Melissa Paquin, Florist & Owner of Renegade Floral
Florist & Owner of Renegade Floral
So many of today's greatest businesses started as small operations working out of their garages: Apple, Amazon, Disney, Google... and you can add Renegade Floral to that list! Melissa Paquin runs her four-year-old floral business, Renegade Floral, out of her home garage near downtown Santa Fe. She mostly does floral design for weddings, but has recently launched a weekly flower subscription service for locals. I visited her intimate garage operation to learn her story. She's a Dallas native, single mom, female entrepreneur on her grind in a highly competitive industry. Read how she managed to find her niche, and refuge, in working with flowers and plants daily.
SFF: Where are you from and how did you decide to move to Santa Fe?
MP: I originally came to Santa Fe about thirteen years ago, and I before that I had been living in Austin and Northern California, where I went to school. I realized that I needed a change, and I wanted something really different. New Mexico was always in the middle of my drive going from California to Texas, where I grew up. I would always drive home through New Mexico during the summer monsoons which were so epic, with so many rainbows and rainstorms, and I just knew that one day I wanted to live in New Mexico. And that day eventually came knocking. I picked up my life to move here, and I didn’t know one single person here in New Mexico.
SFF: That’s pretty brave!
MP: Yeah, I was really brave back then, and pretty bold. Whatever I wanted to do, I did it. I actually got to Santa Fe and started going to massage therapy school. After all that time studying plant science at school in California, I had a fear around it. I thought I would never be able to make a living working with plants and flowers. I was in my early 20’s, and I was thinking “What am I going to do with this? Am I really going to be able to pay rent by working at a nursery?” I felt like I needed another skill, so I completed massage school and did massage for a year. I enjoyed the concept of helping people, but I physically burned myself out. I wasn’t passionate about it, it was just something I did because I felt like I needed some other skill. I think a lot of us do things like that. We have a passion or a focus, but then we also have fear surrounding it. We don’t know how we’re going to manifest our dreams, so we try to fill in the holes by doing other things. But it’s all experience and helps you grow and get to a place of confidence.
SFF: What was the breaking point for you?
MP: I missed flowers so much, just in that one year, so I knew I needed to get back to working with them. I started working at a flower shop here called Artichokes & Pomegranates, and it was fun but a bit of a grind. I’ve always been really confident in my own artistic ability and my drive for wanting to do my own thing. The time came to move on.
SFF: Is that when you decided to start your own company?
MP: Well, fast forward a little bit, and I spent some time in France, then came back here, and I got pregnant. I now have a four year old daughter named Daisy. So it was during that whole major life changing experience that I realized I have to do something more. And I decided it was time to start my own business. It was crazy -- I had an infant and a brand new business at the same time! I’m a single mom, and it’s still just completely crazy some days.
SFF: But you’re still here 4 years later, which is better than a lot of small businesses!
MP: Yeah! I’m here and I’m doing it. I love my work and I’m very, very passionate about what I do. In this business, some days are harder than others.
SFF: What have you found most challenging?
MP: Some of the most challenging things for a florist in New Mexico is that we have very limited resources here -- like next to none. I order most all of my product from the Los Angeles flower market, so it’s expensive. It’s basically a premium service that I offer and pricing has to reflect that. And I’m doing well -- I’m booked and I have clients -- but there are a lot of other florists out here as well, so it feels a little cozy/crowded at times. This is to be expected and this is what also keeps me focused and motivated to provide the best possible service to my clients. There is no room for slacking whatsoever.
SFF: What would you say differentiates you from other florists?
MP: I think that my creativity shines through, is what I hope people would say. I try to push the bounds a little bit more with inspiring designs.
SFF: What’s it like simultaneously being a single mom and running a business by yourself?
MP: I can’t believe I was able to pull this business off, given all of the circumstances. I think that when you know what your passion and your calling is, and you just fight for it so hard, the universe opens up and lets you have it. When you know that you’re on the right path, the universe helps you. And I just feel like there has been divine intervention that has helped me... I get the chills talking about it. I had been a one woman show for a while, but this year my assistant Kristin came out here to help run things. It’s been amazing to have her help and it’s taken a lot of stress off.
SFF: Has there been anyone else in Santa Fe who has been particularly helpful to you?
MP: Yes, totally. There are several but one major influence is my wonderful, cool friend Jessie Baca, who I know from working together at the flower shop back in the day. She started her own event planning business around the same time that I started my floral business, so we worked together a little in the beginning, which was super helpful. She gave me a couple of my first jobs, and that really meant something to me. She was extremely supportive. I also have a photographer friend in Albuquerque who shot some of those early weddings, and because of that I was able to book even more.
SFF: How has business been going for you so far?
MP: This business has been great, but to be honest, I still struggle at times. Sometimes I’m not sure if there’s going to be a next year -- you just don’t know the way life is going to go. All I can do is work hard, do my thing, and hope that people see my work, like it, and call me.
SFF: Who have been some of your favorite clients?
MP: There have been many, weddings are the big percentage of what I do, and they are so much fun. I’ve done some really small, intimate weddings that are highly creative, which I love. They have so many styling details and I’m really big into that. There was one last year at a ranch and I got to build something really unique. It was a custom 13 foot tall beautiful tree-like structure that was at the edge of the ledge overlooking their property.
SFF: That sounds incredible… do you have photos?
MP: I think we got like one! That’s how it goes… It’s not the best picture but it is proof that it happened.
SFF: What’s the worst part of the job?
