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'I know the impact flowers have on people:' Ottawa artist launches online floral shop with social agenda

“The local flower movement is growing quickly,” says Kate Punnett.

With City Love Flowers, Ottawa artist and activist Kate Punnett is combining her two biggest passions, growing flowers and building better communities.

Launching Thursday, April 22, Earth Day, City Love Flowers is a for-profit business that will do more than sell flowers. Punnett's goal is to create a business successful enough to help support people who are vulnerable in the community.

And she's doing it one bouquet at a time.

Following organic practices, Punnett and her team of micro-growers grow every flower she sells in her backyard and the yards of her team members. Tulips, dahlias, zinnias, flax, larkspur, sunflowers, daisies and other stock. Then, picked fresh and in season, she designs every bouquet and posts them online.

A portion of every bouquet sold will go to her Flower Fund, raising money for community organizations that support the needy.

In 2020, her first year in the flower business, Punnett, a self-described artist and social activist, sold bouquets of flowers she had grown and arranged herself at the Ottawa Flower Market in Hintonburg. Her goal was to raise enough money to make a sizeable contribution back to the community. Customers liked her creative bouquets, and admired her altruistic spirit. At the end of the sale, Punnett was successful enough to donate 160 bouquets valued at more than $2,000 to the Ottawa West Community Support.

This year, she hopes to make a similar donation to the Parkdale Food Centre.

Just as importantly, it was the positive experience she needed to take her creative and activist ambitions further, and make City Love Flowers a running, viable business, selling floral bouquets for special occasions, individually, or through a six-week subscription for weekly cut flowers.

“I didn't want City Love Flowers to be just a florist, but a social enterprise, a business with a social mission,” Punnett says. “I'm a social artist, and in my view, an artist knows the impact flowers has on people. It brings them joy. Everyone needs a little joy these days.”

Taking her entrepreneurial activism one step further, Punnett also wanted her business to be environmentally responsible, with the smallest carbon footprint possible. In her new world economy, the more natural, the better.

“I believe an artist has a social responsibility,” she adds. “An artist gives the community art – something to respond to. My language is flowers. I grow my media. I put all my creative energy into my bouquets. With flowers, there's a feeling of vitality of being alive, being around colour.”

Punnett's business is off to an encouraging start but she has even bigger plans. She's offering workshops on micro-growing and arranging to encourage people to grow their own flowers in front lawns and public spaces to beautify the city.

“The local flower movement is growing quickly,” she says. “People in Ottawa are reconnecting with nature. Flowers are emotionally uplifting. They bring people joy. It's what so many people need today. It's amazing how much flowers can change a person. It's a small thing, but it has a big effect.”

More information on City Love Flowers can be found at its website or on Instagram.

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