What made you give up a life of potential fame and fortune to start your business working with flowers? | RACHAEL
Rachael’s garage is gorgeous. There is at least one oxymoron with this statement, the most obvious one being “gorgeous garage”. How can that be? It’s a garage! A place to put your car, lawnmower, rakes, shovels, old cans of paint, tools, bikes and golf clubs. Yes, Rachael’s garage has all of those things too, plus paddle boards and skis. But it also houses her floral studio business she calls ROOTS.
This garage is no ordinary garage. It’s air-conditioned and heated. It is clean and organized. No oil-drip stains. No spider webs, dust and dirt collecting everywhere, like in my garage. The exterior is shake-shingled with paneled translucent doors. There’s a giant metal rooster sculpture parked outside of the side door, welcoming in clients, friends, dogs, and my grandson, Win, who loves Rachael...and the rooster.
Yes, Rachael’s garage is a happy place to be. I’m pretty sure I could live there and be quite content. You step inside and you are immediately greeted with an infusion of aromatic scents emitting from an explosion of flowers and greenery for use in her creations and immediately elicits happiness and joy in your soul. There are buckets and buckets of them. There are vases and wires and ribbons and all sorts of other decorative additives with which she adorns her arrangements. At Christmas time, her pergola outside of the garage is filled with fragrant pine trees, majestically standing in containers of water, waiting for Rachael’s magic touch to bring even more beauty to an already perfect piece of nature. Soon, the embellished trees, along with her handmade wreaths of magnolia, bay leaves, berries, and pods, will be gracing the homes of stunning Deer Valley and Park City homes for those people lucky enough to have discovered her, because her creations are truly works of art.
We all have talents unique to us. Many of us yearn to uncover our talents and a lucky few of us actually turn our talents into a profession. Rachael is one of those people. She became interested in flowers because of her grandmother, who was a devoted gardener and exposed Rachael to her passion as a child. Rachael had always wanted to own a flower shop, but fate intervened and eventually took her away from her family and Salt Lake City to Paris, France. Rachael never wanted to be a fashion model, but she became one unexpectedly.
“I never thought about being a model until one day I was hanging out with my high school friends at the local mall and I was approached by a New York model scout who gave me her card. After that, I signed with a local modeling agency and worked here in Salt Lake, and then won a national model search with offers to go to New York City and Paris. It’s kind of embarrassing,” she said with a grimace. “It’s cheesy.” But to a 17-year-old girl, it was all very exciting and compelling. What teenage girl hasn’t dreamed of fame and fortune? A modeling career sounded like all of that.
Rachael ended up signing a contract with the iconic Ford Modeling Agency. She was based in Paris and lived there for almost two years, working runway shows and appearing in national and international advertisements and magazines. But it wasn’t what she had thought it would be.
“It’s a tough industry,” she said. “You have to be really tough. You have to look at it like a business and not take anything personally. You go on “go-sees” (auditions) and they might flip through your book and give it right back to you and you are dismissed. This was in the 90’s and they had a certain “look” they were searching for. All the girls had that look--emaciated waif--and that’s how a runway booked their shows. I worked, but I just wasn’t into it. I did a lot of runway and print. It’s super cut-throat and highly competitive, and in Paris, I was considered short at 5’11” in comparison to other models like the Russian girls who were usually at least 6 feet tall! And, I was never going to be skinny enough to be the supermodel because I liked to eat. It made me sad and self-conscious. I lived with other models in a flat. I was horribly homesick and I called home often.”
Eventually, modeling became unbearable for Rachael. “I found myself to be starving all the time and decided I liked food,” she said. Imagine living in Paris, aka “The City of Light”, France. I’ve been to Paris several times. It’s achingly beautiful, with its stunning architecture, romantic cobbled streets, and an exquisite language so fluid and musical that it sounds like a song. And then there’s its mind-blowing food: crunchy baguettes, pungent cheeses, pastries so delicate they melt on your tongue and send your taste buds into orbit, sweet gelato sculpted in the shapes of roses, and, let us not forget, its smooth, crisp, aromatic wines that launch you into another realm of ecstasy. This is what Rachael faced in her adopted home. Every. Single. Day. And she couldn’t indulge. She practically lived on boiled chicken, green beans, green apples, and black coffee. It was pure torture, and also the final straw.
Starvation was too high of a price to pay, so she left the world of modeling and moved back to her hometown to start over.
“I was going home for Christmas and one day while I was walking around Paris and getting ready to leave, I made the decision I wasn’t coming back,” she remembered. “So, I ate several pastries and a cheese burger, and came home early and that was that!” She enrolled at the University of Utah to study architecture and resumed working in the floral design business.
