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bizbloom120Most florists have attractive flower shops blooming with bouquets and sprigs that people can come and see when they want flowers for a loved one, holiday or a special event.  Sara Culotta wanted to create something different, a way to bring art arrangements into Ithaca businesses.  Thus was born Business Is Blooming, which specializes in bringing flowers to business places on a subscription basis.

"We bring beauty and the natural world into business offices every week," she explains.  "Every Monday we have a fresh flower service where we deliver artistic bouquets and an information card that goes along with them that tells people the name of every flower in it and most of the foliages, and a little story about one of the botanical elements.  It might be historical, it might be scientific information, it might be how to grow it in your own garden.  That's our flagship service."

Business is BloomingCulotta recieves her weekly delivery from Little Flowers Farm's Jaimi Weeks

Each week there is a theme, but Culotta custom designs each arrangement for the specific space where it will be displayed.  She might arrange downward facing flowers in an arrangement to be shown on a high shelf, or upward facing flowers for one on a low table.  She might put vividly colored arrangement to brighten a dark spot.  She says she enjoys working with clients to find just the right place to display the flowers, where they will have the most impact. 

Culotta says that she makes an effort to get local flowers from June through October when local farmers can provide them, and buys from regional and greenhouse growers in Pennsylvania and Canada, and further afield as needed.  She stresses sustainably grown plants, and buys from green certified growers.  One local supplier is Little Flowers Farm in Newfield.  When their truck comes with its weekly delivery Culotta jumps in the back to see what new flowers are available.  She is like a child in a candy store as she browses the selections, gets ideas for the next week's theme, and picks out handfuls of flowers.

Business Is Blooming(Left) Informational cards with flower names and fun facts are included with each delivery. Culotta shops for new flowers in the Little Flowers Farm delivery truck.

Originally from Warwick, NY, Culotta says she always loved flowers.  As a teenager she would take long walks along the railroad track, picking flowers and making bouquets.  She spent 15 years in corporate sales of telecommunications services, networks, online services.  While she was an account manager  in Little Rock, Arkansas she took an evening class on flower arrangement.

"Arranging flowers was my hobby, my meditation, my release from that corporate job stress," she says.

After moving to Ithaca she stopped working to raise her daughter, but wanted to do something.  She considered selling arrangements to businesses after friends encouraged her to try it.  Business Is Blooming was born in her basement in 2000, and has been in three other locations before she settled in her Cayuga Street building three years ago.  When she started her company she had the confidence to know the impact it would have on her clients' businesses.

"The world of business was where I was comfortable," she says.  "That's where my career had been made.  I sold to banks and hospitals, and utility companies and finance companies, so I was very comfortable talking to business people.  And people always raved when I brought flowers to work for special meetings or somebody's birthday, in that world where you are dealing with a kind of a sterile atmosphere.  In this world of paper and numbers and rational thinking, when this colorful, fragrant bouquet of all these elements of nature walk in the door people would practically come running to look at it and smell it and ask questions.  So I knew that it had a big impact."

The shop is more of a workspace than for display, because most clients order  by phone or via the Internet.  The few walk-ins tend to be neighbors or clients who want something quickly.  That allows her to keep all the flowers in a large, walk-in cooler, which she says keeps the flowers much fresher for longer after they are delivered.

The information card is a popular piece of the package.  It contains the names of all the flowers in an arrangement, and some helpful information about them that might be a little science, history, or planting tips.  She says she knows the kind of impact her arrangements have, because her client's customers sometimes follow her out to the parking lot after a delivery to comment on them.

"A home schooling mom told me 'I'm so glad you put the information inside the card, because sometimes my son and I will go home after banking and have a whole lesson inspired by whatever that message was'," she says.  "Other people have shared various other comments about the card."

The business also provides flowers for special events, with a focus on business and university events.  Culotta does a lot of work for Cornell University and Ithaca College, as well as events like  bar and bat mitzvahs and a limited number of weddings.  For the past six years she has provided the flowers for Ithaca College's Alumni Week, and recently adorned the stage for Cornell's new student convocation.

Recently Culotta has been trying to expand her business, especially the weekly flower delivery service.  Intern Darryle Johnson has spent the summer helping her expand her Web presence, and creating a Facebook page where she can interact more with her clients.  Johnson is finishing that work now before he returns to Belle Sherman Elementary School as a teaching assistant.

Business Is bloomingSara Culotta

Culotta says that the loves the impact her work makes on a business.  She notes that Tompkins Trust Company has made the fresh flowers in their branches part of the bank's branding, and talks about the impact the flowers have on her clients' customers and employees alike.  She says that putting just the right arrangement in just the right space makes a big difference to a business.

"I love the artistry," she says.  "I love the colors and forms of the flowers and putting them together.  And I love the impact that I have on people, knowing that I'm making a difference in their day, in how their business is perceived, and the experience a customer has.  That is really important to me."

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