Women’s advocacy and empowerment has been woven within Accent Decor’s DNA for many years. Among the power duo who started our company, Margaret Hofland has been a long-time advocate for females within our industry (all while raising three amazing, trailblazing daughters). So, it’s no surprise that we would celebrate Women’s History Month with amazing floral + event designers, plant professionals, artists and more. We asked this dynamic group to share poignant business advice from meaningful women and personal examples of female empowerment. Read their inspiring responses:
While strategy sessions and consulting from a professional business coach is so helpful, the best business advice we’ve received comes from our matriarchs—women who may not know the ins and outs of our industry, but they certainly know what it’s like to navigate the world empowered in the face of significant opposition. Recently, our dad’s mother encouraged us to keep our eyes on our own paper, not consumed with comparison or unhealthy competition, and sourcing inspiration from what is deeply rooted within. She said, “Mind your own business, and everything will fall in place“.
We have a natural support network through webs of sisterhood, with the three of us sisters at the center, Lauren, Leah, and Callie. From there, the fibers of our web reach to our kin, women who are soft places to land in a hard world. They understand us and know us better than most. Finally, our web of sisterhood connects to a group of women we lovingly call our Wolf Pack, a group composed of studio-neighbors, fellow businesswomen in Oklahoma City, and the best support system we could ask for. With them, no question is off limits and help is always extended.
I’m a third generation florist and my Grandmother, Tommie Miles, told me as a young child that I could do anything, I just had to put my mind to it. No matter if that was when I was a little girl learning her multiplication tables or the young business owner deciding to expand my floral business into a prop rental division, I still think of that simple advice. I have carried it with me throughout my business journey and simply life in general. Believe me, your mind is a powerful thing!
As a young designer, you never know where your floral journey will take you! One moment in particular that changed my career was in 2011. I received a phone call from Margaret Hofland, yes, THE Margaret Hofland of Accent Decor. I was so nervous talking to her, but she was so nice and extended an invitation to this young floral designer to come do a photo shoot with her products. Are you kidding me? You want ME to come design in your containers – for your website, for your catalogue – oh my, what a dream and honor for a designer!! Being an AD designer has given me so much inspiration and insight into this industry. It’s true, your life can change with just one phone call. Thanks Margaret, I hope you know how ‘F*cking Fabulous’ YOU are! Thanks Margaret for taking a chance on this girl and believing in me. I am so glad I didn’t let that call go to voicemail!
My mom, being the most meaningful woman in my life, raised myself and my brothers to live our lives according to the golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated“. While not specifically business advice, I find this translates directly into the way I run my business. When working on designs for a client, I am always looking at the service I am providing from their perspective, asking myself questions such as: Would I be happy with this work if I were the client? Am I making the client’s job easier? Am I an enjoyable person to work with? While not strictly business advice, embodying The Golden Rule ensures I operate my business from a place of kindness, empathy, and respect.
I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing women over the course of my career. One of my managers in particular embodied the phrase “lead by example“. She taught me to advocate not only for myself, but for my other team members. She was kind and fun, but also strong, bold, and not afraid to voice her opinion, especially when it came to representing our team and our design work. She embodied the kind of leader I desired to be. It was largely due to her mentorship and encouragement that I started my own business almost three years ago, and I still call her my friend and mentor to this day.
Starting in the floral industry back in the 1970’s one of the first female influences for me was an incredible floral designer I worked with named Carol Grover. I was fresh out of college, with a degree in floriculture and learned more from her than I ever did in school. But her words of advice is something I have taken to heart all of these years. Her advice was “If you want to make it in this industry business as a floral designer you have to learn to design like a guy“, meaning go big and bold and don’t be afraid to stand out. Best advice I ever had!
My strongest female influence is Rocky Pollitz, AIFD. Her guidance and support allowed me to see the potential in myself. As her own trailblazer of women in the floral industry, Rocky provided many opportunities that helped build my career along with many many others. Her offered words of advice were often very direct, sometimes words I didn’t want to hear but were words that I needed to hear that made me better. She definitely influenced and formatted the type of floral designer, instructor and presenter that I am today.
“Don’t judge your beginning by someone else’s middle” I heard these words from my dear friend and fellow florist, Susan Davis. Truth be told I don’t think this is her quote, but, this was the lesson I learned from her that I continue to keep in the front of my mind. This is a reminder to avoid comparison and focus on our own journey.
