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Destination Career: Entrepreneurs pursue unique combination while serving their community

On a fall afternoon, Josi Lambert was putting the final touches on a Halloween floral arrangement for an event. As she arranged the design, she was smiling because of how much she wanted her customers to enjoy the arrangements she had made for them.

In small-town North Manchester, Indiana, Lambert isn’t just known for her ability to create beautiful flower arrangements, she is a difference maker in the community.

“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else; this is the community that we grew up in and we love being here,” said Lambert, who earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture production and marketing from Purdue in 2013.

Josi Lambert (left) and her sister, Jentri Cripe Josi Lambert (left) earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and marketing in 2013 and started Rhinestones and Roses with her sister, Jentri Cripe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. The North Manchester, Indiana, store sits in front of an ice cream shop, which was started by their brother. Photo by Katie Mize.

Lambert is the co-owner of Rhinestones and Roses, a small business she operates with her sister, Jentri Cripe, who earned a degree in organizational leadership from Purdue. The store has a unique combination: one half of the store is dedicated to floral arrangements, while the other half is a clothing boutique of modern women’s clothing.

“It makes us happy just to be there for people and put smiles on their faces. Whether it’s a wedding or a funeral, we like to make people happy,” Cripe said.

The sisters come from a family of entrepreneurs, and they had a dream of starting their own business and making a difference in their small community since they were young. Cripe said their goal for customers who walk through the doors of their shop is to make sure they leave the store feeling good about themselves.

But it didn’t always feel good in the beginning. It was not easy for them to start a small business in a small town. The sisters will be the first ones to say that it was not easy the first couple years.

“There were some days, when we first started, that not one customer would come into our shop,” Lambert said.

Today, Rhinestones and Roses has a busy schedule that includes decorating for weddings, creating funeral floral pieces and keeping up with current fashion trends. They credit the success of their business, in part, to their experience at Purdue. While they were students, they made friendships and connections with professors and staff, some of whom turned into customers and supporters.

“I still use some of these mentors today,” Cripe said.

Lambert said that one of the courses she took at Purdue required her to write a business plan. That experience, she said, really helped and offered important feedback during the shop’s planning stages.

Lambert also said that her Purdue experience helped her learn her craft and gain confidence in her abilities.

“I was a teaching assistant for the floral design class, which really helped me,” Lambert said.

That experience and others helped her network and hear from entrepreneurs.

“At first, I thought this is going to be impossible,” Lambert said. “But even just through these classes, it gave me a push that I could do this.”

Lambert said the key to starting any business is to get experience with the thing you love. Whether that’s starting in a greenhouse or a flower shop, you can never have too many hours of learning in the field. But it takes more than experience.

“Being willing to work hard is a big part,” Lambert explained.

The sisters tell young people yes, they should listen to advice of adults who may have more experience, but they should also follow their hearts.

“If an opportunity comes, I think someone young should take it, because that’s what I did,” Lambert said.

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Rhinestones and Roses

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Katie Mize is a student writer majoring in agricultural communication in Agricultural Communication and Education

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