Honoring Women after a Challenging Year

By: Mariana Becerra

Women’s Day and Month is a special time for us to honor, champion, and celebrate women. Not only are the majority of flower consumers women, but our industry is also primarily made up of women. 

Simply put, women are the backbone of our community and without them, this industry would not be what it is today. From farm workers that harvest and package flowers to sales representatives and market purveyors that make sure their customers get the best products available to florists, designers, and entrepreneurs that put all their love, time, and energy into their business – these women have seen it all, especially during what has been such a difficult and transformative year.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. As we continue to navigate the challenges of the present, we must also do our part to create a more fair world. A world where we “celebrate women, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.” 

This might seem like a difficult task when we read quotes such as “It took women 9 months to lose ~30 years of progress.” (- CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani). Or when we hear that “women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the pandemic-induced recession compared with 4.4 million lost by men.” (Ewing-Nelson, “All of the Jobs Lost in December Were Women’s Jobs.”)

As a woman writing this post, I find myself wondering what the flower industry can do to support all women. Yes, our mission is to help people express feelings with flowers. We are part of an industry that builds community and love. But what else can we do?  

During the height of the pandemic’s uncertainty, I saw the women of our industry come together in ways I had never seen before. Floral designers took to their Instagram accounts offering support to their colleagues. Instead of throwing out products, many donated flowers, even offering delivery free of charge. Some women reinvented themselves, “pivoted” their businesses, and rolled out assistance programs for their freelance colleagues. I saw business leaders being vulnerable and raw, allowing for others to relate, creating a virtual safe space for our industry. 

This year’s Women’s Day feels a little different, more personal. We’ve overcome so much on our own and with the help of our colleagues, but what else can be done? 

So, I wanted to ask some of these women about their thoughts on this year’s holiday and what it means to them. Here are their answers*.

*Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Yury Rangel Patiño- Administrative Assistant at Flores La Mana Farm

Screen Shot 2021-03-01 at 10.46.43 AM

I met Yury in June 2019, when I went to interview several women at the farms. I was immediately drawn to her smile, laughter, and her candidness- we had lunch that day and she told me all about her life.

So, when I went back in December, I knew I wanted to see and talk to her again. She’s a beautiful woman with a magnificent soul. She mixes her self-deprecating humor with extraordinary life lessons that leave you wanting to learn more. It’s been more than a year since I last saw her, and to say that I miss her is an understatement. Luckily in 2021, WhatsApp is a wonderful thing that allows me to stay connected to her!

Q: How do you feel about ‘celebrating’ Women’s Day while working in an industry that is predominantly made up of women?  

A: I feel proud to know that I work in an industry that supports women. These women have incredible life stories. They are dedicated superheroes who represent what it means to be a woman in the most positive of ways. It’s about that perfect combination: the warrior with her protective armor that is also a delicate woman. It’s about seeing these women come in every day to work, put on their uniforms, and when they leave they look like beautiful models. That combination, that makes women unique, is what makes my heart swell up with pride. 

Q: Has the pandemic taught you anything about yourself that you weren’t aware of before?

A: It made me realize how important my responsibilities are, not just at work, but in life. I was sent home at the beginning of the pandemic because I’m “high risk”. At, home I had to juggle being a mom, aunt, daughter, employee, friend, and student. Before, I didn’t necessarily consider some of these roles to be as important. I realized how important we are as human beings, not just employees. We are responsible for our intentions and actions and how they affect the people around us. I finally understood that an “I Love You” or an “I’m here for you” is sometimes more valuable than money itself. 

Q: What can our industry leaders do to create a more equal world, where we celebrate women’s accomplishments, raise awareness against bias and take action? 

A: I believe that the ones I work for are already doing that. I remember when I was a young girl, my dad worked in the industry. The conditions were very different from what we see now. We work for a company that supports us, provides benefits, that champions us when it comes to our education. When I started working here, I didn’t have a professional background and now, I’m halfway done with my degree. They take care of you both physically and emotionally. They treat us like family. This company not only supports us but also empowers us, regardless of any stigmas that continue to exist in our society. Our leaders are committed to creating a “work experience that promotes the integral growth of each worker and their family and that also benefits their community.” This mentality has helped women like myself and my colleagues create a better future not only for ourselves but also for our children. The lessons we learn are passed on to our children so they can be part of a world that is more human, more conscious of life’s gifts.

Heather Lawson- Founder of Petal Share

Heather launched Petal Share in 2013 after watching one of those “weddings of the rich and famous” shows and she wondered “What happens with all of those flowers once the event is over?” She realized that there was an opportunity to give these flowers a second life and help underserved communities in the process.

