This Girl Boss is a creative genius, constructs the most breathtaking floral arrangements and owns the cutest flower shop in my town. She is well-known for her gorgeous flowers and when you attend a wedding, you know immediately if she was the florist. I can say firsthand how talented she is as she did my wedding last September. And let me tell you, there wasn’t a guest there who didn’t compliment the flowers.
So, let’s meet this week’s #GirlBoss, an ambitious and talented businesswoman and friend of mine, Kathleen Rohlfs. Kathleen is the owner of Chatham Flowers, a local floral and gift store in Chatham, New York. They specialize in innovative designs, fresh flowers and unique décor. They’ve been in business for 33 years and continue to go above and beyond to make any occasion special for you and your loved ones. I’m already daydreaming about the next time I’ll receive one of their beautiful arrangements!
Tell me more about YOU, the dedicated and hardworking Girl Boss behind the business.
I grew up in New Rochelle, NY (the oldest of 4 kids) and graduated from Cobleskill with a degree in floriculture.
I always thought I’d go back to school (in plant biology/botany) but once I got working in flower shops, there was no turning back! I loved floral design, the customer service part of it too … so my plans changed. I worked in a few different flower shops before opening my own. I learned alot from those I worked for and look those lessons with me as I created and grew Chatham Flowers.
On a personal note, I’ve been married to my husband (Frank) for 37 years. We have two children (Emma and Michael), a son in-law (Kyle) and two grandchildren (Owen and Norah). I’ve always thought of my business as my “third baby”. I love spending time with my family and friends, entertaining, camping, walking/being in nature, and kayaking.
Tell us more about your business and how you became a Girl Boss.
For those of you who haven’t been to visit, we are a local, family-owned floral and gift store – just a mile and half west of the light in Chatham. In 1987 we transformed our garage (that’s right – tiny one stall garage) into a storefront. We have since made countless changes – additions, remodeling and improvements.
I always knew I wanted to own my own shop – I enjoyed working for others, but knew I wanted to try my hand at running my own. So when we bought our house in Chatham, I was ready to make it a reality. When I opened the store, my daughter (Emma) was 8 months old (see picture). Thankfully, she was a very cooperative business partner; she took several naps a day – and hung out in the playpen (in the shop) while I worked.
Over the years, we added employees, vehicles, better/larger equipment, more products, etc. – and my husband Frank joined the team as well.
Our family didn’t align with the common stereotypes around wife and husband roles. I rarely cooked dinner or did laundry in the early days – I would often work late in the shop while Frank got the kids home from school and got dinner ready. We are a good team – dividing and conquering as we raised our “three” kids (Emma, Mike, and the business). Frank is an integral part of the business – keeper of the books, bills, payroll. Etc.
What does it mean to you to be a #GIRLBOSS?
There are so many factors that have contributed my to success as a #GIRLBOSS. I certainly have the passion, drive and determination – which have been essential. But I’ve also surrounded myself with an amazing support team. My employees, family, my friends – all vital to the success of my #GIRLBOSS status and to Chatham Flowers.
Another important piece of my business model is always having my customers’ best interest at the forefront. Doing good by my customers, employees and community. Using this thought process to make decisions (both day to day decisions and larger/more strategic decisions about the business) has made me a successful #GIRLBOSS. What it means to be a #GIRLBOSS … to be ambitious, successful (in your own right), supportive and proud.
What do you love most about running your own business and being a Girl Boss?
So many things … let’s start with my love of flowers/floriculture. My love of flowers was first inspired by their beauty! Then the realization that they also convey emotion in a way that words cannot. They deliver love, concern, thankfulness, celebration, comfort, etc. along with their beauty – I can see and feel this everyday while working with flowers.
I truly enjoy helping people select the perfect flowers for all types of events: holidays, births, funerals, weddings, a gift for someone special, an arrangement for the dining room table, or “just because”. I love creating beautiful arrangements for all the important milestones in people’s lives!
I love being a business owner in Columbia County – our community here is one of a kind. We have loved getting to know many local families through the important occasions in their lives. Flowers are sent to “love people up” and show support in times of great joy and also sadness. The people who live in Columbia Country are some of the most kind and thoughtful people we’ve ever met!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in being a business owner?
There are a couple challenges that come to mind:
Finding my voice/style of communication. I had to find a way to be direct and strong – without being labeled a b*. You often hear men be described as “strong” or a “leader” but if a woman communicates or acts in a similar way – they are labeled something much different. Balance. Being a boss, wife and mother was certainly a challenge. It was often a tough job to manage it all. I wanted to be the best at all my roles, all the time.
Drumming up business. Since our location was not on a main shopping street – I had to get creative. I advertised, but also sent flowers to other local business / community members. This helped get our name out and showcased “samples” of our work
Balance. Being a boss, wife and mother was certainly a challenge. It was often a tough job to manage it all. I wanted to be the best at all my roles, all the time. It’s been important to me to support others who are doing the same. I created a tribe, a team who supports each other through this crazy journey. As a boss, being flexible is key in creating and leading this way.
Is there a moment during your career that stands out to you and validates your decision to become a Girl Boss?
A sweet recent memory was when Chatham Flowers was being recognized by The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce “Best of”. We received “Best Florist” and having my family there with me to accept and celebrate the award was something I’ll always cherish.
My “ah ha” moment …actually, they happen all the time. When people come into the store and are delighted. “omg it’s so beautiful”.
It makes people happy, and that makes me happy! Or when a customer is thrilled with their arrangement … be their wedding flowers, a delivery, bouquet … those are the moments that make me beam.
What advice would you give to aspiring Girl Bosses?
Go for it! “It’s not like having a baby”. This is a line I’ve often said to Emma & Mike – meaning, you can always change your mind. Decisions are reversible (unless you’re having a baby – then you’re in it for life lol). People you hire represent you, so select carefully and always ALWAYS ensure they know how grateful you are for them (their support, their work, etc)
Finally, let go of perfection. Learn to trust and delegate to your team.