IOWA CITY — Angela Barnett and Amber Neville were fortunate to get their first big gig before they even opened their new business on Sept. 1.
In August, the owners of Willow and Stock were asked to provide the table arrangements for the second-annual Farm to Street Dinner, an event held outside in the middle of North Linn Street, just steps from their new Iowa City floral shop.
“It was a great way to get our name out there,” Barnett said. “We had our business cards on all the arrangements. It created a buzz before the shop even opened.”
Barnett, who has been working as a floral designer since 2000, received her Master Florist credentials through the Iowa Florist’s Association in 2006. Early last year, she saw a “for lease” sign go up in the window of a former yarn and fabric shop in the neighborhood and approached her longtime friend about going into the floral business together.
At the time, Neville was working as a corporate librarian.
“I was working in a cubicle and had low interaction with people,” she said. “It was time for me to do something different, and it seemed like the right thing to give this a shot.”
Although Neville always had enjoyed doing crafty things, she has no previous experience with floral design. But she caught on quickly.
“I’ve trained a lot of people in floral design over the years, and she’s a natural,” Barnett said.
Neville’s research skills as a librarian also proved useful to the new business.
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“Amber did 90 percent of the business plan,” Barnett said. “She was able to find all of the information we needed to show the bank.”
Recognizing within the neighborhood a desire for ethically- and responsibly-sourced products, Barnett and Neville chose not to affiliate Willow and Stock with a national floral clearinghouse. Without anyone dictating the types of flowers and arrangements they must offer, they are able to buy flowers from local farmers and supplement with stock from American greenhouse growers located as close to home as possible.
“The product is so much fresher when the flowers are cut, put in buckets of water and brought to us the same day,” Barnett said. “And the carbon footprint is a lot less than bringing in flowers from South America.”
Barnett said she and Neville were pleasantly surprised by the number of local growers with whom they were able to establish relationships over the winter months for the coming growing season.
“We’re really excited to see what spring will bring.”
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At a Glance
l Owners: Angela Barnett and Amber Neville
l Business: Willow and Stock
l Address: 207 N. Linn St., Iowa City
l Phone: (319) 338-1332
l Website: willowandstock.com