Although she had no previous experience in the industry or even contacts in event planning, she knew people would love and need to have these flowers. After some research, a lot of soul-searching, and determination she went for it. One day, after messaging several event planners, one got back to her and told her she could pick up flowers after a photo shoot. And the rest is “Herstory”!

What I loved about Heather’s story is that she’s honest. She wasn’t drawn to this industry because of her love for flowers. Instead, she saw flowers as a tool to connect with people. Heather is a “people lover” and it shows. As a civil rights attorney that works in Health Law and Policy, she works to help the “frail, forgotten” and the often marginalized people of society.

She is the definition of a superhero, a woman that not only juggles the responsibilities that a full-time job entails but also wants to continue and expand Petal Share’s mission of letting people know they have not been forgotten. And since she began this beautiful project, more than 200,000 flowers have been shared throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia with people in nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters. Anywhere where people could use a smile.

We encourage you to follow Petal Share on Instagram to be part of all the good that Heather and her volunteers are doing with flowers. If you’re interested in helping Heather expand Petal Share’s efforts in your local community, email her at petalshare@gmail.com.

Q: How do you feel about Women’s Day as a business leader in such a female-driven business? 

A: From a standpoint of “celebration” of women and us being women, which is a uniquely specific and odyssey-filled experience, I believe it’s a positive thing.

However, I think it falls short because all of us are not JUST women. We are not monolithic. Women come to flower work from a variety of different entry points. We have a lot of intersections. We have gender and race, gender and sexuality, gender and culture, and so on. 

I think it’s great to celebrate women but I think it’s more important to talk to women and find out what our intersections and entry points are and what brings us to work with flowers. We all have super unique stories. For some folks it’s a complete shift from a different career, for others, it’s a family business that’s passed down, other women come to this industry because of their love for agriculture. 

In my case, I’m not in flower work for the flowers, I do this for the people– I had no previous connections to the industry. So, we must recognize why we do what we do and have these conversations with other women in our industry. 

Q: Has the pandemic taught you anything about yourself that you weren’t aware of before?

A: Yes- that a woman with a mission is a force to be reckoned with! When the pandemic began, everything got shut down, we were stuck at home trying to figure out what to do. Our main concerns turned into “Where are we going to get masks, toilet paper, Lysol?”

Once the initial panic calmed down a bit, I started reaching out to event planners and florists to see if we could get flowers. One of our Flower Fairies, Ursula from Fleurs DC, let me know that a local wholesaler was shutting down. She helped me pick up the flowers, hand-tie them, and I went to her house with some Petal Share volunteers to further wrap and prep them for delivery to different places in the community.  

This showed me that despite all of us going through so much, especially since most of us are the heads of our households in terms of making sure our own families are taken care of, we were still thinking about the community. We just found a way to make it happen

We were masked up and wiping everything down, but nothing could stop us. Women catch up fast! We had to deal with a lot but this experience showed me that when we need to galvanize, when we need to come together, and when we need to look out for our community there is nothing that can stop us

Q: What can our industry leaders [who the majority are men] do to create a more equal world, where we celebrate women’s accomplishments, raise awareness against bias and take action? 

A: Move out of the way! (laughs) We got this! We don’t want a seat at the table, we want the table. 

I can’t think of an industry that isn’t improved by having a woman running the show. We bring a different sensibility to things, a more complex, more nuanced approach. We tend to look at things as less of an act of conquering and more of an act of coordinating and collaborating. So, I can’t see how the industry wouldn’t benefit from us. 

Valen Ibarra- Floral Designer and Owner of Blumen Haus Denver

Photos by: Samantha Ruscher

Although I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Valen in person, I feel like we will be flower friends for a long time. When we first spoke via text we had many things in common including values, dreams, and even similar taste in nail art.

I’ll never get tired of saying this: Valen is the type of woman that will never bring you down. She uplifts our flower community, encourages and helps new industry members, and loves a good collaboration. Valen is extremely humble about her art. She’ll never brag about the amazing styling jobs she does and she’ll never admit that she’s lowkey a flower influencer. She creates beautiful “intergalactic flower art”, is completely true to herself and her aesthetic, and best of all, she is not scared to stand up for what is right.

Along with her friend Michelle (electricflora), she’s created Flower Riot, “a place for floral artists to share art and activism”. She’s the type of woman that our industry needs. She’s bold and passionate, she’s not afraid to speak her mind, and she has innovative ways of combining floral design with civil rights advocacy. Simply put, she’s a fearless game-changer and trailblazer for our industry.

If you’re not already doing so, we highly recommend you follow Valen on Instagram for beautiful floral art and inspo you need in your life.

Photo by: Samantha Ruscher

Q: How do you feel about Women’s Day as a business leader in such a female-driven business? 

