East Olivia is a women-led creative agency with expertise in large-scale floral art installations. When the pandemic and subsequent shutdown of events happened, the team pivoted and launched an online floral e-commerce business to stay afloat.
“Forever Florals'’ are dried arrangements of flowers that can be gifted once and used forever, originally created because they had leftover dried arrangements from installations. They even have preserved and biodegradable roses! We spoke to Kelsea, East Olivia’s Founder on how the idea started and her own personal sustainability practices.
What is East Olivia? How did it start?
East Olivia is an inventive, women-led creative agency. We specialize in creative production and event styling with a focus and expertise in large-scale floral art installations. Since the pandemic, our latest exciting endeavor is our Fresh & Forever Floral Shop, an ecomm site we launched in response to the Covid-19 shutdowns.
I spent the first 10 years of my adult life working in the music industry and shifted focus both creatively and professionally about 7 years ago. After “retiring” from a career in music, I spent a few years freelance prop styling while working full-time for BHLDN/Anthropologie in NYC. Through my various roles, I began acquiring extensive experience in visual merchandising, botanical/floral styling, social media content creation and event planning. All of this experience laid the groundwork for the creation of East Olivia.
I believe that connection is why we are here - as people, on this planet. To know one another and to be known is sort of the point of this wild ride called life. Somewhere along the way, I learned that, when we are in beautiful environments, we are able to be more naturally at ease - first with ourselves and then with one another - and, from there, deeper connection tends to foster. It’s that connection that genuinely motivates me to create beautiful spaces for people to enjoy. After all, if my job is bringing beauty into the world that sparks and enhances those connections, well, I just can’t think of anything else more fun or fulfilling than that.
How did the idea of Forever Florals come about?
Like so many industries, the floral and events world was inevitably impacted by Covid-19. It was in March of 2020 that we knew we had to quickly pivot our entire business in order to survive the months to come. We had quite a bit of dried inventory on hand from our installations and from there, we began designing fun and original arrangements with what was available to us. As most of our fresh florals come from around the globe, we were limited in what we could offer due to the lockdowns. Forever Florals became our way to connect with our customers while working in a new, uncertain world.
Can you talk about waste and sustainability in the flower industry, and how Forever Florals addresses that?
Sustainability and waste is a recurrent topic at EO. Our aim is to create beauty that is meant to be shared and builds connection. That connection doesn’t mean much if we don’t support the environment that produces the beauty we want to share! So we are always looking for ways to be better and have a positive impact on the environment - and to encourage that in our customers as well.
For example, floral foam is widely used in our industry, but it is extremely toxic for the environment, so I’m proud to say we never use floral foam here at EO. Whenever we work events, we make sure to take the extra time to compost, recycle, or even donate our florals to extend their life.
For our Valentine’s Day line, we introduced preserved roses that are biodegradable. Dried florals allow you to keep your flowers longer without needing to ‘refresh’ them like you would with fresh florals. There’s nothing wrong with fresh flowers, and they certainly mean a great deal to us and to our customers, but it is incredible to offer an alternative medium with our Forever Florals. There is still a lot of room for improvement in our industry, but we are happy to be leading the charge and doing our part.
Where do you source your Forever Florals?
We are lucky enough to be located in NYC where we have some of the best florals and ingredients available to us. We have a tremendous network of growers and suppliers that know exactly the type of high-quality materials we are looking for, and they always find a way to deliver us their best.
Were there challenges in creating a new product line during a pandemic?
Yes, so many! Having everyone working in different spaces, figuring out new inventory sources, shipping logistics, global lockdowns, plus marketing and social consumption patterns changing...it was an arduous undertaking to say the least.
Running a small business is always tough and rewarding work, but this past year really took us to another level of challenge, and it has helped us grow as people and leaders immeasurably.
How did you (Kelsea) begin your own sustainability journey?
I grew up in the era of recycling, so it has always been a part of my world and mindset. However, I was shocked at the amount of waste I witnessed in the events industry, and that really sparked something in me. Floral foam was my first, big sustainability effort at EO. We made that commitment early on, and it has led to further efforts in the business and in my personal life. I want to be able to contribute to environmental sustainability rather than the accumulation of waste.
What are three practices you do to ground yourself and practice conscious consumption?
- I always carry a reusable drink container - almost always filled with cold brew regardless of season. I try to stay away from bottled water as much as possible and would encourage our team, especially during on-site events, to bring their own as well. If we need to purchase water, we do our best to get aluminum cans when possible (any other sparkling water fans out there? My team and I can get far on a box of seltzer water ;)).
- I practice mindful eating. Our agriculture industry brings in so much waste and toxins, so I try to be mindful (as much as I can) about the food I am eating and learn where it comes from. I love Sakara Life for those reasons. I feel good eating it, and I am obsessed with how clean it is.
- I love wearing independent brands like Samantha Pleet, Big Bud Press, Christine Alcalay, and Little Tienda (a fantastic Australian brand) just to name a few. I find that a lot of the independent designers are more mindful about where they source their fabrics and materials from, as well as how they take care of their employees. I find that it really helps to use our dollars as a way to say what matters to us. Spending on environmentally- and sustainability-conscious brands really makes a difference.
Any brands you love in this space?We actually just launched a collaboration with Love Beauty and Planet. LBP is an inspiring beauty brand whose mission is to make people and the planet a little more beautiful. They are extremely transparent about their environmental footprint as well. We just introduced our first ever, limited-edition ‘Plant Your Love’ kits with them. The box includes plantable cards that are printed on seed paper, an adorable planter, and gloves so that the recipient can create some beauty while giving love back to the planet.