Karla Smith- Brown, Olivee Floral
On todays origin story Karla Smith-Brown shares the journey of taking a chance on yourself.
KARLA SMITH-BROWN / JAMAICAN / FLORIST/ BASED IN NY
oliveefloral.com | @oliveefloral | @kayisforkarla
"Texture is just beautiful to look at but it's also something that's beautiful to feel and to experience and engage with when you get a flower arrangement from Olivee."
Olivee Floral arrangements
Tell us more about your grandma Olivee, the influence behind your company name.
She’s on my mother’s side of the family, it’s my mother’s grandmother. Her name is Olivee. And she lived in Jamaica in St. Elizabeth, that’s where my mom’s family is from. She’s just a very strong opinionated, feisty, no nonsense, get it done type of lady. She had a bunch of property, a bunch of land in St. Elizabeth and she had a farm on the land, she would run the farm, taking care of all the animals, she did it all on her own. And she just also had a lightness and a sense of humor about her. I remember when I would go to Jamaica as a kid and visit, she would joke around. I wouldn’t know what she would be talking about sometimes, but she did just have a playfulness about her and everybody in the town knew who she was. Nobody can tell her anything, nobody can tell her what to do, she ran the show. She was a very strong woman and just like an icon in my family. So I felt when I was starting the studio, I was looking for ways to kind of honor my heritage and just continue my family’s legacy. And I had went to Jamaica with two of my cousin’s because their mother my aunt, she had passed away and it was just a whirlwind of events, it was just all very sudden and tragic. So after grieving for a few months we realized that we needed to kind of just get out of the country and just take some time away and have some peace. So we went to Jamaica, and I went to granny Olivee’s property in St. Elizabeth just reconnecting with where I’m from. And that was something that was so special to me. So when I was brainstorming different things, I kind of wanted to access that again.
"Dream bigger, that's something I keep telling myself."
Take me back to your first experience with flowers.
That ritual about coming home and the peacefulness that you get from actually having your hands in the soil, is the first memory that I have with flowers. But then cut flowers, like flower arranging, that didn’t come until later on. But just moving to New York there’s not as much green space in New York as I would like. I don’t have a backyard, I don’t have a rooftop patio situation, I don’t have much green space. So I would buy fresh flowers every week just to have that connection, to have something beautiful from nature in my home. I think that that’s just a form of self-care. Getting into that ritual of getting fresh flowers every week, kind of brought me back to the same essentials that I felt with having my hands in the dirt growing my own flowers when I was gardening.
Taking the leap of faith and pursing a creative endeavorer can be scary, but you did it! Are you proud of yourself and the progress of Olivee?
Absolutely it’s incredible, I’m very proud of who I’ve become as a florist and how I just kind of evolved and grown my business. Like I haven’t been running my business for very long but I’m totally proud of where I’m at and taking the chance on myself. I moved to New York nine years ago from Toronto and I moved at first to start my career in public relations. So I was working at different PR agencies and then I was working in house doing marketing for other companies and then I decided I wanted to do something more creative. I wanted to do something easy using my hands, and I decided to bet on myself and just quit my full time job and lose my benefits. It’s like my mom just could not understand why this would be the option. Then I’m like, “You know what I’m just gonna kind of take a chance on myself and see how far I take it.” And I’m so proud of myself for risking that, and risking the security of having a job and just trusting that I could create for myself the life that I wanted using by creativity.