In its tenth year, Tiger Garden, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ student-operated floral business, continues to thrive. The shop will celebrate this milestone with a week of events and sales.
Since its beginning, students have operated nearly every aspect of Tiger Garden. They do it all, from designing bouquets and arranging flowers to tracking finances to caring for customers. Students gain real-world experience with every aspect of running a business in the Tiger Garden storefront located on campus in the Agriculture Building.
“The campus community has been phenomenal as far as supporting. I think that’s one of the really nice things about CAFNR, and Mizzou in general, is that they’re very supportive of endeavors on the campus,” said Mary Ann Gowdy, program leader of Tiger Garden and assistant teaching professor in MU’s Division of Plant Sciences.
“You have professionals, full-time professional faculty and staff working with students who are very creative and young and it’s been a really successful formula. The students have great ideas, and it’s been good for us because we’re able to help them implement the ideas that they have.”
The staff at Tiger Garden has celebratory events planned the entire week of Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2015. There will be sales and activities every weekday as the store observes its tenth birthday. Customers can build a custom bouquet in the shop Wednesday at the Build-a-Bouquet bar, or enjoy free s’mores Friday to kick off “ten s’more years.”
Planting a seed
Tiger Garden started in 2004 from very humble beginnings. Students designed arrangements in a basement laboratory in the Agriculture Building, then carried their work across the street. Arrangements were sold in a single cooler tucked into the corner of the University Bookstore.
Gowdy, and a few other CAFNR faculty members, decided to make a change. They renovated an old classroom into a small shop with lab space to create arrangements. With this, Tiger Garden was born. In the fall of 2005, the florist opened its doors with one student manager and a single student worker. It was open only 20 hours a week. Some days, not a single arrangement was sold.
Today, the shop employs more than 20 student workers. It has expanded from simple arrangements to include events and landscape design. In addition to daily sales out of its shop front, students also arrange flowers for about 30 weddings a year.
Kim Martin was among the first student employees at Tiger Garden. Once she graduated, she continued to work in the shop, overseeing student managers. She said a lot of hard work and exposure on campus helped the program blossom.
“It gives students an amazing opportunity,” Martin said. “They not only have a job in college, but they are able to run a business. Within their first week of working they are answering the phone and taking orders.”
‘To brighten people’s day’
The shop has also helped develop the University’s floral design program. In 2007, after more than a decade without such a program, the first floral design course was offered on campus. Now, floral design is offered as an emphasis area within the Plant Sciences degree program. Furthermore, coursework has snowballed into 10 courses, including landscape design and retail management.
Ten years after its creation, Tiger Garden shows no signs of slowing down. The shop is looking forward to continuing to expand its presence on campus, as well as growing its landscape and event planning divisions, under the current leadership of retail sales assistant manager Melissa Daniels, special events coordinator Becky Melton and floral design instructor Lesleighan Kraft.
“When we realized it was our tenth anniversary I think it was like ‘Oh, can’t believe it’s been that long.’ It’s gone by quick…We’ve made it to a milestone, and I’m looking forward to growing even more and making it to another milestone,” Melton said.
The students and faculty members involved with the shop have given it a long list of accolades, but according to Martin, Tiger Garden’s job is to brighten people’s day.
“We’re instilling an appreciation for flowers in the young people on campus. Say what you want about the cost and expense of flowers and plants,” she said. “At the end of the day they just have this way of making you feel good… If Tiger Garden can be a source of ‘good feelings’ on campus, it will play an important role in the MU community for a long time to come.”