MP: After setting up for a wedding, you have to go back at the end of the night to clean up. It’s like midnight, you gotta drive back out to whatever location, and pack up everything in the dark. With a small child, that can be hectic.
SFF: And the best part of the job?
MP: I love the peace and tranquility that I find working with flowers and plants. This goes back to my childhood, really. I had a lot of chaos throughout my whole life, and flowers and plants bring such peace to my world. This is why I sought out this line of work. It’s a really interesting way to connect with life on another level, with an energy that helps me relax and grounds me.
SFF: Do you see that the flowers have that same effect on others when you deliver them to events?
MP: I do, I think they have an effect on everyone. I think flowers really change the vibe of a space. It elevates the mood, totally relaxes people, and I see the peace that it brings people. I love that, and that’s the joy in the work that I do. I tell my assistant all the time - working in a shop is so much more chill than doing events. What I’m doing is such a hustle, and it’s not relaxing, but it’s ok because I find the balance in it.
SFF: Why did you choose to do events rather than own a shop?
MP: When it comes down to it, there’s more money in it, and because I’m able to work out of my home. Opening a shop is a whole nother level, but I’m still interested in it and we’ll see in the next couple years if that works out.
SFF: How would you describe your relationship with your work?
MP: Throughout my life it was hard for me to find a place where I felt confident, but in flowers I really feel like I am able to communicate, that it is my creative expression, and I’m not shy. I don’t have to hide behind anything. It’s the place where I really get to be free and be myself. It saved my life I think. I’ve been down some roads that I don’t want to go back. But through this, it’s given me the perfect outlet. Now I have direction, I have the confidence, and I have the means to express myself in a healthy way that brings other people joy.
SFF: You’ve truly found your artistic expression! Have you ever found that same joy in any other art?
MP: I had a gem and mineral business before I had a flower business. It’s kind of a same thing with the energy of plants that I find with crystals too. Because they’re all from the earth, and they’re quiet and they don’t fight you. I’m still an avid crystal collector. Sometimes I incorporate them into the arrangements. I have some rental pieces which are really fun, and sometimes I can talk a bride into letting me take some big pieces in and staging them at the venue. I’m a total nerd. I just love all the pretty things that come from the ground!
SFF: Is it hard to mediate between flower arranging, the thing that brings you joy, with running a business and all the stress and logistics that come with it?
MP: Yes, and that is the continued struggle in which I find myself. I just have to remind myself to stay calm. The first 2 years I wasn’t very calm because I had my business and I had my baby, so it was a lot. But I’m getting the hang of it now and I’m feeling less stressed. I have amazing help now and it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders and a huge relief to have help I can trust and take some of that stress away. So I just feel like things are running smoother, my attitude is better, and things are going to be ok. The thing with events is that there is always something that happens in the moment that I cannot foresee, and you just have to roll with it.
SFF: Like what?
MP: I recently did a large event, and when we showed up, the tent was a completely different than what I had prepared for. It ended up working in our favor, but it’s those moments where you are caught off guard and you have to quickly adjust. It is challenging at times because I’m managing my crew, and I have the artistic vision, and sometimes I can’t get the words out because there’s too much to be done in the moment. I’m nice and I don’t like to be bossy, but sometimes I have to real, and fast. I’m always learning and growing and understanding the business more. As a boss you have to be able to wear many hats, and wear them well.
SFF: What’s your ultimate vision for Renegade Floral? Do you want to keep it small and out of your garage, or do you want to take over the Southwest?
MP: I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I’d love to grow Renegade and leave the garage, because it’s not ideal - too hot and too small. I’d love to be able to hire more help and take on more jobs. That would be amazing. I’d also like to focus more on my subscription service. I just haven’t really had the time to work on it all.
SFF: What do you like best about Santa Fe?
MP: I love the unique charm of this city, and the southwest landscape is incredible. I also love that Santa Fe is a small community. Coming from a big city (Dallas), which doesn’t really soothe my soul, the small city charm of Santa Fe is something I still fall in love with all the time. It’s so peaceful and tranquil here. So when I start getting caught up, I think back to what originally attracted me to Santa Fe.
SFF: Has it been easy for you to meet people here?
MP: Yes and no, I would say that that’s been one of the hardest, most challenging parts about living here. I’ve found there are tight-knit groups that can be hard to penetrate even with true, genuine effort. I’ve met most of my friends through work and other various jobs I had before I started my company. But over the years, I am finding my place here more and more. Things changed so dramatically for me when I had my daughter. My life moved in a completely different direction. My priorities really shifted. Santa Fe is gem of a city full of brilliant beautiful souls. And like anything worth having it can take time to develop true friendships.
SFF: What would you change about Santa Fe?
MP: Oh dear, is this a trick question? I wish Santa Fe would lighten up a little. I really do. It would be cool if things could be a little more inclusive and if there were more genuine feelings of camaraderie. I mean, have you seen the grumpy people at Whole Foods? Haha. But I do think it’s all about perception. I think it’s important to refresh your perspective when it doesn’t feel like it’s in a healthy space. It’s good to refresh and look at yourself and where you’re at. What you put out is what you’re going to get back. The people that you do find are going to match the energy in your mentality at the time. I’m always trying to clean it up and stay positive. I have nothing but love to give!
SFF: How has Santa Fe changed over the years?
MP: There does seem to be a lot more interesting things happening, and a lot more young people are moving here. So many new business and forward thinking people and projects are making themselves known. I love that! Bring it on!