Quarantine changed people — including Colleen Monroe, the serial entrepreneur said, looking back on the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles and the day she loaded her car with a few personal belongings and as many vases as it could hold.
Uprooting her once-busy life, she hoped growth opportunities might bloom in Kansas City.
“I was on such a high. I was getting a lot of projects. I was working with some incredible clients — and then everything got canceled overnight,” said Monroe, a Hollywood costume and set design pro, and founder of Floraloom Studio.
“I moved out here four-months ago, only knowing a handful of people — and my business just kind of started taking off,” she continued, detailing unexpected successes that have positioned Floraloom for massive growth and provided necessary nutrients that could plant social impact citywide.
New partnerships in recent weeks have Monroe arranging her bold and bright floral focal points for local businesses like Billie’s Grocery in Midtown and HITIDES Coffee — just inches away from her new studio, inside the East Crossroads-based Collective Ex makerspace.
Floraloom has also worked with big name clients like Twitter, Spotify, and Pandora. Click here to view a full gallery of Floraloom arranged works and projects.
Even more exciting for the Kansas City transplant, tossing her pennies into the City of Fountains quickly paid off — realizing a long-held wish that now has her leading workshops at Newhouse Shelter in Northeast Kansas City. Through the arrangement, she’s helped a growing number of women discover their creative purpose, getting paid to assemble Floraloom’s displays and sell-out wreath kits — which have helped keep the business watered throughout the pandemic.
Shop local for Valentine’s Day! Colleen Monroe is planting a Floraloom pop-up at Billie’s Grocery this Saturday and Sunday, offering bouquets made in partnership with Newhouse Shelter.
Quantities are limited and pre-orders are recommended. Click here to place an order.
“[Kansas City] opened up a door for me to do that,” she said of the work, which she’d previously hoped to launch with a downtown Los Angeles women’s shelter.
“The idea of being able to work in a flower shop or pursue a creative career, for a lot of the women, fulfilling job options are limited,” Monroe explained.
“I have it on my heart to say, ‘You can pursue creative entrepreneurial-ism’; it is an option,” she said. “You could get a job in flower design anywhere in the country.”
Such advice isn’t just talk for Monroe; it’s her truth — put on display in an arrangement she hopes will make life brighter for everyone she encounters.
“I didn’t really come from a home that was warm and inviting and always safe. Creativity has always been a sense of freedom and safety and home for me,” she explained, eager to share her realization with the world, one pruned and painted petal at a time.
Hustling in the fast-paced Los Angeles-gig economy, Monroe first took a job in a flower shop to help curb the cost of launching a sustainable fashion brand.
“Designing for more than a decade, I first began in costume and production design for film and TV in New York and Los Angeles, working alongside top creatives for HBO, Warner Brothers, Fox Studios, and Mattel,” Colleen Monroe detailed.
“When I discovered flowers and their ability to tell stories through colorful designs and varied shapes, I fell in love with this beautiful craft! After apprenticing with top designers and flower shops around Los Angeles, I soon began designing and building floral and art installations for experiential marketing events for clients such as Mastercard, Facebook, and Edelman.”
“Today, I weave all my design experiences together in film, fashion, and now flowers to run Floraloom Studio where my team and I create experiences that inspire wonder and build community.”
Click here to connect with Monroe on Linkedin.
“It was a world that I never really knew a lot about. I just fell in love with the craft,” she said.
“Things started to flip and I started to get some of my own clients. I reached a point where half my car was filled with flowers and the other half was filled with fabric.”
Monroe put the apparel company on pause and went all in on Floraloom, quickly finding herself in a niche world she couldn’t get enough of.
Now in Kansas City, Monroe’s discovered an even richer passion growing amid the creative community’s spirit of collaboration.
“I didn’t want to keep running from project to project because I never felt satisfied,” she said. “But the moments that I did feel satisfied were when I could create something that helped someone else feel a sense of pride and joy around creativity.”
And in return? You get what you give, Monroe said, adding the people of Kansas City continue to help her in ways she never dreamed possible.
“HITIDES reached out to me on Instagram, to do a floral arrangement for their sign,” she explained of the social media connection that ultimately landed her studio space — a major upgrade from the living room of her River Market apartment, she laughed.
“This is such a big deal for me, to have a studio space. I’ve been working out of my apartments for over seven years — literally turning the air conditioning on in my bedroom so my flowers could survive and sleeping on the couch because it’d be so cold.”
The connection led to work with a next-door neighbor at Duet Gift Shop and came full circle when she realized Johnny Dawbarn, founder of Collective Ex and owner of HITIDES, was the brother of an event space colleague with whom she previously worked in Los Angeles.
Click here to read more about HITIDES set to serve its grand opening Friday in the East Crossroads.
Additional connections and projects include work on the Fontaine Hotel’s Nine Zero One Igloo Bar with Josh Dampf, owner of Josh Dampf Events, who Monroe met while installing an arrangement for her brother’s wedding in Atchison, Kansas — months before relocating from the coast.
Dampf later filled her head with stories of Kansas City’s creative energy, she noted, adding his sales pitch played a significant role in encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone and leave a city that’s always been good to her.
“I absolutely love L.A. and it’s given me so many opportunities. I’m flying back there for projects this year,” she said, expressing appreciation for her colleagues on the coast and an eagerness to continue working with them no matter where she lands.
“I have been incredibly welcomed here and I don’t know what the future is going to hold, but I’m loving it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.