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Rising Stars: Meet Shailah Pelto

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shailah Pelto. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I fell in love with flowers in my early 20s while I co-owned an organic market farm. We mostly grew vegetables, over time, I included more and more cut flowers. Arranging flowers for weddings, grocery stores, and the Farmers Market. In 2017 one of my wedding florals was featured in Martha Stewart weddings, that really launched my design career. 

In 2020 I sold my shares in the farm and opened Samara floral in Negaunee. I actually purchased a laundromat called Washtown USA and remodeled the back room into my flower shop. The main part of the building is still a laundromat. Additionally, I purchased 1.3 acres of vacant land a block from the flower shop where I am building my urban flower farm. The model is growing flowers and selling them directly through Samara. All of this is located in Downtown Negaunee. 

I’ve been growing and arranging flowers for 13 years. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think with any business it’s not a smooth road. 

I got into farming and flowers when I was 20 with my partner at the time. We got married young, with a dream to farm and make a living doing it. 10 years into it I was really burnt out, it took a huge toll on our relationship, and in 2019 I moved off the farm. We were actually the first ever Zoom divorce in our county April 2020. That was a really hard transition. We had built a life together, planted 2 acres of perennial flowers, and had 2 acres of annual flowers. The farm was finally at the place I had envisioned for so many years. Without it I was really lost; I hadn’t had that much time on my hands since I was 18. I suppose everyone felt that way during the pandemic. 

So, I wrote a business plan. I had a small buyout from my share of the farm. Growing up in the Upper Peninsula and growing a business here, I had a lot of contacts. Negaunee needed a flower shop and was an affordable place to start. When folks got wind that I was looking for a space to start over a lot of options presented themselves. I feel very supported by this community. 

There’s been a lot of bumps along the way, but you learn something from them all. And I gotta say the passive income from the laundry makes starting Samara a lot easier. I am supporting two employees and building a farm. I’d say it’s going smoother than I thought. Again, I owe a lot of that to a very supportive community. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
What do I do: I am a florist. I own a full-service flower shop offering everyday florals, weddings, event, and sympathy work. 

What do I specialize in: I specialize in growing organic cut flowers to sell in my flower shop. 

Wreaths for every season. We make hundreds of wreaths for the holiday season. We also offer fresh wreaths for fall and spring. 

We also teach in-person and online wreath-making workshops. 

What am I known for: I am known for having unique garden-inspired flower arrangements. I am also known for my specialty holiday wreaths and workshops. I’m known for growing flowers, generally known as the ‘Flower Lady’ in town. 

What I am most proud of: Honestly, that I made the leap from the farm that I started. It felt like severing a limb. And carrying my own dream/vision into reality. Going through the entire process of writing a dream on paper to purchasing a building, remodeling, opening a business, and now starting a new farm. It’s a lot, and I am really proud of myself. 

What sets Samara apart from others?: The fact that we grow our own flowers. That we have plant knowledge. That we love flowers and aren’t afraid to step out of the box. That we’ve created our own model. 

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I grew up in a cabin that my parents built 2 miles from the main road. Our power came from an ancient generator that my dad maintained. My mom was a teacher so each summer was filled with fun adventures and camping trips. We did a bit of gardening but nothing too crazy. I was always creative. Taking sewing classes and redesigning my room every other year, so it’s not too far of a stretch to find myself in a creative position. 

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Image Credits

Kimberley Aisthorpe

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