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Petal to the metal: Bloom Designs turns unique niche into budding business opportunity

BAXTER - Kate Kuepers was doing interior design work, before going back to school to get a master's in education. She began a wedding floral business to make money on the side - never realizing how far her flowers would take her. "That was four y...

Wedding florist Kate Kuepers carries flowers to be used for her business, Bloom Designs. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch
Wedding florist Kate Kuepers carries flowers to be used for her business, Bloom Designs. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER - Kate Kuepers was doing interior design work, before going back to school to get a master's in education.

She began a wedding floral business to make money on the side - never realizing how far her flowers would take her.

"That was four years ago, and by the time I finished my master's, the business had grown so much that there was no way I could think about going into teaching," she said. "That was really kind of a tough thing for me."

She now works full time in running Bloom Designs from her home in Baxter. The secret to her business's success is the trend of couples planning destination weddings at lakes area resorts.

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Bloom Designs

Location: Baxter

Number of employees: 1

Fun fact: Owner Kate Kuepers worked in a floral shop in high school and college. She got the idea to start her business after helping her sister's wedding on Chesapeake Bay.

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"Ninety-five percent of my brides are from the Cities," she said. "They're looking for someone who can kind of take over and take care of it, get it done."

Alliances with local resorts mean Kuepers is on their preferred list of vendors to handle weddings at their venues. The July 12 supercell storm that temporarily shutdown many area resorts moved a few weddings for Kuepers, but nobody canceled, she said.

The storm did disrupt the Bloom Designs itself, however. Kuepers' house lost power, and having received a shipment of flowers the morning after the storm, her husband had to leap into action and get a generator in order to run the flower coolers to keep Kuepers' blooms from wilting.

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"We didn't worry about our food in our fridge or anything like that, we were worried about keeping the flowers cold," Kuepers said.

Kuepers gets her flowers from a warehouse in Minneapolis that features both Minnesota growers and exotic blooms from places like Holland and South America. She also incorporates unconventional "flowers" in her designs - she opened her cooler to reveal a hops plant she plans on using for a wedding of two people who love craft beer.

Kuepers said her personal artistic style for weddings involves the use of textiles, and uncommon items like vintage and fabrics.

"I have tons of ideas that flow around in my head," she said.

However, Kuepers is careful not to let her artistic vision cloud what the couple wants in their wedding style.

"I want it to be something that's reflective of the couple, not reflective of me," she said. "I think that's a hard thing to do when you're in this business."

Encouraged by the flourishing of Bloom Designs, Kuepers plans to branch out into wedding styling - a service common in the Twin Cities but not around Brainerd. A wedding stylist is similar to the conventional wedding planner, except they focus the overall aesthetic of the wedding rather than practical organization and scheduling that a wedding planner would handle. Clients already ask her advice on things like what kind of napkins to use and how to get custom-made signs - so why not make it part of her business officially?

She also wants to expand by hiring workers, so she's not Bloom Designs' sole permanent employee anymore.

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"All my help goes back to college the first weekend in August," she said.

There aren't many set parameters for the ideal candidate besides being reliable with a good attitude, Kuepers said.

She doesn't mind the hours she works right now, but it can be tricky balancing business with caring for her kids.

"I'm getting up at 4 a.m. to answer emails, and when they get up at 7 I'm doing the mom thing," she said. "Then we get them to bed, and I'm back to work."

Still, Kuepers' move away from the daily grind has paid off.

"I'm lucky. I don't have to go to an office. I don't punch a clock," she said. "I can work as hard as I want to, when I want to."

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

Related Topics: WEDDINGS
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