Twin Dahlias are Upstate NY florists that offer eco-conscious luxury wedding flowers, floral design, installations and general flower magic. Founded by sisters, Morgan and Taylor - read on to learn about their journey starting a small business, farming in NY's Capital Region and working in a sustainable manner.
To begin, tell me a bit about yourself and your career journey to creating Twin Dahlias in 2019:
We both graduated in 2016 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with degrees in business management. Over the course of the following five years, we went on to work in IT, Procurement and Operations in traditional corporate jobs. We were fortunate to have stable and well paying employment but still felt unfulfilled.
It’s interesting, there wasn’t one exact moment that was a turning point that made us want to start Twin Dahlias. There were a lot of smaller moments that all added up. Little heart to hearts with the universe that gave us the courage to go for it.
What was your experience with farming, flowers and events prior to starting your business?
On my Dad’s side of the family we have a multi-generation farming history. We always knew growing was something that we wanted to pursue. But, we also always knew we had to do it in a way that felt like our own. By creating our own business we have full creative autonomy while still honoring our roots.
Flowers seemed like a natural fit since for a few reasons: They are a high density crop that does not require much space, the cost of seed and plants is relatively low which makes the learning curve a little less painful (we have killed a lot of plants!), and we have the ability to partner flowers with the more creative floral design aspect of the business.
On the design side of the house we were fortunate to have the opportunity to freelance with a talented local grower for some of her events before we started taking on our own.
This hands-on experience was incredibly helpful for us to build our confidence and skills before taking on our own clients. We have embodied design as part of our lifestyle. We are constantly learning and seeking out floral design articles, resources and wisdom.
Let’s talk dahlias - the magic, the romance - why flowers, what’s the process of running your half acre?
This is an amazingly worded question! We were fortunate that with some general farming knowledge we did not come into the growing side of the business completely blind. However, every day we are still humbled by how difficult farming is and especially profitable farming. It is challenging and expensive to run at a scale where you can support two salaries. But, despite its challenges, we still get swept away by the magic. This year we committed to do our best not to take on more than we can handle. And yet we are still always behind on garden work and we have decided that’s ok.
Our long term vision on the farming side of the business is to grow mostly speciality perennials and dahlias. We have had the opportunity to connect with several local growers and small farms who we will continue to support for our other floral elements whenever possible. The model of one person or farm growing everything with perfect timing for events is a hard to make work. Instead we plan to slowly specialize in a few crops that we can grow successfully and then source additional touches where it makes sense.
Speaking of lining up flowers with events, what is that process like?
Our tiered sourcing model is the “how” behind our design work. After we make a recipe for an event we go to work sourcing the ingredients. Respecting our sourcing hierarchy takes additional time and can be more expensive. But, we believe sticking to this strategy is the right way to do things.
- Twin Dahlias Grown Flowers
- Locally Grown Flowers (anything within a few hours of our studio)
- Wholesale Domestically Grown Flowers
- Internationally Grown Flowers (Less than 5% of our product)
Walk us through a typical week in the life of running Twin Dahlias:
Monday- Tuesday the first half of the week is all about planning and preparation.
We send out proposals, schedule client calls/meetings, create recipes for upcoming events, place orders, create day of checklists for the weekend and in the evening (when it's cooler) do garden work.
Wednesday- Friday The second half of the week is all about executing on the plan.
Starting mid week we harvest our flowers and pick up orders for the coming weekend’s event(s). We prep and condition the flowers, kit and organize our ingredients, build mechanics for any installations, and start designing.
Saturday-Sunday- On event day we operate by our checklist. We try to be very disciplined about creating our checklist in a relaxed state so that it can be trusted when we are under stress. We pack the car per our list, grab Starbucks and head out to do onsite delivery and setup. On the way home from an event we always stop for ice cream or a treat.
Eco-conscious floral design is how you describe yourself, what does that mean exactly?
As eco-conscious floral designers we do our very best to use sustainable floristry practices. We don’t use traditional floral foam in our designs and minimize our usage of single use plastics as much as possible. We also discourage the use of dyed ingredients. Bleached and dyed materials are very popular right now. Most of the hype is due to an overall flower shortage and complex supply chain issues in the industry resulting from the pandemic.
Designers are pitching these materials because they are inexpensive with a long shelf life. We love a nice dried moment in a bouquet! But, it is specifically the chemically bleached and dyed products that we really hope go out of style.
Growing our own flowers, even at a small scale, gives us a connection and respect for nature that we may not have had if we didn’t grow. It is very easy to order in flowers from a big wholesaler (which we occasionally do as well!) and have them arrive at your door. But, seeing the amount of time and energy that goes into each flower really changes our appreciation and perspective. I think that it also makes us stronger designers.
As a business owner, what has been the greatest challenge and reward of running your business, and where do you hope to see yourselves in the next 3 years?
Our current challenge/ opportunity is figuring out how to scale. On the design side of the house we are a service based company. In our first event season we could only take on one event a weekend. This year we are starting to build out a network of awesome freelancers which will allow us to take multiple events a weekend with Taylor and I each leading a small team.
Our long term vision is to have a team of designers that we partner with. Twin Dahlias would then centralize the sourcing, marketing and general administrative overhead. We would also love to expand to size where we could hire a farm lead who could maintain the day to day growing operations during the hectic Thursday-Sundays of event season!
Thanks Morgan, for the great insight and interview!