Today we are so excited to feature and interview local florist and creative entrepreneur, Karisa Pennell of Nectar Florals.
How did you get started with your florist shop?
Complete and total serendipity! Or divine grace, depending on how you look at it. In fact, if you’d told me ten years ago, that I’d own a flower shop I’d said you were nuts. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and was headed west to audition for a company and pursue a career as a yoga therapist. In the meantime, though, I thought it’d be fun to work in a flower shop. So I applied to one of the best shops in town, and amazingly they hired me and trained me in design. I only worked there less than a year. I loved it, but still never really looked at it as more than just the meantime. Fast-forward four years. I’d been doing flowers as a side job and just filling orders for friends, teaching yoga, and working in a restaurant. I was turning 30 and I think I just reached a pivotal point where I needed to do something. So I got business license and tax id #. I ordered business cards. I made ten tiny arrangements and delivered to businesses throughout my neighborhood of Plaza Midwood. Less than a week later, I got a phone call asking me to bring my business to The McGill Rose Garden. I started out renting a counter space, eventually moved into a 300 square foot room (now a storage room), and within four years took over the main space there. The phrase “you plan and God laughs” comes to mind, and I’m grateful it’s true! Once the wheels were in motion, it took on a life force of its own and has really become its own entity. I’m simply blessed to be a part of it.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’ve come to realize that my natural style of design is very eclectic and textural. I grew up with a family that gardened, canned, and quilted. Sometimes I see this in my work—the patchwork, the landscapes, the puzzles within nature. And art. I love doing work for gallery openings or showcases that allow me to interpret the artist’s pieces and try to complement them. But I’d say my everyday inspiration comes from the flowers themselves. I am attached to each and every bloom because of the simple elegance abundant on each stem.
What are some of the challenges you face owning your own business?
Time management is by the far the hardest beast to tame. I wear a lot of hats in my world: Designer, the social media, the studio management, software updates, the proposals, the buying, the sketching, the bucket scrubber, the trash taker-outer, the floor sweeper. I, wisely, gave up my bookkeeper hat to Dan—way too right-brained for that! Sometimes I wish I’d had just that one business class in college, but I’ve made it work thus far. You learn from mistakes very quickly when it’s your own business on the line.
What are some of the rewards?
I am surrounded by beauty EVERY day! It’s impossible not to smile doing what I do. I never take that for granted. Seeing my product on display somewhere and getting people’s reactions is humbling and sometimes overwhelms me with emotion. Working tirelessly on a wedding and seeing the bride’s eyes light up when I hand her the bridal bouquet puts me over the edge sometimes. I still cry at every wedding. But also, I get great satisfaction from knowing that I am self-sustained. Working for yourself is utterly exhausting and absolutely worth it. I love being my own boss, a small business owner, and I am extremely proud of the fact that Nectar came from nothing has grown so much over the years.
Where is one place in the world you would love to go and forage through flowers?
Sometimes I miss my mom’s woods terribly. I grew up surrounded by mountains, streams, and woods. I’ll think “if only I had that one perfect limb, that one perfect tree stump.” But the tropical flowers are really my passion. One day I’ll travel to Hawaii where the orchids grow wild on the sides of mountains. Somewhere exotic lies in my future. But I also have a great respect for the floral industry and am intrigued by the step by step process from growing a flower to distribution. I read a great book named Flowers Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Amy Stewart. It has inspired me to visit the growers in the U.S. and has given me a deep respect of what flowers go through way before I get my hands on them. So on my radar is a visit to some of the larger growers like Sun Valley.
If you could go back in time and be friends with anyone, who would it be?
I’m not sure there’s a specific person, but I definitely feel like I missed out on certain eras. I’m a hippy at heart and really feel a longing for the 50’s and 60’s. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been hanging out with The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, Janis, and Jim. I definitely would’ve been at Woodstock, would’ve hitched a ride to San Fran and back, and heard Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream”speech.
What is a little known fact about you?
I love baseball! Nothing says summer to me more than going to watch a baseball game. My goal is to go to one major league game a year. This year I caught opening day at Turner Field- Braves vs. Phillies. Last year I saw the Cubs and the White Sox at Wrigley. The year before this I was in San Francisco. I wish we had a major league team for me to pull for, but for now I continue to root for specific players and honestly sometimes I root for both teams on the field. I just genuinely love the sport.
What are some up and coming things about Nectar that you are excited to share?
I am beyond excited-giddy, even (and extremely impatient) about our next venture. We’re taking the shop mobile and introducing Charlotte’s first mobile pop-up shop. I got the idea almost two years ago, put it on hold, and just a few months ago decided it was time. So we recently bought a ’94 Grumman Olson (think ice cream truck.) We’re in the process of designing the conversion and next will be decaling. You can find our pop-up locations listed daily on our Facebook page and also on our website. The idea is to take the flowers to the people in a fun, non-fussy way. Customers will get discounts on vase trade-ins and will have the option of choosing from 3 sizes of our daily “menu.” I think it will be a great way to show off Nectar to the city and prove what I’ve been saying all along, “This isn’t your typical flower shop.”
Karisa kindly opened up her space for the Kinfolk Flower Potluck this past spring and taught us all about flower arranging. You can see those photos here and here.
Karisa, thank you so much for sharing!
Also, be sure to check out more about Nectar on her website and facebook & more "Inspired by" posts here and here.
Interview for Goldmine
Photos: Christina Hussey