We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My dream of owning a flower or garden shop started back when I was in high school, after working at a local florist. In addition to learning a lot of the basics, it ignited my inherited love of flowers. Over the years, I would arrange flowers for myself or dear friends (hence the name) and always thought of it as a passion/hobby. Having a career background in Marketing, I always felt I would need a clear problem to solve or differentiating factor to truly act on my dream. By the end of 2020, after making a few arrangements for friends’ Christmas tables, the idea of Dear Friend really took shape and is rooted in my belief that buying or gifting flowers is a deeply personal & heartfelt experience, like writing or receiving a handwritten thank you note, yet buying online has become so commoditized that oftentimes what shows up to your dear friend’s door looks nothing like that you expected. The only other common option is to buy flowers from the grocery store, which typically provides disappointing variety and quality and requires some kind of knowledge of how to select and arrange them. Various other observations and experiences lead me to diving in head first to start Dear Friend and provide a more personalized, local and approachable experience to buying flowers, while simultaneously providing inspiration and knowledge on how to select and care for flowers.
What should our readers know about your business?
I started Dear Friend because I felt there was a lack of personalized, local and affordable options for buying or gifting flowers. Having loved flowers my whole life, I’ve admired so many floral designers/artists along the way but noticed they typically only create lavish arrangements for events or special occasions that didn’t exactly make sense for the every-day person to bring into their home and put on the kitchen counter. While I will always admire their work and find inspiration in their talent, I wanted to solve for something different, something more approachable.
Currently, what makes me the most proud is purely the fact that I got started; that Dear Friend even exists today. Everyone has great ideas but it’s acting on an idea or passion that is daunting and overwhelming. One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek and use his Golden Circle TED talk because it’s all about focusing on WHY you exist and the value it provides. He says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it:. I’ve learned that focusing on the WHY of your business will provide ongoing inspiration and a single purpose you can refer back to if you are stuck.
As I mentioned earlier, giving or receiving flowers is almost never about the flowers; it’s about the people and stories behind the flowers. Dear Friend exists to foster those personal, honest and heartfelt connections in a way that is local, approachable and accessible.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Organizing a week of fun in Atlanta is easy and hard to answer at the same time! Since I have two small kids, but also long for days of not being called Mom, I’ll share both kid-friendly and Mom-only options.
If I had no kids in tow:
– A boozey brunch at my favorite Buttermilk Kitchen in Buckhead. A dear friend, Suzanne Vizethan, is the mastermind behind this local favorite. Her biscuits are award winning for good reason but everything she does is incredible!
– Then I’d venture over to the eastside Beltline trail to walk off the biscuits, popping into shops like Citizen Supply at Ponce City Market that is filled with incredible local artists of all kind and eventually taking a rest at New Realm’s outdoor seating for a beer.
– To end the evening, I’d swing by Antico pizza on our way to The Works and settle into a few adirondack chairs at The Camp and sip on beers from Dr Scofflaw.
If I needed kid-friendly options:
– I’d definitely venture out to Serenbe one day to visit their farm and have lunch at the Inn (especially on Sundays when they have Fried Chicken!)
– On a separate day, I’d take the entire family down to Southern Belle Farm (about 30 mins from downtown) to their u-pick fields of seasonal produce. Their strawberries, blueberries and zinnia flower fields are a few of my kids’ favorites.
– We also love love love Roswell and all of the easy kid-friendly walking trails around the Roswell Mill. Canton St has so many great restaurant options and several local breweries that are kid-friendly. Roswell Provisions on Canton St also makes a mean charcuterie board.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My own personal dear friends & family who have supported and fostered my love of flowers along the way are the namesakes behind Dear Friend. There’s a reason my business isn’t named after me or even flower related and that’s because the funny thing about giving or receiving flowers is that it’s almost never about the flowers; it’s about the stories, connections and memories they foster & create. From my oldest childhood friends to my recent “mom-friends” and in between, I will be forever grateful for the unique inspiration they provide. But starting a small business, on top of working full time, being a Mom of two young kids (all during a pandemic) is certainly not easy and has only been possible because of the genuine support of my husband. I still remember our first date when I told him I wanted to open a flower shop one day and here we are. He’s super Dad and keeps me grounded and focused on what matters.
Photo credit: Kelly Berry