was also able to work with a wholesaler in Dayton to obtain blooms for special requests. She says dried flowers are also trending, so she is prepping dried flowers for the upcoming fall and winter.
At the outset of Flourish, the business model was filled with weddings, events, workshops and pop-up shops. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the business model pivoted to include no-contact deliveries.
“We had to adapt, but even through COVID our business was nice,” Hart says. “We had all of these beautiful messages running through our pipeline, where family members or friends or coworkers would reach out and ask us to deliver flowers or a plant to their loved one with a sweet message just because they couldn’t see each other in person. It was nice because we were able to connect people during that time.”
Hart says most of their business comes via word of mouth. Flourish has also hosted local fundraisers and workshops, and sometimes they’ve “thrown spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”
“It’s not just about building a business – I’m not trying to build an empire. It’s about building a community,” she says. “I’ve been in Springfield for 28 years, and I’ve seen the changes and love where we are headed. I want to harness my positivity and skills and bring that to Springfield. I want Flourish to always be a positive in someone’s life. When you get flowers, you get a happy feeling. This is about creating relationships and bringing nature into people’s homes. We wanted to be a part of it and lift up other small business owners.”
“We love teaching others how to love flowers, too,” says Hart. “We just love the world through flowers.”
Vanzant, who describes her role with Flourish as business manager and assistant floral designer, says her favorite part of Flourish is assisting Hart with arrangements, but she thrives on the business side.
“I was immediately struck by Rebekah's passion for flowers and her pure excitement about making these beautiful arrangements,” says Vanzant, who grew up in Springfield. “I've always thought of myself as a ‘creative,’ this mix of art and entrepreneurship. I wanted so much more for her and her creativity.”
Hart handles the flower ordering and takes the lead on designs, and Vanzant says Hart has a great understanding of stem count, color pallet and textures.
Vanzant focuses more on invoicing, graphics, social media, logistics and finances – “all the fun behind the scenes business things.”
While she’s aware that working with family and friends can be difficult, Vanzant believes she and Hart are fortunate.
“We have brought our individual interests and skills together to create this business but also bring our relationship together,” Vanzant says. “She is my best friend, and I am forever grateful for what it has given us and our friendship.”
In the short term, Hart has her eye on a flower cooler so she can prepare for larger events. Long term, Vanzant would like Flourish to find a storefront where the duo can work on arrangements, create window displays, have a workshop area and be a part of downtown Springfield.
Flourish is fun and rewarding for the cofounders in many ways, including sharing smiles with the community, but Vanzant, who holds a Master’s degree in nonprofit leadership, says her favorite part of the business is giving back to the community.
“I love my community, and I have always dreamed of giving back,” she says. “At our Galentine's Day workshop, we asked our guests to sign encouraging cards to Project Woman, and we took those letters and flowers to the ladies.”
Last month, Flourish sold wrapped bouquets and donated 100 percent of the proceeds to the Springfield NAACP Youth Committee. The company has donated multiple baskets to organizations including the Suzanne Hopper Memorial Volleyball Tournament fund, Clark County Dog Shelter 5K, and Northeastern Local Schools.
“Flourish has brought me a confidence I didn't know I needed,” Vanzant says. “However, I am so proud of what Rebekah and I have built, and it has given me confidence about my capabilities as a business owner and creative. It has given me a sense of purpose and stability, no matter what people come and go, or jobs, I'll always have Flourish because I own it. I own my own business. That is so rewarding.”