Studio Visit: Solabee Flowers & Botanicals

Solabee Flowers & Botanicals is a floral studio based in the Boy’s Fort located on SW 9th and Morrison. Co-Founders Sarah and Alea combined their passions for Northwest nature and the beauty found in the outdoors to establish a business that supplies a unique approach to the floral market. Together the two have 20 years of floral experience under their belt and pay great attention to detail by sourcing local and seasonal botanics. The duo is enchanted with creating warm spaces and feelings with their arrangements at weddings, events and special occasions. Enjoy this mood changing visit with ladies behind Solabee Floral.

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1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?

Alea: Portland is my home town, or more so my big city (I was moved here as a kid from rural Oregon). I've traveled quite a bit and suffer from incurable wanderlust, but Portland has it all for me when I think about what home means. I get it here, the pleasant and the annoying, it feel like my best shot at the good life.

Sarah: My family moved to Oregon when I was ten, the mountains, ocean and the ability to garden year round is what drew us here.  

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?

A: I love all the collaborations that are happening across mediums, especially in the design and art world. It feels that people are not just coming at creativity with a sense of play, but also with a sense of quality and completion. It's inspiring! 

S:  I enjoy the variety of locally owned small businesses in Portland.  I am proud to be a part of a   wonderful group of like minded individuals that are a trying to carve out a sustainable living for ourselves and our families. 

3. How did your brand start?

A: Sort of accidentally. Sarah and I had both had management and lead design rolls in a large flower shop until the economy crashed in 2008. The floral industry took a very hard hit being a luxury item. We both decided our only option was to go direct to our clients and use the contacts we already had in local flower farmers and wildcrafters. What started as a way to support each other though a tough time quickly grew into something bigger than us both. We've been stuck together ever since. I'm not how Sarah feels, but I feel pretty lucky that I ended up with a business partner like her. 

S: Alea & I both experienced the hardest part of the Recession, and we bonded over a mutual love of unique flowers & unusual plants. Over the years, our business has evolved from that connection to what it is today. We are both dedicated to the idea that our business can be sustainable while also being connected to what is available locally & seasonally.

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

A: Exhaustion, and work/life balance. I think that is something a lot of small business owners can relate to. Add on the creative element, and the challenge of keeping current and inspired, it's been really overwhelming at times. Also, people don't understand how physically demanding being a florist really is, I think they see it as a quaint profession, but being a real working florist is full on hard work, very early mornings and long hours (I know my florist friends out there know what I'm talking about). 

S: People like to joke that this is a "hobby business" but the reality is that we started this with little more than a desire to do what we love while being able to pay our bills. Being able to create a business that is job creating, supports local & sustainable growers and ultimately pays the bills isn't the easy route, but it is what we believe in.

5. What or who inspires your design?

A: So many people, it can be an outfit on a woman walking down the street or a another florist's photo post. Really though, when I get too influenced externally it doesn't feel good, so I always go back to the source, Mother Nature. No one does what we do better than the natural world.

S: The Pacific Northwest & its bounty is what inspires us. We are so lucky to be able to work with product that is 90% grown & sourced from within a 100 mile radius. Every season provides new and beautiful colors & scents. The constant variety is what keeps us inspired and always striving to create new and memorable arrangements. 

6.What are your favorite things about Portland?

A: The diversity of things to do, it's really worlds upon worlds to explore. I do have to say though, I am loving getting out of the city more and more lately.

S: Change. Seasons. Flux. Everything is constantly changing, providing new opportunities, new challenges, & new perspective on our environment and surroundings. We are pretty darn lucky if you think about it. 

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

A: I love that it's open, so really it's all the people that come in passionate about the botanical world. Plant nerds, florists, designers, it really draws such a wonderfully diverse group of people with similar interests to ours.

S:  The openness of our studio is important - we are an open book in the sense that we work in the same space that we vend, so to speak. You can find us working on our latest wedding while also browsing our selection of plants & locally made jewelry & accessories that accentuate our product perfectly. Additionally, we are so lucky to share a space with Boys Fort whose design & overall aesthetic inspires us daily. 

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

A: We had a work table made big enough to fit both of us working on different projects at once! Even better, it is slightly rounded so that you can tell when you've edged past your side of the table :).

S:  My favorite thing about our work space is the beautiful, reclaimed Fir table, made by Benjamin Alexander Clark with wood sourced locally from our friends at Salvage Works. I love how it is large enough for us both to be able to collaborate together, and let's face it, when it comes to a design space, size matters.

9. Two truths and a lie!

A: Oh, I'm a really terrible lier, I try to avoid it if I can!

10. 5 things you can't live without!

S: 1. My Grandma's 90 year old Beefsteak Begonia  2. ARS Japanese Steel clippers 3. Coffee 4.Pottery Berry Bowls from Tamara Bryan 5. Family & Friends