When I think of female support I think of Natalie Franke because not only did this woman inspire an entire creative industry and inspire the #communityovercompetition movement, she has also been a wonderful support along my journey. It is wonderful to have friends that you know love and support you even when your journey takes them in different directions. Natalie has been a constant reminder to continue to move forward and bring our industry together. What I have done over the last 5 years within the floral world has been much in part by the early inspiration and support of this inspiring woman.
My mother encouraging me from a very early age to try out every activity that sparked an interest, reminding me every day that my gender did not define me or limit me in becoming who I wanted to sought to be and what I wanted to achieve. With each failure she picked me up, dusted me off and did not allow me to dwell on what went wrong but to see that this was an opportunity for another door to open.
In my career the empowerment has continued with floral leader Debra Prinzing, of The Slow Flowers Society, who first sparked my interest in designing seasonally. She has fostered & supported my passion to working closely with flower farmers across the country and becoming an advocate for change. She’s given me opportunities to share my voice and grow my confidence each year, never making me feel as though my big ideas were not achievable. Instead she has constantly encouraged and offered sage advice which has propelled me forward to fully embrace my potential.
I’m an over analyzer and true Virgo at heart. The best piece of advice is to just START! Take one step forward in the direction you want to go and the path will become more clear from there. Not to say there won’t be challenges along the way, but starting is one of the hardest parts.
I also love this quote from Brené Brown: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” It’s so easy to compare ourselves to each other and to get lost in the back and forth of what we think we should be creating vs. what actually makes us thrive. I appreciate that she calls it a “daily practice”. We are never fully perfect our authenticity because we are always evolving and learning.
When I first started on my floral journey, I had quit my job and went full time with no business plan, clients, or any idea of what was next! I had a friend working in corporate events and she added me to their vendor list. This launched the beginning of a very busy first year and allowed me to build my portfolio with some great names backing me! Looking back on it, she had only seen a few designs I had done — talk about having faith in me!
As I was growing the business, I would find help where I could (i.e. my mom, sister, nieces and Nana!). They were happy to help and it would spark memories of my great grandma (Grandma Bea). She was an avid gardener and loved her flowers. After she passed, processing and working with flowers became an activity that brought back good times with her and the appreciation she would have had for all the varieties I worked with.
I’ve also had two great floral friends along this journey – Pinky from Lark Farnum Design and Blaire from Sparkles and Vintage. Pinky was the first person I ever felt comfortable reaching out to. She’s so nice and I had always loved her designs! I didn’t know how to make florist friends but I felt like she was a great start. I joke that Blaire is my hype man whenever I need a boost or just knows the right thing to say when I’m doubting myself. She even drove by the studio on Valentine’s Day morning just to cheer us on! She’s the best and if you don’t know her, you’re missing out!
Everyone above and everyone I’ve met along the way has helped shape my work in some way or another. And all I can say is thank you and I hope to eventually influence others the way they’ve influenced me.
Margie Tygart, who was so admired for her life long commitment to bringing foraged arrangements everywhere she went. So much so, that a statue called, “the butterfly girl” was erected in the children’s garden at the city square in Nashville in her honor. Margie was my grandmother and a dear friend. She sent me to the garden (and her friend’s homes, vacant properties and the even along the roadside if I’m being honest).
I learned a lot from Margie before she died a few years ago. In an intentional conversation, she looked me in the eye and told me with an honest and sincere smile “Christy, I have had a very good life… hasn’t always been easy. I’ve made the most of what I have had… and it’s been good.” Her words resonate with me as they inspire me to be grateful for what I have and to use what I have and be happy with it whether it’s the clippings in a floral arrangement (doesn’t everyone want one more ranunculus?) or finances or time, or whatever, my budvase or my outfit! I often say to people, I know it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
Margie’s wisdom gives depth to this mantra and has provided the source to go beyond contentment — to pleasure and happiness. Her words are a tool for me to find joy in work and my artistry even when things aren’t ideal, which is often the case for me, and I love it! I’m lucky she’s just one of the many smart, strong females friends, mentors and family I have in my life.
My Mother always tells me to this day, whatever you create, whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Put every ounce of energy you’ve got into making it successful. And always make sure you treat people the way you want to be treated, but better. This is great advice in general, but when applied to my business, I can honestly tell you, I have had an incredible amount of support, love, and amazing advice from strong women that I’m honored to work beside.
