For Trisha Boyle, her business was growing, pandemic or no pandemic. She started Sophia's Crowns Flower Shop in 2018 in her two-bedroom apartment with the idea that flowers should be affordable to everyone. Beyond crowns, bouquets and arrangements, she offers classes, including Flower Crown Building and Sip for adults and Grow and Learn for kids. In the future, she plans to create a community garden and a greenhouse for flowers on a pair of lots she has leased through the Land Reutilization Authority in south city's 11th Ward. With everything going on, she needed a shop.
"I wanted to be able to deliver more for my market, and I knew to do that, I had to expand," she says. "I knew that I had to grow from my home to an actual brick-and-mortar."
The pandemic didn't change that. Looking online one day, she quickly found a space inside a former YMCA at 4500 South Kingshighway Boulevard that has been converted into a mixed-use development with apartments and a honeycomb of commercial spaces filled with small businesses. She held her grand opening on Juneteenth. She's found that COVID-19 has affected certain logistics — curbside pickup and touchless delivery became part of her offered services, for example — but the demand for flowers continues. There were still weddings and memorials, corporate events and friends sending good wishes. And all those people working from home needed a little life in their spaces.
"Flowers have been proven to improve productivity," Boyle says. "They have been proven to reduce stress, improve your mood, sleep — they have a lot of flower power."
The pandemic is a challenge, but Boyle is used to those. In fact, it was a hurdle that prompted her to start the business. Her eldest daughter, the shop's namesake Sophia, has a variety of allergies and has had severe eczema since she was a baby. Boyle says they were dealing with all that when she took Sophia, then three years old, to Tower Grove Park, where the little girl fell in love with the flowers. Boyle wanted to buy her a bouquet to take that feeling home, so she called a florist.
"The price was really expensive," Boyle recalls. "I was a college student at the time, a single mom. I said, 'OK, I cannot afford to get this,' and Sophia pretty much said, 'Mom, we should just open our own flower shop.' She said, 'So people can be happy like me, but not have to pay as much.' I told her that was a great idea, because it was."
In the years that followed, Boyle set about making that happen. The St. Louis native is a first-generation entrepreneur and says she has learned to navigate the challenges that arise. That includes the pandemic. She says she would be more afraid of failing to try than failing in business.
"We as St. Louisans, we're resilient naturally," she says. "If there's something we want to accomplish and do, we'll put our minds to it. We'll figure it out."