Practicing What We Preach – Our New Intern, Gracie Alvarez

At AFE, we’re a big advocate for practicing what we preach. “Funding the Future of Floriculture” means many things to us, including investing in our industry’s young professionals through scholarships, internships, and professional development opportunities. AFE has had tremendous success with past interns, having brought our last onto the team full-time. Through thoughtful consideration and understanding of the importance of hands-on experience for young professionals, we’ve hired Gracie Alvarez of the University of Missouri as our new intern – a passionate and prepared member of the floral industry.

Get to know Gracie in her personal note to the industry below, as she shares her path, passions, and enthusiasm for her new role. 

I’ve only been involved with the floral industry since the beginning of 2019, but I’ve fallen in love with it enough to know I want to stay in the world of flowers for a long, long time. My journey with the floral industry has taken me on a whirlwind path from an inexperienced, naive freshman at the University of Missouri School of Journalism to my current role as Social Media Intern for the American Floral Endowment.

I grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During high school, I was Co-Editor in Chief of the school’s student-run digital and print newspaper. This opportunity is where I first became interested in journalism, writing, and storytelling. Ultimately, it led me to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 2018. During my first semester of college, I found myself applying to all kinds of jobs around and on-campus. Throughout high school, I had a part-time job (at Starbucks, where I also acquired a caffeine addiction and a bit of a prestigious taste for good coffee). Once I arrived on campus, I missed the productivity, teamwork, and ability to make my own money.

By luck, I found and applied to Tiger Garden, the University of Missouri’s student-operated, full-service floral shop. By a stroke of even further luck, the manager at the time picked my application and asked me to interview. Despite having no floral experience, they hired me. I started work mid-January of my first year at Missouri. Anyone involved or adjacent to the floral industry probably recognizes this season as Valentine’s Day preparation. I was thrown into the true thick of it— and surprisingly, I loved every minute. In those first few months, I learned a lot about what goes into operating a floral shop, from planning and executing huge marketing promotions, to the basic principles of floral design. I was amazed by how extremely hard-working, motivated, and driven everyone I met in the industry was.

I eventually took five different floral design classes in the University of Missouri’s Floral Design program, which taught me everything I needed to know about design elements, everyday floral work, special occasion floral work, retail shop management, and wedding design. Concurrently, I was working at the Tiger Garden and was asked to run their social media. I also became a student leader, which is like Tiger Garden’s version of a shift manager. Tiger Garden’s unique set-up allows students to learn all the nitty-gritty of working in the floral industry; from care and handling, delivering all over town (and the state, sometimes), floral design styles and occasions, to hiring, training, working with, and/or managing a team, consulting with clients, planning events, keeping track of budgets, ordering new products…the list goes on. Working at Tiger Garden has given me an invaluable education in the floral industry.

By another stroke of luck (which, at this point, seems like the pull of the floral industry), I found the American Floral Endowment and their Social Media Internship position. I knew of AFE through work and word-of-mouth, as coworkers and friends of mine have received internships and scholarships through their programs. I knew they served a critical role in the floral community to provide resources, support, and funding to benefit and grow the industry as a whole. My experience running Tiger Garden’s social media, education with University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, and reporting at the Columbia Missourian Newspaper led me to apply for the position.

I am privileged to now serve as the current Social Media Intern for the American Floral Endowment. In just a few short weeks, I have already learned a lot about what goes into the communications side of a non-profit organization. I was instantly amazed by how kind, welcoming, and extremely hard-working everyone was again. I am so motivated and encouraged by AFE’s focus on the growth and professional development of young professionals in the industry. I hope to one day own my own floral business; I feel confident and encouraged knowing I will always have AFE as a resource and support system along the way.

I am beyond excited to continue working in the floral industry and connect with more people on social media. I feel extremely lucky to be a new part of AFE’s team and to have the chance to keep learning and develop professionally in the world of flowers.

AFE has lots of exciting things coming up and I have so many ideas for fun, new strategies we can try! Give AFE a follow on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter if you want to see where those ideas go (and help out a new social media intern who’s trying to grow our friends/followers while you’re at it!)

Learn more about AFE’s internship and scholarship programs.