A colleague once told me that it’s ok to not know everything. Making time to continue your education and finding ways to learn from others, will help you to grow, evolve, and only become better. This advice has served me for many years and has allowed me to push the envelope with my installations and event designs that I probably would’ve never taken.
A favorite piece of business advice received by a meaningful woman in your life – “Fail fast“.
I have so many supportive women in my life! One of my fellow girlfriends has helped me think through many of my business challenges along with how to develop my business, especially from a digital perspective. She’s always there for me and will fly in town to assist me or better yet, ‘manage me’, through my big events. It means the world to have someone that I know that I can always count on as a friend, as someone with strong business acumen, and someone that is supportive to my creativity. Being around good energy helps push me and inspires me. Everyone needs one of those girlfriends in their life!
I’ve received so much good and sweet advice from so many women. As I sift through what has shaped and changed me, I want to share some advice from the poet, teacher and children’s author Gillian Sze: “Be as generous as possible”. It is so easy to focus on ourselves, our work, our worries, our dreams. But generosity, like love, is free and in giving it, it multiplies. It creates a ripple that makes our lives better, richer. For me, this is generosity of spirit (if someone is failing at something I know how to do and asks for advice); generosity of heart (when someone does something that gives me pause, I try to think expansively towards them); and generosity in my actions (whether monetary support, or the gift of my time if I have it to offer). While it matters to be focused, to set boundaries, and to say no, I feel it’s equally as important to value every person who comes into my sphere with a generous spirit. The truth is that this kind of kindness has changed my life and opened so many doors. We are humans first, and workers second.
So many of the relationships that I have with women have grown out of this generosity that Gillian has named – including my relationship with Gillian! Gillian has edited a book with me, offered advice when I’ve needed it, shared my poetry with her students, and bought my art and designs. There’s such sweet reciprocity in this kind of action and what’s born out of it is a whole tapestry of support for each other and our work.
A mentor / friend / entrepreneur said to me once “Take imperfect action” These three simple words really changed how I moved from sitting in inaction and indecisiveness to move forward on ideas, projects and goals, even if I didn’t feel like an expert in them or have total confidence in my skills. It’s in the action that clarity often comes and I was often waiting for answers first before moving forward. It’s been life changing advice!
I would be no where, truly without the many female mentors, colleagues community and support. This year I met an artist who is also a mom through a homeschool group during Covid and our sons became friends. From her enthusiasm around my work, encouragement around boundaries, support with just watching my son, she has been a lifeline is so many ways as I take new risks in life and work. I tell her often I don’t think I would have survived 2020 without her!
“Live your life with grit and grace“. This phrase, and our company’s namesake, was unearthed from my (Laura) late mother’s diary over 11 years ago. It struck me like a thunderbolt then and still makes me feel empowered to this day.
Our trio of work wives are the most incredible support system. We brainstorm on the biggest client experiences, we craft unique last minute fire extinguisher solutions and support each other even when that means two of us are running through the hospital in ball gowns because one of us gave birth weeks early! There is nothing better than the drop of the hat, sprinting in heels, kind of female support!
Lauren + Rachel, Sweet Root Village
Years before Rachel and I met, I worked at a flower shop in Florida and was mentored by an incredible woman, Tammy Shanahan. She always encouraged me to trust my gut and believe that I could do whatever I put my mind and heart to. This was her persona from my first day on the job where she pulled a pre-made arrangement out of the cooler and said “you can use anything in the cooler, but make this better” and she walked away and let me design for the first time, with no previous experience. She didn’t hover or place restrictions on my creativity- she just let me believe in myself and CREATE. This fostered a hunger in me to always be growing and bettering myself and encouraging those around me. I wouldn’t be the businesswoman I am today without her encouragement.
We’ve had outside influences of course, but being that we started a business as two women, we have always had each other from day one in our business. Two women from two different backgrounds, two different collections of strengths and weaknesses, two different personalities, and two different approaches to life and business. We’ve always had each other for encouragement, to challenge and push each other forward. There have been elements of becoming more like each other in certain ways but also have always kept our own style and preferences throughout our decade of friendship and business and have been able to build a brand and style of artistry that suits us both as individuals as well as a duo!