Fundraising is just one more thing that’s gone virtual this year, and luckily for florists, politicians still need their red, white and all the hues (and support for local businesses) to come through in the form of flowers.
When Lesley Lopez, a Democratic Maryland delegate elected in 2018, needed a fresh idea for a virtual fundraiser, she turned to a friend and fellow flower lover she’d met while volunteering for the Democratic National Committee. On Oct. 22, Cameron Hardesty of Poppy will be planting the seeds of flower love and voter engagement during a DIY Flower Night to Support Del. Lopez. Proceeds from ticket sales go to Lopez, but participants will order flowers from Poppy.
“When you volunteer with someone during a campaign, those bonds are forever strong, like friends from camp, so when Lesley asked for my help, I knew exactly what we could do,” Hardesty said.
As for Lopez, she said she’s hoping to provide a creative outlet, some much-needed self-care and something tangible to remind participants of nature’s beauty. “This year has been a lot,” she said. “Flowers make people happy. Why not give people some joy and a chance to try something new?”
Earlier this fall, Poppy, via Hardesty, provided the entertainment and education for about 50 supporters of the Maryland Democratic Party. The design she created live was auctioned off to participants at the end of the night.
Hardesty is no stranger to politics, having volunteered alongside While House chief floral designer Laura Dowling, while working there full-time in communications for President Obama. Nor is she new to the flower business. She traded politics for petals when she became head of product at D.C.-based Urban Stems, where she developed relationships with growers and a wholesalers that now supply Poppy.
Today, she’s the CEO and Poppy, which she founded as a wedding florist in late 2019. When her calendar got “COVID-cleaned” of weddings in March, she quickly shifted to delivering farm-to-consumer floral kits, or as one of her customers called the package bursting with stems, lifestyle influencer-approved vase and instructions: “a flower shop in a box.”
Poppy at Home took online sales from zero to $30,000 in one month, and got the attention of The Today Show, where Hardesty was featured during the She Made It feature, as a resilient small business owner re-imaging her business model, while still keeping what she loves — flowers — at the core with the at-home floral kits.
Those kits are now arriving on the doorsteps of at least 25 new brides, who signed up for the subscription after Poppy and its network of freelance designers delivered pandemic-safe wedding “mini-monies” and ceremonies. Hardesty said they’ve done about 100 weddings since gearing back up in July.
Need more inspiration? Read more about Lee’s Flowers and Cards, another retail florist that has forged strong community bonds by getting involved locally with politics and issues the owners care about.
Amanda Long is a contributing writer and editor for the Society of American Florists.