At Oh You’re Lovely, we work with amazing entrepreneurs and small businesses and wanted to highlight some of them with a new series called Maker Spotlight!
Lori Holland, owner of Holland Hills Farm is not only a florist, she runs a small farm where she is raising alpacas, chickens, dogs and kids! She doesn’t shy away from hard work and provides laughs while she is doing it.
Maggie: Thank you for joining me on this today. I am looking forward to finding out more about you, about your business, about fun things and challenges, all of that.
Lori: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Anytime somebody calls me and asks me to talk about wood flowers? I mean, please. Sign me up!
Maggie: I was so excited to start with your interview because I think your business is so unique in that you're doing multiple things. And…farm animals. Let's just get started and talk about how you got involved with wood flowers and what first grabbed your attention with them.
Lori: Something that really interested me about wood flowers is that when you buy traditional, fresh cut flowers, it kind of feels like a waste of money. I have always been very budget conscious, so I didn't feel good about buying fresh flowers and then watching my money literally have to be thrown out. So then the other option is artificial [silk] flowers, but wood flowers look more like real flowers to me than artificial flowers. So instead of a Valentine's gift of a dozen roses or whatever, I asked my husband if he would be willing to buy me [sola wood flowers]. And he did. More like I did with his credit card but that’s neither here nor there. Then they came in and I just had so much fun with them and I really enjoyed making them any color I wanted!
At first, it was just something for me to decorate my house with. We also have allergies in the house and since we're allergic to most flowers, that was a factor as well.
But I just decorated my house and then I realized that I had it kind of looking like a florist threw up in my house and I had too many. Then I was like, well, you know what, maybe I should give some to some friends. And then I did that and my friends were like, you should really sell these.
I had a friend that had a shop and she told me to put a couple of arrangements in her shop to see how it goes. So I did and it just kind of grew from there. At first, it wasn't something that I was intentional about at all.
It was something for me that I enjoyed. And I think as women, that list of those things are very, very small. You know, we might be moms, daughters, mothers, and we have other responsibilities we're managing. Things we have that spark joy or that we really take pride in or that we can creatively express ourselves are rare.
That list is really short, I think, for a lot of people and it was for me. But when I found these wood flowers and the fact that you can make them any color and paint them any style and put them in a wall hanger or arrangement or a bouquet or whatever, it really kind of sparked that creativity that I really just didn't know I had.
Maggie: Let’s chat about the farm! How long have you lived on a farm? Did you grow up on a farm and fall into this life again?
Lori: When I was growing up, we had a very small farm. It was more of like a homestead situation.
It was just like a backyard farm type deal. When I got married, we lived in different places. We lived in a subdivision at one point, and at that time in our life, it was not wise to live out in the country. But it was always the goal to get back to that lifestyle. I loved it as a kid.
My husband grew up with no animals whatsoever, not even a dog. I always feel like maybe he didn't know what he signed up for, but anyway, it was always my goal to get back to that farm land. And he's very laid back and he agreed that we can do that.
Then we moved here [to the farm]. It has five acres, so it's not a ton of land but it was enough for me to be able to start what I wanted to do which was have some sort of livestock. I have two kids (right now they are eight and 11), but at that point four years ago, they were much younger. I wanted them to grow up with a sense of responsibility and to get to know what it feels like when something depends on you for life. You know, if you're not having a good day, you still have to feed the animals. If it's raining outside, you still have to feed the animals. If it's snowing outside, (we don't see a lot of that here, but we do see it), you still have to feed the animals.
It just gave me as a child, a real foundation and a sense of purpose. And it also kept the notion that some things are bigger than you. Some things, you need to kind of prioritize. It really helped me do that as a child and so I wanted that for my kids.
So we got started and we had chickens. Chickens are the gateway farm animal.
Maggie: I don't think I knew until one of your [Instagram] stories that you can order baby chicks.
Lori: Oh, yes. Yes. They don't deliver them to your mailbox. What you do is you order them and they deliver them to your local post office. And then the post office calls you and you can hear them [chirping] in the background and they tell you your chicks are there.
So we have chickens and we had these grand ideas to free range them. [We thought] it's going to be beautiful and it's going to be awesome. I had this very romanticized idea of that. I mean, the last time I had a farm, I was a child, right? So, you know, I didn't think about predator loads and the fact that everything eats chicken because it tastes like chicken.
Those first chickens, we learned a lot!
It came to our attention that we had a lone coyote that was coming on our property, which is a big deal.
The next purchase then was a livestock guardian dog which is Sugar. She is a great Pyrenees and she's got a little bit of Anatolian shepherd in her. Guardian dogs do not bond with poultry, so they need a mammal or a person or people to bond to . Sugar bonded with my kids.
Not only is she an awesome dog and she's perfect but she is an asset to our farm. We really could not free-range our chickens like we do, We would have to invest in better fencing for our alpacas without her.
