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Small business blooms while sophomore is still in college

Editor’s Note: This story was written when Emily Wendel was a sophomore. She is now a senior.

Emily Wendel sat on the floor of her garage surrounded by flowers. She selected various stems, flowers, and greenery. She placed flowers, removed leaves, and was careful not to prick her finger on the stems. When she was done, she transformed her selections into a beautiful bouquet. And over the course of the day, she rearranged all the flowers scattered throughout the garage into picturesque groups, color-coordinated and pristine for the wedding to which she will deliver them.

“I really love that I can take what a client shows me in a photo and make a creation that is part of the biggest day of their life,” said Wendel, a sophomore horticultural production and marketing major from Brookville, Indiana.

Wendel puts more into this work than many college students can grasp. From the first time she made a bouquet in seventh grade, Wendel has pursued her love of arranging flowers and her dream of doing it on her own terms. Her love of flowers and dedication to her work has led to her starting her own business while still in college: Emily Kay’s Bouquets.

Emily Wendel holds a bouquet of flowers Emily Wendel, a sophomore horticultural production and marketing major from Brookville, Indiana, didn’t just start her own small business. She started Emily Kay’s Bouquets on her own terms while still a student. Photo by Amber Cripps.

“I realized there was no reason I couldn’t start living my dream right now,” Wendel said.

Wendel almost didn’t see her dream of starting her own small business come true. Just a short time after beginning at Purdue, a florist she had previously worked with called. The florist asked if Wendel would be her business partner. Wendel knew this would be a large time commitment, one she may not be able to take on while pursuing her degree. Wendel turned down the offer. The florist persisted, this time asking if she would like to take over her business.

“All that I had been doing the past few years was leading up to something like this, but it would have meant that I couldn’t finish school if I took over her business. It was a lot to process,” Wendel said.

By taking over another florist’s business, Wendel worried she wouldn’t be able to have her own client base, her own name on the business, and most important, she would miss out on earning her Purdue degree. After turning down the offers, Wendel realized she could continue working with flowers while pursuing her education.

Wendel carefully curated a client list, built relationships with wholesalers and local florists, and has continued to pursue her education. She thinks all of this will help her grow Emily Kay’s Bouquets after she graduates. Her creations have appeared at formal events and weddings.

“I have continuously been blown away by the support I’ve seen,” she said. “People’s friends tell others about me, and the next thing I know, I’m making someone’s wedding bouquet.”

She has even hosted workshops for her Sigma Alpha sorority sisters, teaching them how to make their own flower arrangements.

In the short time Emily Kay’s Bouquets has been operating, Wendel has seen a lot of growth, both professionally and personally. She said she’s excited to continue growing her business with support from friends, family, and fellow students.

“I feel so lucky to be living my dream right now. I get to do what I love.”

She is so eager to continue growing her business that Wendel has chosen to accelerate her education. With the success she has seen in such a short amount of time, she doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to continue pursuing what she loves with no distractions. After completing her degree, Wendel hopes her education will help her understand elements of the floral industry that she may not have experienced yet.

Wendel’s love of flowers and dedication to her business goes to show it’s never too soon to start pursuing your dreams — they may come true before you know it.

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Amber Cripps earned her bachelor's degree in agricultural communication in 2022 from Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication

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