Daughters of Others: Kelsey Ter Meer
Like her arrangements, Kelsey Ter Meer is a woman of inherent grace. She greeted us on a brisk Sunday in January wearing her boiled wool Glerups slippers, which she admitted she sometimes wears while arranging. (Girl after our own hearts!) Her dual studio-apartment space is breathtaking, with natural light radiating in from her wall-length windows. We chatted about our business dreams and challenges, and couldn’t help but mirror her infectious smile. Oh, and those arrangements: so generous yet refined, like Kelsey herself. We musn’t forget sweet Chappo, Kelsey’s spunky Havanese and part time-art director. Needless to say, we hope she invites us back for a cozy dinner and board games.
D: Give us a little history on your business.
K: My first career focus out of college was farming. There was something super practical about growing vegetables and tending to the land. It directly helps people by filling their stomachs with good, healthy food. It’s harder to exactly quantify the value of flowers, but I know they fill our bellies with joy and those of pollinators with nectar, which is important too. While farming, I found that harvesting and bouquet-making were the days I lived for and what kept me going at then end of the season when my body was tired and ready for hibernation. It took me two years after I left my full-time farm job on an organic farm until I really discovered the art of floristry, and three years until Heart & Soil was realized, but I do believe the heart of the business really does embody the passions that brought me to vegetable farming – nature, environmentalism, and helping people – as well as the passions that I felt were unfulfilled in my own farming career – art and creativity.
D: What is your biggest business challenge?
K: It seems a bit crazy trying to wear all the hats of a small business owner. It honestly sometimes feels like i’m being pulled in a thousand different directions. It’s at time like that, when I remind myself wow, this life full of flowers is amazing and worth every second of it, so turn back to my to-do list and try to concentrate on things one-by-one.
D: What has been your most profound lesson in running your business?
K: Working off of the previous question, I’ve realized that it’s just impossible to be an expert at everything that is required of a small business owner and I just have to ask for help. More importantly, though, I’ve had to learn that asking for help and admitting a weakness doesn’t mean I’m unsuccessful or incapable, it actually means quite the opposite. A stronger person admits weaknesses to allow room for growth.
D: Where do you find your inspiration?
K: Well, nature, obviously. I love studying the soft textures of grassy meadows, the architecture of ice as it floats down the Hudson, the way vines creep along a wall.
D: What, who, or where is inspiring you right now?
K: I just took a trip to Grace Farms in New Caanan, CT. SANAA, a Japanese architecture firm, designed a gathering space/community center on the site which consists of five buildings woven together by a meandering covered walkway. The structure is minimal and most of the walls of the buildings are glass, so the transition between the outside and inside is subtle and fluid. The intentionality of creating something so in-tune with the natural landscape is so clear and beautiful.
D: How do you re-center?
K: I love to get outside, whether that be walking along the river with the pup, finding a swimming hole, going hiking, or going camping. I also love a good dinner party followed by board games.
D: What excites you most about 2018?
K: I’m looking forward to getting into a bigger studio space this year and hopefully growing more of my own flowers. We also have more larger scale projects and weddings this year, so we’re being challenged to perform on a greater scale, which is amazing and exciting!
D: What makes you nervous?
K: At the moment – taxes. They’re confusing and I just want to make sure I’m doing everything right!
D: What's next for Heart & Soil Flowers?
K: I’d like to continue to build a business that’s about environmental stewardship and supporting communities as much as it is about final floral designs. This year, I’d like to continue to build my relationships with local farmers, hire another team member, use the new studio as an informal gathering space, and think about ways we can reduce our waste. Hopefully, as the business grows, we’ll be able to take on bigger initiatives and maybe even grow into a storefront!