Not surprisingly, Rachael’s love of flowers kept her attention more than school, and after her friend asked her to do the flowers for her wedding, she decided to focus all of her energy on building a floral business. While in Paris, she had fallen in love with the flower marts there. “I couldn’t eat in Paris,” she said, “But I got inspired by the flower shops on the sidewalks. They were arranged in block colors, like pink tulips all together. It was so amazing. Flowers in France were simple and I took my inspiration from that.” Because owning a flower shop had always been her dream, she decided to go for it. After her friend’s wedding, her business snowballed and she hung up her shingle and called it “Roots”.
I asked her, “How did you find the confidence to do this?”
Rachael immediately became tearful, which surprised her. “Why am I crying?” she said. “It was my mom. I found the confidence to start a company because of my mom. She believed in me and helped back me financially. She said, ‘Try it and see if it works.’ I’m so grateful and fortunate to have such an amazing role model in my life.”
As her floral business grew, so did her reputation, and she was invited to demonstrate her floral arranging talents on a local television program called Homes Today Utah. From this exposure she was contacted by a television producer from the very successful television network HGTV (Home and Garden Television Shows) who asked her if she would be interested in a national show. She turned it down. “I could have made a lot of money,” she said. But she was content with the success she was having at home. Fame and fortune be damned!
Most women, myself included, find ourselves continually inundated by images of beautiful women everywhere we look, adorned in gorgeous clothes in exotic places, appearing as if they are having the time of their lives. It can be challenging not to feel a little envious and insecure at times. I asked Rachael what she, in hindsight, thought of the modeling business.
Rachael laughed. “It’s not that cool. It’s not as glamorous as it looks. They shame people for not being thin enough. Back in the early 1990’s you were washed up by the time you were 21. The average height back when I was doing it was 5’10” and a size 0. Today, the average height is 5’8” and size 2-4.”
Rachael does believe the modeling industry today is healthier. “The stick-thin girls are not getting hired. The agencies look out for the girls better now. They will have chaperones or a family member living with them. I was 17 and it was the first time I’d ever left home. I was on my own without any adult supervision. It was scary.”
I asked Rachael how her experience in the modeling world, with its emphasis on external beauty, affected her self-esteem. She thought for a minute, and said, “I am jaded because of being a model. It did damage to me...."
"Today, I really try to let it go and be happy with who I am and where I am in my life. I’m 45. I’m never going to be that girl again. Find peace with who you are and have gratitude for what you have. We all have cellulite. We’re all going to gain weight and get grey hair. It doesn’t matter what you look like. If you’re a good person it doesn’t matter. You have to let the age thing happen and take care of yourself. You have to do things for other people. Give back in some way. I feel the very best when I do little things for other people. Oh, and don’t buy beauty magazines!”
Rachael started Roots in 1995 and continues to happily play with flowers today. But while she used to work almost nonstop, seven days and 60 or 70 hours a week, she now focuses on having more balance in her life. She gave up her brick and mortar store and relocated her business to her garage. She plays golf, skis, and takes vacations now. I asked her if she is happy.
“I can be myself,” she answered thoughtfully. “As a model, I had to be weighed every week. As a floral designer, I feel rewarded because it makes people happy. I am always doing something different. I am a lot happier. My quality of life is better.”
“And,” she said with a smile, “I can eat regular food.”
Rachael paused. “I had a goal. I’m doing my dream job. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.” But she also has regrets. “I was a workaholic. I had a failed marriage. I don’t have children. But I have Stanley (her beloved labradoodle that goes everywhere she does), my family, and my friends.”
“Was it worth it?” I asked.
“Yes and no,” she answered, softly. “I’m financially set. My number one regret is not being a mother.”
My final question to Rachael was this: “If you could do it over, what would you do differently?”
“I would have boundaries. I made too many sacrifices. Money isn’t everything. Quality of life and your health is what is important. I’d rather have a comfortable life and travel, hike, and play golf whenever I want, but in order to build a business you have to work. I kept putting off having children. I dated not so good men. I was too driven. I don’t know what point I was trying to prove. I never traveled, rarely skied, worked holidays and weekends. I’m trying to find peace with it all. Yes, my child-bearing years may be over, and it’s been difficult to wrap my head around it. There’s still a bit of hope but I’m finally finding peace with the fact that it may not happen. I’m just now coming out of that fog and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m struggling with the aging thing. Aging isn’t fun, not for anyone. I miss the days when I could eat anything and not gain a pound. I was always the pretty one, the athletic one, and now the wrinkles are setting in,” she said with a half-smile. “Sunscreen is your best friend,” she advises. “Skin care is key. Living a healthy lifestyle will keep you young.”
Rachael recently went on a river float trip for four days. There was no cell phone service, no internet, no devices. Just her, her paddle board, friends, food, and wine. It was the end of summer, a risky time to do any kind of water vacation in Utah, and it was cold. But she and her friends laughed and laughed and laughed.
“It was the best vacation!” she said. “Life is good.”