Small-town experience fits future for blossoming horticulturalist

HeatherThomsen.jpg
HeatherThomsen.jpg

Heather Thomsen hopes to apply what she?s learning at Brenda Bloomer?s to a career in a small-town greenhouse/garden center. Andrew Ottoson

Heather Thomsen has aspirations of starting a horticulture and greenhouse business. So when her ongoing education opened the door for an internship with one of Hillsboro?s successful small business owners, she jumped at the chance.

?This internship is something I really wanted to do and really I like it,? Thomsen said.

A student at Kansas State University, Thomsen?s work at Brenda?s Bloomers has covered her summer living expenses, but also let her begin to harvest knowledge about the practical aspects of business ownership.

?Working with Brenda?she?s been great, and very helpful,? Thomsen said.

Her duties include a variety of hands-on tasks.

?I?ll water plants outside, or some of these up front, help out on the floral side, make arrangements, take balloon orders, clean up, help customers with gifts…and if that slows down, help out with drinks, busing tables, just doing whatever?s needed,? she said.

Thomsen indicated that from what she has seen, the flower business is thriving.

?I think there?s a lot of opportunity,? she said. ?There are a lot of orders. There?s always going to be funerals, there?s always going to be weddings and proms and family, so there is a lot of need for flowers.?

She thinks the opportunity for a greenhouse extends at least as far as the edge of every yard.

?People are always going to want to take good care of their lawns,? she said. ?There?s a basic need for that kind of business.?

If the inflection in her voice is any indication, the deeper passion is for flowers.

?I?ve always liked plants,? Thomsen said. ?I?ve always liked flowers, and I knew I?d want to do something ag-related?I grew up on a farm.?

Seeing the opportunities, Thomsen and her dad identified a degree to match her interests: horticulture and greenhouse management.

?I?d like to be in a small community, so that translates into a small business, learning the accounting and business aspects of it, and this internship, I know will be helpful,? she said.

But while Brenda?s Bloomers is ?similar to something I would like to do…I don?t know if this is exactly what I want to do,? Thomsen said. ?I?m leaning more toward a greenhouse, more with acquatic plants and fresh flowers…have a garden center with it. Something like that.?

Beyond the hustle and bustle of her responsibilities, Thomsen recognizes the value of the internship experience as a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

?The goal is to gain as much experience as I can working with fresh flowers and potted plants, and to get experience working with customers,? she said. ?But mainly I want to take away any knowledge I can from Brenda being a business owner.?

As for where and when she hopes to start her own business, she said she has not looked so far ahead.

?I still have a year in school. I have a boyfriend (Andrew Hajek) in Tampa. I?d consider this area, or back home, in Olpe,? she said. ?I?m not really a big city person?a small town is where I?ll be.?

Wherever she goes, Thomsen is certain to take along one lesson she said the internship has reinforced: ?As long as you turn out a really nice arrangement and a great product, you?ll have people come back to you.?

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