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By Shanley King, AFE Communications Intern

Flowers. I thought I knew all there was to know about them. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some make me sneeze. They can be arranged together or alone, and people buy them for apologies, decoration, well-wishes, romance, congratulations or no reason at all. However, there’s a lot more to flowers than an occasion, a few hometown florists, or a store-bought bouquet. AFE opened my eyes to this, and the entire floral industry.

My name is Shanley and I’m a rising senior majoring in Communication Design at Elon University. My expertise in flowers and flower-growing goes about as far as the next non-gardener. What’s the opposite of a green thumb? But not long into my summer internship at AFE, I realized that this was quite alright. There are many more people in this field than I thought who are doing their part to ensure the future of flowers and the floral industry, especially American Floral Endowment. When I tell others who I work for I get a lot of questions. “Who are they?” “What do they do?” They, like me, had no idea an entity in the flower industry existed – but that’s the kind of problem I was employed to help fix.

AFE is a non-profit that raises funds to provide plant and flower research, customer market research, internships, scholarships, educational and research grants, and more to the floral industry. What better way to practice what they preach than by hiring an intern like myself to further disseminate their mission? This is one of many ways I learned AFE pursues their passion for aiding the industry. I’ve seen Debi, Candice and Ashley all work extremely hard to make AFE what the industry needs it to be. They prove to be successful as they continue to produce educational resources and young professionals and students participate in their programs.

Upon arrival in June, I was met with a welcoming and professional office environment in beautiful Alexandria, VA. AFE provided all the necessary tools to complete each project and I was given the kind of space and creative freedom I needed. Debi often approached me with fun ideas and made sure I was doing the kind of work I wanted more experience in. I received helpful feedback on my designs, was challenged to improve upon my design process and be more diligent with my work. Along the way, I learned a lot about the floral industry and all of its moving parts. I never realized how often these flower gurus gather to share research, products, information, and innovations. On top of that, I didn’t know the industry was even big enough to do that at all, let alone multiple times a year. AFE is not only reaching out and connecting with different faces in the industry through their online presence but also with their physical presence at these conventions, fundraisers and various gatherings. Their initiatives and dedication really speak to how important they feel flowers are to life, and I don’t know where the industry would be without them.

Working with American Floral Endowment this summer has been a wonderful learning experience. I now have more experience with non-profits in a professional office environment, creating graphic content under deadlines and now, writing, too. I was met with everything I could have asked for in an internship and value the lessons I’ve learned. I’m thrilled to have connected with the team at AFE and I’m excited to see how far AFE’s reach can extend. Power to the flowers.

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