I wanted to get livestock. I had goats when I was growing up and I knew how often they got out so if I was going to have something, it needed to work for me. We don't really have enough space to run cattle on our property here so that wasn't really an option.
So alpacas! You can shear them once a year. They are not a terminal product. You don't have to end the animal's life in order to get the product. Not a lot of people have alpacas, as you can probably imagine. There is an educational opportunity there with having people come up and having the opportunity to explain about alpacas - why we have them, what they can do and why they are such a good livestock option for us.
[The farm experience] it's just kind of a ball. I started out loving the farm. I like the kids in the woods and playing in the creek and all of that, but it has evolved into something that I didn't really intend yet I love. It gives me so much joy.
Maggie: That's awesome. So, you know, I've been following you on social media and watch your stories and everything but can you share how do you mix the two things [flowers and farm] together to help your reach? Are you able to find flower customers through the animal stuff and how do you find people to connect to the flowers, given that you have so much responsibility on the farm and things you have to do every day?
Lori: It's definitely a lot. But one of the things that I like about the flowers is that you don't have to keep them alive. I have a lot that live here [on the farm] that depend on me to keep them alive, but you don't have to worry about that with the flowers. You don't have to keep them alive. And I think for other farmers and for other people who have made those connections with farm products and beef and stuff like that, they appreciate something that you don't have to keep alive.
That said, it was kind of nerve wracking at first to fold the flowers into the farm part of the business, because they don't have anything to do with each other. Except for me. And that's the common link.
I don’t love the labeling system. Like, if you're a farmer, you can't have nice nails or fake eyelashes, or if you love flowers, then you can't enjoy giving animal vaccinations. I don't love this separate world that we have created that can't crossover.
No, that's not what it's about. You can enjoy whatever you enjoy and it's okay because you enjoy it. So it's not a separate audience for me. It does crossover. People who like the flowers do eat beef and people who like the flowers, like pretty egg scapes where we have our blue eggs and our different colored eggs.
To me, it very much does cross over.
Maggie: Another thing about the flowers that could tie into the farm lifestyle is that they are super sustainable. Sola, or shola is considered a weed. So it's not only maintenance of that weed but we aren’t harming anything in the process of making flowers. I feel like that is a very important thing and that sustainability ties in with your farming process.
And that really is why I decided to kind of make the leap and jump into the business: I kinda got addicted to that feeling.
Maggie: Are there any specific instances in your business that stand out to you? You know, whether it's like, okay, I've made it, or this was like a really big opportunity and I crushed it? Or, this was the point where I needed to push through and just get to the other side? Have there been any of those sorts of instances?
Lori: In November was when I really decided: listen, I'm going to do this as a business. I need to get off the fence.
So November, we signed up to do a Black Friday event and we signed up past the time to do it. But they were very gracious and allowed me in, anyway. And I was so nervous. I lost so much sleep because I'd never set up at a venue like this. It's terrifying knowing that you're going to have hundreds of people coming through, looking at your work, inspecting your work.
So I was just sick over it. I still felt like it was the right thing to do, but I might throw up first, you know? And the power was out. We got there and the power was out and it was like 28 degrees outside, which is way too cold for us here in November.
It was freezing but we're all in this together. So my husband and my kids were going to help me work the event and one of my kids started not feeling well. So all this stuff is starting to stack up on top of my anxiety and the fact that I’m just starting this and I’m all in.
Well, we have the event and it’s going okay, I've sold about half my stuff. Of course you want to sell everything, you know? But I still have like half my stuff and I’m going to have to pack this up.
I was having a little moment in my head and this guy comes by and he says, “This is really nice.”
And I responded with a “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” And he says, “I actually own a wedding venue in the next town over and we like to make packages for our brides to choose from. I would really like to talk to you about this and about getting some packages and some pricing ready.”
Even though I thought I might be getting catfished, I talked with him and I have had several orders from him! He owns a beautiful little wedding chapel and it has been a great business relationship for both of us. That was the moment that I was like, wow. I mean, weddings are literally his business and he thought I did a good job.
Maggie: It's kind of like an affirmation from the universe that you've done a good job. That's awesome.
Maggie: Hopping into our final question - what advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming an entrepreneur and starting their own business?
Lori: A couple of things. One thing is to have different streams of revenue. With our farm, there are several different things that we do, but if you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, You know what they say about, stocks and stuff: diversify.
I would really suggest showing the versatility of these flowers. A bouquet for Valentine's day, a bouquet for prom, a bouquet that fits in your great granny's pitcher…they can do a lot of things.
And I think sometimes, uh, people kind of like carve out and want to do just one thing, which is good if that's what you want to do. But I think when you're starting out, you kind of need to try different avenues and see where it goes. That doesn't happen unless you try different avenues.
The biggest thing is to be brave and do it! It is really hard to put yourself out there, but you've got to take the first step or it's not going to happen. You can do it. We're cheering for you. There are people who want to see you succeed. So be brave!
**This interview has been slightly edited for grammar and clarity. All photos taken by and provided by Lori Holland.**