Tiger Garden: Following flowers

Kim Cottrell's initial career goal was in architecture. Work at MU's Tiger Garden helped to discover her real passion.

When Kim Cottrell came to the University of Missouri almost four years ago, she was convinced that she would graduate with a degree in architecture.  Something happened in the intervening years to change her mind about her career—flowers.

“I quickly found the architecture studies program was not for me,” the senior from Monticello said. “I decided to pursue my landscape architecture passions through the plant science landscape design program. It was not a hard switch. The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources was so welcoming, and the advisers were very helpful.”

Adding to her decision was her work at Tiger Garden, a florist shop run by students within the College. The position gave her management and marketing experience, an opportunity to hone her leadership skills, and most importantly, exercise her creative side by working with clients to make beautiful floral presentations for individuals and events.

Creativity and fun

“I enjoy the creativity and diversity of it,” she said. “On any given day there are creative and administrative tasks to perform, each with their challenges and deadlines. Every day you have to create something new. You have to work quick on your feet.”

Cottrell most enjoys blending the creative and fun aspect of working with flowers and design with the very day hard challenges of running a business.

“I like working with clients on their events, taking their input and analyzing it, and creating a practical plan that stays within budget yet results in something tangible and beautiful,” Cottrell said.  Cottrell, who ran a lawn-mowing business before coming to MU, also enjoys keeping Tiger Garden running smoothly administratively. “With my business background, I know the importance of keeping track of the financial part of the business. Many florists are great at the creative, artistic side, but don’t always have business acumen.  This job has taught me more about who I am and what it takes to be successful than any class that I have taken at MU.”

Managing Tiger Garden, a non-profit, self-sustaining business

Cottrell started working with Mary Ann Gowdy, assistant professor in the Division of Plant Sciences, as a teaching assistant after switching to the plant sciences program. That involvement led her to working at Tiger Garden, Mizzou’s full-service floral shop. Six months after she started, the management position became available, and she asked to be given a shot at managing the store.

She started managing Tiger Garden second semester of her sophomore year. She spends about 35 hours a week managing the store in addition to attending classes full-time. In addition to the creative and administrative work, she manages seven student employees, handles inventory control, orders supplies, and performs other human resources duties.

Tiger Garden is a non-profit, self-sustaining business where income goes back to the business to pay for supplies and salaries.

Valentine’s Day at Tiger Garden

Tiger Garden RoseCottrell and her student team are gearing up for Tiger Garden’s most challenging time of the year—Valentine’s Day.

This is the time the store’s business increases more than tenfold and the activity can be hectic and intense as last-minute lovers scramble for the perfect presentation.

Last year, Cottrell and two assistants stayed up all night preparing arrangements for the big day. Though tiring, the experience was satisfying because it was the culmination of weeks of anticipating volume, analyzing creative trends, scheduling resources and working with vendors.

In the florist business, a Valentine’s Day that sees all customers walk out with beautiful arrangements is like a sport’s team winning a playoff game.

After completing her undergraduate work, Cottrell intends to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education, and eventually teach in a floriculture program—a career that will keep her involved with what she learned to love at MU.

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