A: I feel like women’s day is an important reminder of how far women have come and will go. Technically every day is women’s day though. 

Q: Has the pandemic taught you anything about yourself that you weren’t aware of before?

A: Definitely, the pandemic has taught me how much strength I have and how much you need to trust the universe. 

Photo by: Dawn & Dusk

Photo by: Dawn & Dusk

Q: What can our industry leaders do to create a more equal world, where we celebrate women’s accomplishments, raise awareness against bias and take action?  

A: Our industry leaders need to check their white privilege and work on being more inclusive not just during “trendy” times. If women truly start supporting and helping each other and cheering each other on, the industry will change. A handful of florists and I are working together to change the narrative. 

We need to uplift each other and truly stand by that mentality. The old-school florist days of competition over community are dead. All are welcome. Also, I’d love to give a huge shoutout to my flower friends who have been nothing but light and positivity and who are working hard to change the industry: 

electric flora

Flwr pstl 

velvet armoire 

black and blossomed


bloom and noosh 

Ali Dahlson- Marketing at Mayesh Wholesale Florist

2019 headshot

Photo by: Nicole Clarey

Everyone in our industry (and even outside of it) knows Mayesh. What some may not know is that Mayesh’s success in the marketing and branding real is partly due to all of Ali and her team’s hard work and dedication.

Ali is the perfect example of a successful modern marketer in the floral industry. Her sense of design, branding, and innovation has made Mayesh a staple in our community. She’s the mastermind behind all things digital and carefully curates Mayesh’s now-famous Design Star workshops and videos.

I met Ali several years ago when Mayesh hosted a design workshop in Miami. I got to pick her brain about growing its Instagram following so quickly and effectively. I was excited to meet a woman that not only had a non-traditional outlook on our industry but also had the company’s support in creating this evolution.

Since our first meeting several years ago, Ali and I have had great conversations about where we see the wholesale and distributor side of the industry going and what we can do as marketers and brands to help it grow.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, we made sure to give each other updates on how the business was doing, what was happening around the country, and simply make sure our families (and each other) were ok. That’s when I realized that Ali, and her father, Pat, truly love our industry and believe in making it a better, more innovative space for community growth and expansion.

Make sure to follow Mayesh on Instagram, if you aren’t already!

Photos by: Nicole Clarey

Q: How do you feel about Women’s Day as a business leader in such a female-driven business? 

A: Honestly, before this, I have never put THAT much thought into Women’s Day other than celebrating female empowerment on a surface level, but the past year has brought much to light and allowed us to look at issues of diversity, equality & equity from a heightened perspective. 

When thinking about this question, I think that it is pretty unique & uncommon to be a part of a female-driven industry as a whole. That being said, the side you & I are both in – the wholesale [distributor/importer] side – has historically been more old-school and male-dominated, but I think that has been changing over the past decade. Luckily, it has people like our dads – industry leaders who value & respect women in business and see the strengths we bring to the table. 

I’m fortunate & proud to work for my dad and for a company where currently 58% of our titled positions are held by women.

In terms of the retail/designer side of the business, I just think it’s badass to be a part of such a female-dominated industry. And what’s even cooler is that we’re seeing this shift to Collaboration over Competition, and a large group of women who, in general, seem to value community and supporting one another. 

Of course, business is business and there will always be healthy competition, but from all of the shared educational resources and workshops to the floral community gatherings & events, I love seeing strong, creative women support one another and work towards a common goal of helping this industry grow and flourish. 

Q: Has the pandemic taught you anything about yourself that you weren’t aware of before?

A: On a personal level, I had quite an interesting year as I moved to a brand new city (and timezone!) days before the country shut down. That was also a couple of days after my 30th birthday and a couple more days after I was furloughed by Mayesh indefinitely

Being unemployed and in a new city far from my family and friends forced me to depend on myself, as I’m typically a very extroverted social person who depends on frequent in-person interaction. While I did rely heavily on Zoom & FaceTime to stay connected, I learned that I can quiet my brain and appreciate downtime.

On a work level, I think it forced my team (Mayesh Marketing) to reevaluate certain things and start prioritizing what is important. Silver lining: I think our team is stronger, more connected, and more efficient than ever before, and we’re pretty excited about what’s to come. 

Photos by: Nicole Clarey

Q: What can our industry leaders do to create a more equal world, where we celebrate women’s accomplishments, raise awareness against bias and take action? 


A: I already touched on this a bit above – from my perspective, I think our industry leaders have been doing a pretty good job as we have female representation on boards, women Presidents, etc. I think that just continuing to listen and hear our voices, and allow women to grow and advance within our companies is the right path for our industry.