Mickey O’Kane spent 35 years in advertising print production, but she always worked with flowers on the side. For 18 years, she and a friend have participated in Art in Bloom, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts event where florists interpret works of art. In 2014, their “Brook in the Mountains” arrangement received the People’s Choice “Most Creative” award.
O’Kane turned her hobby into a business about five years ago. “When I decided that the digital age was making me a dinosaur in the world of print, I didn’t know where I was headed,” O’Kane said. “All my friends said, ‘Well, of course you’re going to be a florist.’”
What she discovered is that “being a florist is more than playing with flowers — it’s doing books, creating estimates. There’s a lot of paperwork involved. That’s been a real learning curve, and honestly I don’t like that part. I still love the flowers, and that’s what keeps me going.
“My favorite thing is funerals, because I love to know a little more about the deceased person. I’ll ask the person who’s ordering or go online and look at their obituary,” she said. For a person who was the family chef, O’Kane said, “I found a whisk and a rolling pin, and I put their condolence card on a recipe card. I didn’t know if anyone else would get it, but I knew the family would. I’ve had rocks from Lake Superior for people, and baseballs and mitts, and musical instruments and golf balls.”
O’Kane also enjoys doing flowers for weddings. “I’ve never had a bride ever that was even close to a Bridezilla. I’ve been really lucky along those lines. When I’m doing big weddings or special events, I have a tribe of people who love to play with flowers who come in for a day or two.
“I’ve been evolving. I had such expectations to be highly successful and to be busy all the time. I was attending wedding shows, doing demos in stores, all those things that are supposed to bring me business. Now I have enough word of mouth that I take what comes,” she said. “There is a flower store near my house that I have gotten to be really good friends with. She does all the legwork — meets with the bride, does the delivery. I just show up and put pretty flowers together. That’s worked out really well.”
What should people know about ordering flowers?
Florists’ costs have skyrocketed. We’re buying things for a lot of money, and we have to turn around and make money. People have sticker shock. Some people say, “Oh, I just really want peonies.” There are two times of year you can get peonies. Most things are readily available throughout the year — it’s incredible what you can bring in.
What tips do you have for Valentine’s Day?
A lot of people want roses, but if I can, I get them to go to ranunculus, tulips, something you’re not expecting. I have a few clients who buy flowers for the year for their significant other. The rules are that the arrangement usually comes around the first of the month. If there is a birthday or anniversary, those arrive at different times. For the most part they can’t dictate what’s coming — it’s florist’s choice, whatever I’m seeing that looks good. Some people just love that. □