Years ago, in an Eastern Iowa Hy-Vee, Nicci Miles found her calling.
The Cedar Rapids native who was working at the time as a sales associate for Performance Systems Janitorial Supply had taken a part-time gig in the grocer’s floral department.
“And I ended up liking it better than my regular job,” said Miles, now 27.
So she went back to school at Kirkwood Community College, studied floral design, and not long after graduating in 2011 discovered a small retail space for rent on Blairs Ferry Road NE.
“We opened in February,” Miles said. “We are a very small shop.”
So small, in fact, that Snapdragon Floral has one employee: Miles.
“I would love to have the business be lucrative enough that we could grow into a larger operation,” she said. “But most businesses struggle in the first year, so I’m just trying to keep costs as low as possible right now.”
Snapdragon Floral, which covers just 500 square feet on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids, boasts fresh floral arraignments, green plants, unique bouquets and knickknack accessories. Miles prepares weddings arrangements, corsages and boutonnieres for high school dances, centerpieces and special occasions.
She likes to mix it up, adding unique touches – say, feathers to a boutonniere – to give each customer a personalized piece.
“I’m just really about sending people home with unique arrangements that make them feel they got something special,” Miles said. “For people looking for unique arrangements, I want them to feel like this is the place to come.”
Miles said she’s also about affordability, offering arrangements that start at $10.
“We like to come up with creative designs that aren’t going to cost people an arm and a leg,” she said.
When Miles says “we,” she’s referring to her posse of volunteers who can be called upon for bigger events, holidays, weddings or rushed deliveries. They include a crowd of fellow Kirkwood floral graduates, whom she now calls friends.
“If I can handle it and do it all, I will,” she said, “or I will call up my fellow graduates and say, ‘Hey girls, lunch is on me.’”
She also has her family for support. Her father, who operates a tree farm, occasionally makes deliveries.
“I guess I’m kind of emulating him, although his is a bigger endeavor,” she said.
This summer brought four weddings, and Miles said she could have been busier. But she did get a boost in confidence when her floral arranging skills were recognized with two first-place finishes at the Iowa State Fair.
She was honored as Queen of Arrangements with a “cool of the night” piece that incorporated a lantern, and she won Queen of Pedestals by creating an arrangement entirely out of flowers in the shape of a dog sitting in front of a pinwheel.
“And I’ve had a lot of really supportive return customers,” she said. “Even if they just come in and buy flowers for their wife … those people are helping my store survive.”
Owner: Nicci Miles
Company: Snapdragon Floral
Address: 202 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Suite B, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 826-1838
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.
Favorite flower: “I really love mums. The come in a wide variety of all shapes and all colors.”