After three decades of creating lovely floral arrangements for all sorts of occasions, Becky Baeverstad has earned a reputation as a trendsetter and a reliable florist. Discover how she turned a family passion into a successful business.
Three decades fly by when you’re doing what you love. Just ask Becky Baeverstad, who opened Enders Flowers at Edgebrook in Rockford 30 years ago – the same location she works from today.
“I enjoy the relationships I’ve built with customers and the opportunity to do things for them,” says Baeverstad. “It’s a huge honor to be allowed into their lives during some of their most important moments.”
Along with juggling her shop and home life successfully, Baeverstad has earned a reputation as a local trendsetter. Her garden-style arrangements are custom-made and naturally elegant; they always reflect the current season.
“The arrangement you order from us in February is not the same one you’ll get from us in July,” she says. Baeverstad has operated this way from the start, and now industry trends are catching up with her. The expanding farmers markets outside her door in the Edgebrook parking lot provide a clue.
“Just as we’ve seen the local foods movement growing, people want flowers that look like they could be growing in local fields,” she says. “Our whole industry is moving in that direction. There are advantages to thinking more seasonally and more naturally. People are becoming a little more aware of where things come from.”
Baeverstad’s artisan approach to floral arrangement has earned her a loyal customer base.
“I like her style,” says longtime customer Carol Clark of Rockford. “Arrangements from Enders are always natural looking, not overly fussy. When we send flowers, we always get great feedback from friends on how beautiful they are. We’ve never been disappointed.”
Given our four-season climate, most of the flowers Baeverstad uses come from places like Australia, Europe, South America and our West Coast. But even that’s changing.
“There are more options, now, for sourcing locally grown flowers,” she says. “Our gladiolas come from Michigan. We have a supplier in Prairie du Chien, Wis., and another in Beloit. And there are more varieties of flowers available than ever before.”
When she’s not setting trends, Baeverstad is keeping up on them.
“Hybrids wax and wane,” she explains. “For example, some of today’s brides are incorporating succulents into their bouquets – this gives a different texture, an updated feel. I keep up with things by watching Pinterest, reading magazines, and following Martha Stewart and other design style leaders.”
It’s not just the flowers that evolve. So do containers. “We’re using more cubes and cylinders – for shorter, more compact arrangements,” says Baeverstad. “They’re more versatile. They fit better on desks and in smaller spaces and can be used on a dining table because they don’t block sightlines.”
Baeverstad likes it when customers bring in their own special containers to be filled with flowers. It’s part of her custom mentality. “You may as well be using those beautiful things sitting around your house. Whatever you have, we can fill it.”
Just as floral styles change, so do customer preferences. But people don’t always know how to describe what they want. That’s when a little insight into human nature proves invaluable.
“I recently had a bride come in on a Wednesday to order flowers for her last-minute wedding that Friday,” recalls Baeverstad. “Her favorite flowers are carnations, but she wanted arrangements that looked like they could have grown in her garden. We used white carnations and added some Queen Anne’s lace and gooseneck and other things, and it just worked. The bride told me, ‘That’s just what I wanted!’ That’s the fun part. When people tell me that, it’s very rewarding.”
It’s also what distinguishes a true custom florist from a big-box floral retailer.
“It’s challenging, today, because people are used to getting everything on demand,” says Baeverstad. “A custom florist can’t work that way.”
Baeverstad has always encouraged customers to bring in photos of flowers and arrangements, to help her better understand their tastes. The advent of Pinterest has taken that idea to a new level, for better and worse.
“Pinterest has changed our industry, especially in the world of wedding flowers,” she says. “The good part is that people can point and say, ‘This is what I like.’ It helps me to know their natural inclinations and tastes. The downside is that sometimes they want the picture, not something like the picture. Flowers are a perishable product, grown outdoors, and their conditions may vary. It’s not always possible, or even best, to replicate a picture. It’s better for a bride to go after a feeling than an exact picture.”
Along with wedding flowers, Baeverstad enjoys working on funeral arrangements.
“I especially love it when people help me to reflect a loved one’s personality in an arrangement – to integrate something symbolic of them, or something they loved. One person brought in an apple crate for us to fill with flowers – her father had owned an orchard. Another asked us to incorporate the Scottish tartan black watch cloth from the kilt her loved one had enjoyed wearing. That was a beautiful idea. Another time we worked a Swedish Dala horse into a casket spray.”
Technology is a double-edged sword for florists. On one hand, the Internet makes it easier for customers to view options and order flowers quickly. On the other hand, this practice may yield disappointing results.
“You have no idea what you’ll really get from the Internet,” says Baeverstad. “People are better off calling a local flower shop, even when they want to send flowers out of town. High-quality shops like ours are part of the Teleflora and Flowershop networks. We have standards and we know reputable shops to deal with in the city you’re sending to. There’s better quality control and, if things go badly, you have someone to go back to.”
While Baeverstad has long since beaten the odds as a small business owner, she never takes success for granted. She understands how quickly things can change and has seen her share of ups and downs.
“Flowers are a luxury. Recession makes things more difficult. During those times, you have to tighten the belt … like planning route deliveries more carefully to conserve gasoline,” she says.
The good news for florists is that people still love flowers and flowers still evoke emotions. “Now that the economy is better, more people are buying flowers again,” says Baeverstad. “Weddings and funerals are a big part of the business, but so are everyday arrangements, to brighten the day of a sick person, or to make parties and showers festive.”
One of the things Baeverstad loves most about small business ownership is her ability to accommodate her family’s schedule. She comes by her love of family and flowers honestly.
Many years ago, her great grandfather, Karl Enders, owned and operated Enders Greenhouse in Cherry Valley, Ill. Her mom, Anne Meyer, purchased and ran that business for many years. Baeverstad “washed pots, carried flats, watered, everything,” in her youth, but she had no intention of someday running her own greenhouse. Still, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
After earning a degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois, she was approached by Edgebrook officials in 1984. They asked if she’d be interested in opening a flower shop. Her mom granted permission to use the family business name, and, 30 years later, “Enders” is still associated with beautiful growing things.
“The business has fit well into my life,” says Baeverstad. “I’ve juggled parenthood and a work life well.” Now daughters Molly and Sarah, who once spent many hours helping at the shop, are all grown up. Baeverstad and husband Eric, a computer consultant, will travel to Seattle this fall to witness the wedding of their eldest to a Lutheran pastor.
Which leaves one more looming question.
“Yes, I’ll be arranging the flowers, even in Seattle,” she says, and laughs. “Who else?”