Gary’s floral motif blooms along ‘upside down’ path as founder swivels from camper van pop-up
EEven when a side business grows organically, it still takes a creative mind to organize a meaningful and useful business, said Jessi Levine, whose willingness to pay homage to her father led to an eye-catching floral design business.
The journey to her subscription floral service has certainly been “upside down,” she said.
From the outside, the theme of Gary floral creation workshop at first could have seemed closely related to a 1969 Shasta camper van – previously converted and used as a grilled cheese food truck before Levine bought it to haul inventory and sell flower arrangements in pop-ups.
âThe motorhome has become an identifier from a brand perspective at this point,â Levine said. âI didn’t have so much of a ‘business plan’ that I had an idea and a vision. The motorhome wasn’t on my mind originally, but when I found it I knew it was right for me.
She started the small business on Mother’s Day 2019, scheduling reservations for the camper at weddings, pop-ups, and other events. Levine chose not to do pop-ups during the pandemic that could draw a crowd, and event bookings subsequently declined. The studio has managed to keep busy.
âThe motorhome is important, but it is not at the heart of my service offering. I first had a lot of interest in my floral design. I have a pretty solid customer base, âLevine said. “A client rotates vases with me every week for weekly flowers arranged by me for a month.”
Swiveling to the floral subscriptions have become a winning tactic, especially during the pandemic, she said.
Click on here to explore Gary.
Levine now offers contactless pickup for one-time purchases and memberships from their front porch in Brookside. Subscriptions start at $ 35 per month for once a month, small hand-made arrangements, and increase in price based on budget and customer requests. Delivery of non-subscription orders is available for a fee, based on mileage.
“I trusted my instinct”
The idea of Gary flourished thanks to Levine’s close bond with his father, Gary Levine, who once belonging to the LeVine urban flower market in Waldo.
Two years ago, Levine wanted to open and run his own business at the same time. She works the day like associate creative director within the internal creative team of Storable, a technology company that produces facilities management software for the storage industry.
âI knew I wanted to do something creative outside of my industry and was drawn to floral design,â said Levine. “I was thinking of a way to honor my dad while he’s still alive and felt like this concept would creatively fill a different side of me.”
She was young when his father opened LeVine Urban Flower Market to sell flowers, wine and art. He then sold the store.
âI grew up sitting at the counter there, helping process the flowers, taking deliveries and whatever he needed me to do,â said Levine. “After I graduated from college and returned to Kansas City, I would sit at his counter at least once a week to share lunch and stories with him.”
To take a break from his career editor and creative director, Levine originally planned to open a brick and mortar sandwich and flower store. She shifted plans in another direction to self-finance the business after assessing the high start-up costs of a physical space.
âI wanted to run a business with no overhead. Having something that I could pay for with cash and the ability to work from my home seemed more interesting and achievable at the time, âsaid Levine.
Armed with a business name and a vision, Levine briefly explored formal business development planning. She applied and was accepted into the UMKC Entrepreneurship scholarship recipients program, but quickly decided she was already prepared enough to take the plunge.
âIt kind of made me want to start. What was I waiting for? I just trusted my gut when it came to starting this business, âsaid Levine, who left the program earlier. âMy career certainly influenced the way I started Gary, I started in the most backwards way possible – with a name, slogan and logo before I even had a solid business idea. . “
The brand tagline for Gary stems from a personal idea. “I believe that to truly understand who we are in this world, we need to revisit where it all began. This is how I came up with Gary’s slogan: “Always come home”. [Itâs] a reminder to people not to forget the foundations (good or bad) that have enabled them to live the lives they have now, âsaid Levine.
Levine worked with a colleague to develop the look and feel of the Gary logo.
âWe designed together and ended up choosing a font that used my father’s handwriting in the design,â she said.
“A work of art in any space of your home”
Distinctive floral design is at the heart of Levine’s business, a one-woman business where she handles orders and creates flower arrangements on her own.
âMy floral design is different from other things you see. I follow Swedish design principles that place as much emphasis on white space as on filled space, âLevine said.
Swedish design principles don’t technically apply to floral design, Levine says. She is inspired by her experience as a creative director. Graphic design principles put as much or more emphasis on white space (what isn’t there) as compared to what is there.
âAs a Creative Director, I strive to ensure that my team’s advertising and branding designs follow this principle. It felt natural to me to find a way to translate it into my floral design, âLevine said. âI think there is beauty in simplicity. You can buy a vase full of too many flowers for too much money, or you can buy something airy, unique and modern that will become a piece of art in any space in your home. I think that’s why a lot of my clients stay with me. You cannot find this style of floral design anywhere.
Her job as Creative Director is to constantly present solutions and creative work to clients, receive feedback and review the work. In contrast, floral design offers its own reward.
“My vision for the company was bring joy to people. I love the idea of ââcreating unique flower arrangements that people would love instantly. It’s been pretty rewarding for me too, âLevine said.
Going forward, Levine will continue to offer floral designs for new memberships and one-time customers. She hasn’t made any major plans for growth next year.
âGary is my traveling companion. If the demand is there, I will pivot, âshe said. âI learned in my advertising career [that] is the only way to remain viable.
This story is possible thanks to the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, non-partisan foundation that works with the education and entrepreneurship communities to create unusual solutions and empower people to shape their futures and succeed.