From gardener to shop owner

Business Profile Flowers by Judy

February 07, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

A couple of adult-education courses in flower arranging led Judy Overman to create a business, Flowers by Judy.

"It was a midlife-type thing," she said.

Overman's daughter had gone to college, and she had always loved gardening, so she signed up for classes. This was about 10 years ago, she said.

After taking the classes, she began selling dried-silk arrangements at craft shows. But that wasn't enough.

"I decided to really make a go of it," she said. "And I decided to go for fresh flowers."

Overman, a former bookkeeper and nurse, chose to focus her flower business on events, particularly weddings. Now, she decorates for several functions most weekends, especially between March and November. The weddings are mainly in Howard and Baltimore counties and on the Eastern Shore, she said.

Overman said she made a conscious decision not to sign up with floral-retail networks such as FTD or Teleflora, which deliver flower arrangements. She also does not sell gift baskets or balloons, though she keeps a few bouquets in stock for the occasional walk-in customer.

By focusing on weddings, she said, she is able to keep her inventory low, and to concentrate on what she does best, which is creating a look, from boutonnieres to centerpieces.

Overman worked out of her home at first, but for five years, Flowers by Judy has been run out of a former home on Bethany Lane in Ellicott City. The business has grown to the point that she has been able to hire assistants, she said, but she still finds herself working nearly every day.

The owner and her assistants create the arrangements in the home's former kitchen. Last week, those assistants, Julie Redmond and Chris Ranson, were arranging bouquets for a weekend wedding show in Baltimore, sharing the small space with probably hundreds of roses, mums, ginger flowers and peonies.

In April, Overman is to move to a new location off U.S. 40 near Rogers Avenue, she said.

Overman said the wedding business has been growing, and that brides today -- and occasionally grooms -- know what they want.

One such bride was Donna Lupinos Scheitlin of Glen Burnie, who hired Overman to provide flowers for her October wedding at Kent Manor Inn in Stevensville on the Eastern Shore.

"The main thing was, she made us feel really comfortable," said Scheitlin. "She really understood what I was trying to achieve in my look."

For the autumn event, Scheitlin wanted a classic, romantic feel, and had chosen a color scheme of ivory and chocolate brown, with a hint of burnt orange.

Overman found a burnt-orange rose, serendipitously named the Donna, noted Scheitlin. "I really incorporated those roses, like everywhere," said the newlywed.

She also said Overman was helpful in finding ways to cut costs, such as using some flower arrangements twice -- once to anchor the aisle, and later, as decorations in the powder room.

Overman said brides should contact a florist for a consultation as soon as they have the site, date, time and color scheme for their event. Some bring in pages from bridal magazines to show what they like.

Overman will help wedding planners determine which flowers work with their concepts, and she will come up with quotes. She can choose from hundreds of flowers, which are grown all over the world and supplied by wholesalers.

As with just about everything these days, there are trends for wedding decorations. "I find they are going more for color," Overman said. Even a bouquet that's mostly white will typically have a colorful flower interspersed throughout, she said.

She generally gets flowers for weekend weddings on Wednesdays and begins putting together the bouquets and centerpieces right away. The day of the wedding, she usually has two hours to set up. She used to do everything herself, but as her business grows, she is learning to rely more on her assistants, she said.

"One of my goals is to not be up all night before every wedding," she said.

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