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A Bright Bulb
Katrina Parris, Katrina Parris Flowers

After 15 years in human resources, Parris knew she wanted to do something a little more creative. In 1996 her mother died. "That was the point where I said, 'I don't want to continue in a job I don't enjoy. Life's too short.'" Parris remembered that when she was a child, her father would buy her mother an Easter lily every year, and plant the bulb in the yard where it would pop up the next spring. "I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a flower shop in Harlem, where I live?" She decided to open one.

Growth spurt: "I couldn't quit my job, but I did take a lower-paying position that had more flexible hours. Then I signed up for night courses in flower arranging at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and at Parsons School of Design. I started taking orders out of my house. In May 2002, I quit that job and started running Katrina Parris Flowers out of our studio apartment; we launched a website, figuring since we didn't have an actual store we had to have a virtual one. In August 2003, using the money we'd saved to buy a house, we opened the shop."

Planting the seeds: "I made gift arrangements and left them at businesses in Harlem, along with my card. People called me, saying, 'I saw your flowers at the bakery.' I got our shop added to a list of approved minority suppliers that goes out to Fortune 500 companies looking to do business with minorities. We also sent out arrangements to corporations in New York with a letter of introduction, asking for a meeting. I'm very hands-on: I want to create relationships, not just projects. So each spring, I do a big complimentary delivery of a flowering bulb plant."

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