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The Importance of Continued Education: Sharpe Family Grant Supports Retail Florists

Bob and Carol Sharpe, who established the Retail Florist's Continued Education Grant in 2019

Continued education is a vital part of any business, but it is especially vital in the vibrant and ever-changing world of flowers. 

The Sharpe family knew how much of an impact pursuing education opportunities and attending industry events can have on a floral business. In 2019, Bob and Carol Sharpe established the Retail Florist’s Continued Education Grant to help businesses in the Maryland, Virginia and DC area pursue educational opportunities that help them stay up-to-date with the latest education, tools, tips, and trends to help their business grow. 

“In an industry where businesses are handed down from generation to generation, continued education is vital for success,” said Bob. Bob and Carol wanted to help floral businesses succeed, so they worked with the Endowment to create the Retail Florist’s Continued Education Fund.

This year’s grant recipient, Christine Guenther, owner of WildFlower Flower Shops in Maryland, was able to grow her knowledge and network with other floral industry members at SAF 2023 in Phoenix, AZ this past fall. 

Read about Christine’s experience at SAF 2023, what she learned, and how the Sharpe family’s grant through AFE helped her get there!


Attending the educational sessions in Phoenix at the Society of American Florists Annual Convention this year has been immediately and hugely impactful on my business and my personal success. As a floral retailer, staying on the cutting edge of trends and best practices in the industry has been instrumental to the growth of my company, WildFlower, over the past 7 years. I try to take advantage of every available opportunity to gain industry knowledge and I am so grateful to AFE and the Sharpes’ for helping to make this possible.  

Through networking and learning from some of the best names in our industry, I am able to bring so much information back to my team to help shape and improve our operations. Bart David’s session on “Finding Your Team’s North Star” inspired me to look at our employees like our most important set of customers and to focus on providing the same level of service internally as we would externally.  This was reinforced during Kimberley Fernandes’ “Leading with Empathy”  session about Leadership happening at the intersection of Direction, Alignment, and Commitment to our teams.

I cannot speak more enthusiastically about the impact that regular, continued education opportunities have had on my business and team, and I would encourage other retail florists to make use of every opportunity to build and strengthen their knowledge and leadership as we usher our brick-and-mortar businesses into the future. 

I am thankful for opportunities like the Sharpe Retail Florist Continued Education Grant to make opportunities like this more attainable for small business owners and employees! 

By Christine Guenther, Owner at WildFlower in Maryland


About the Retail Florist Continued Education Grant

The Retail Florist Continued Education Grant was established by Bob and Carol Sharpe, retired third-generation florists from Frederick, Maryland. Sharpe’s Flowers was considered a Frederick landmark since 1930 and was in business for 84 years. Like many retailers, Bob and Carol struggled with finding the time to get out of the shop to attend industry events or continue their education.

Applications are due by October 1st each year, and reimbursement grants awarded can be between $50 – $500 for individual business-related courses.

Learn more and apply today here.