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Meinders Fund Helps Florists Grow their Skills & Elevate Their Businesses

This year, two Mississippi State University Extension students were able to attend the MSU Extension Professional Florist Certificate Program thanks to support from the Meinders Retail Florist Education Fund. The MSU program consists of four floral design levels with multiple courses per level. This year’s recipients, Saylor Wiley and Wanda Norton, participated in the Level III workshop with support from AFE’s Meinders Retail Florist Education Grant Fund. 

Established through generous contributions from longtime industry members and AFE supporters, Herman and LaDonna Meinders, the Meinders fund supports reduced or free registration fees to floral industry events or educational programs for retail florists by providing grants or scholarships to nonprofit floral industry organizations for this purpose. 

Other funding recipients this year include the American Institute of Floral Designers, Great Lakes Floral & Event Expo, Black Girl Florists Conference, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Florist Association (WUMFA), and the South Dakota Florist Conference. 

The Endowment is committed to providing funding for various programs and industry events that empower the floral industry to invest in continued education. Helping florists like Saylor and Wanda advance their floral knowledge and talent through programs like MSU’s is one way we are helping to ensure a bright future for our industry ahead. Having access to continued education is vitally important to help individuals grow their businesses, learn the latest cutting-edge techniques, and form connections with other industry members. 

Designer Saylor Wiley of Mobile, Alabama remarked, “The Level III course on wedding work did so much to help me master required skills and become confident in communicating with clients. I loved the opportunity to work with beautiful flowers and style different bouquets such as the cascading, hand-tied and long arm sheath.” 

Meinders scholarship recipients, Wanda Norton and Saylor Wiley, prepare design work for photography.

The Level III workshop, which took place from July 18-21, consisted of a total of 24 hours of hands-on training in wedding floral design. The course covers practice in flowers to carry, ceremony and receptions designs, and flowers to wear, and is held at the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Florist participant Wanda Norton of Gautier, Mississippi noted:

“This class has enabled me to learn so many new things to support my knowledge base. The curriculum enriched my knowledge in floral business practices involving marketing, client communications, record-keeping practices, contracting knowledge and organization.” 

In addition to teaching new design skills and best practices, the course also gives students practice in pricing and booking wedding orders. 

“One skill that I was desperate for was the pricing of wedding flowers and installations. I now feel much more confident as a small floral business owner in carrying out my professional duties,” Wanda said. “I now have a toolbox of advanced techniques, and I have established new goals for myself as a floral designer.” 

The costs of traveling to events/educational programs, registration fees, and time away from shops prevent many retailers from experiencing valuable networking and essential learning from their peers. The Meinders fund strives to provide financial assistance to those who may not otherwise be able to attend these opportunities. 

Applications for the grant are open to any community-based organization with a program targeting the floriculture industry within the United States, but preference is given to floriculture programs that are national in scope and identify or improve educational opportunities for young people. Applications are due by June 1 of each year.

“This course is exactly what I was needing to be a better designer, a more marketable freelancer, and a better businesswoman,” Wanda said. 

Herman and LaDonna Meinders, who established the fund, are founding members of our Legacy Circle, an honorary group of industry members who have made provision for a planned gift to AFE through a bequest, a life insurance policy, a trust, or otherwise. 

To learn more about our legacy circle and to get involved, click here