Annie Charnley Eveland Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wash.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Business is "blooming" for one 16-year-old entrepreneur who is enthusiastically focused on growing her unique floral business.
A fresh-cut flower source is blooming on social media. But Sudbury Sunflowers and More's roots are deeper than its virtual format.
Entrepreneur Emerson Schulke, 16, grows and harvests fresh-cut sunflowers on her family's place out Sudbury Road.
The Walla Walla High School sophomore started her business last summer, looking for something to do amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's not the first time for growing them this year. I did it for fun," she said. "But it is the first time for making it into a business and selling them in 2020."
Schulke already has lots of customers, mostly family and friends.
"They were super helpful last year and supported the business," she said. "I have since branched out and more people know about it. There's definitely a larger clientele now."
The growing game is second nature to her.
"I've helped dad all the time at the farm, planting, harvesting, treating the flowers," Schulke said. "It's not new for me, but the biggest, newest step for me is marketing and designing bouquets and bundles."
She's taking a floriculture course at Wa-Hi with Arch McHie.
"I've always been interested in flowers and stuff and wanted to grow wildflowers last year," she said. "But that was a big commitment, so I decided on cut flowers and I have more experience this year than last year with flowers."
She planted daffodils as an experiment, inspired by her grandma Jane Schulke, who grew some and knows about them.
"They haven't quite come up yet and I'm not sure how they'll turn out," she said. "I will have more than 10 varieties of sunflowers this year. Last year I only had traditional ones with yellow petals and black seeds, kind of basic. This year there will be more to spruce up the bouquets — lots of sizes of flowers, some in green, burnt red, more bright yellow, mostly warm colors other than green. Definitely a lot more colors this year, which will be fun."
Prices are fluid right now and will be in a range based on bundles or bouquets. As the "More" in the business name implies, Schulke said she's considering adding greenery accents in some bouquets.
Using greenhouses is in the long-term plan.
"This year, however, the goal is to plant the sunflowers in open ground on May 1, after the threat of frost is gone. They should be fully ready by July 1," she said.
She also will plant earlier in small, covered areas for late June orders. She expects the seasonal sales operation to run July through August, depending on such factors as how the flowers turn out.
"Some bloom for a time, but they aren't growing in an enclosed area and wildlife and bugs can impact them and you have to adapt as you go," she said.
Flowers will be ready July 1 if the weather cooperates. She will post on Instagram and on Facebook, where customers can direct message her on those platforms. She plans to deliver bouquets and bundles.
Schulke is interested in pursuing graphic design in college. In the meantime created her own business logo with techniques she learned from free online graphic design courses.
"I really enjoy making different graphics for businesses, logos and business cards and Instagram ads," she said. "It's fun."
Although born in Tri-Cities, she moved at 6 months with parents Jeff and Kara Schulke to the multi-generation family farm. Her grandparents, Jane and Jim Schulke also live on the farm. Her dad farms wheat, corn and canola on their 5,000 acres of plant-able land. Her mom is active on the land, too, and serves as a librarian at Garrison Middle School.
"Mom often helps with the flowers because it's a big project for one person," Emerson Schulke said.
Emerson Schulke takes in-person classes mornings at Wa-Hi. She is sophomore class vice president with ASB and raises a sheep at the school to show at the county fair. She is a soccer goalie, plays first base in softball and is a fluid player in lots of positions in basketball.
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