Melissa Thomas, Class of 2005 - Florist Design Company Owner

We have some of the most talented and entrepreneurial alums! Alum Melissa Thomas (Class of 2005) is a perfect example of talent, grace, brains, and beauty combined. Recently, Melissa started her own floral design company called Pepper Rose, which brings together her passion for flowers, art, design, and beauty. She is so talented that notable Hawke Media hired her to do the flowers for their annual marketing event, Hawkefest, which turned out to be a huge success. 

Not only does Melissa have a keen eye for design, she is also a skilled teacher! One of Melissa’s most recent projects was becoming a teacher on Skillshare, a platform where she could learn and teach her skills to anyone all over the world. She was recently chosen as the Grand Prize Winner of Skillshare's June VIP Teacher Challenge for her online video class called "Design an Elegant Floral Centerpiece". She was chosen as the Grand Prize Winner out of 6,500+ applicants, 360 class projects, and many published classes. Way to go, Melissa!

We chased her down, because we wanted to celebrate her successes with her. And we wanted to know, how does she do it all? Luckily for us, Melissa was able to make time for us out of her busy schedule to give us an interview about her new company, her recent gigs, her future plans, and provide some invaluable advice for our students. Check out her interview! Also, you can head over to Skillshare and check out her profile and classes here, follow her on Instagram @pepperrosedesign, and watch her Youtube channel here.
When did you come to Clairbourn? What year did you graduate from Clairbourn? Where did you go after that?

I attended Clairbourn from Pre-K through 8th grade and graduated in 2005. After that I attended La Salle High School and graduated from the University of San Francisco with a BA in Design in 2013.

What were your favorite classes here and why?

My favorite classes were definitely Art and Home Economics! I love cooking, painting, and anything creative. Fun fact: during my summer breaks from college, I taught Cooking Classes at Clairbourn’s summer school.

What activities at Clairbourn helped influence your incredible talent and artistic skills for design and floral arranging?

Art class was definitely a huge influence, and I took summer school art classes as well. The teachers were so encouraging and inspiring to me; they helped me to embrace my creativity. In Kindergarten for my “Star of the Month” project, I wrote down that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. This past year I’ve honored that dream and started my own floral design business, Pepper Rose. I’m also a Graphic Designer, and my boyfriend and I are currently writing a cookbook, “The Casual Foodie”.

Tell us about your recent projects. What were some challenges you faced and how did you turn these challenges into learning experiences?

Recently I was asked by Hawke Media to do the florals for their annual marketing event, Hawkefest, at the Houdini Estate in LA. Since I currently live in Denver, CO, I flew in for a week to design and deliver the flowers for the event with the help of my family and friends! I bought my flowers from the LA Flower Market, which I had never been to before, and I highly recommend visiting if you haven’t been! It’s such an incredible experience.

However, estimating the amount of flowers I needed so that I could order them in advance, while fitting into my budget was challenging. Another challenge was the physical labor of delivering and setting up everything in a limited window of time. Since it was my first event at a larger scale, it was an incredible learning opportunity. I’m grateful for the challenges because if it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did! Everything turned out beautifully, everyone loved the flowers, and now I know for future large events in LA what to expect!

Something else I’ve been working on is teaching floral design classes on Skillshare, which is pretty much the Netflix for learning. I recently became a teacher and entered their new teacher challenge with my class, “Design an Elegant Floral Centerpiece”, and I won the Grand Prize! Out of 6,500+ applicants, 360 class projects, and many published classes, my floral design class was picked as the winner! It was such an incredible confirmation that when you do something that you’re passionate about while having fun, you will succeed! One of my goals is to become a top teacher on Skillshare.
It takes courage to pursue what you love. What or who inspired you to be so courageous and pursue your passion?

Before my floral design career, I was working my way up the ladder in Visual Merchandising. When I landed my “dream job” as a Retail Manager at an amazing company, I had never felt so disconnected from my creativity and I felt like a part of my heart was empty. That Christmas, I came home and saw my (previously mentioned) “Star of the Month” project I created as kindergartener at Clairbourn, proclaiming my dream of being an artist when I grew up. I vowed to myself that I would commit to nurturing the artist in me. Over the next few months, I began painting, cooking, and taking time to be creative, just for me.

Flowers had always excited me, and I had a strong intuition to learn Floral Design. I fell head over heels in love with it! Once I built up my skills, people started to notice on social media, and asked me to do flowers for events. I decided to start my own company because I knew so strongly that this is what I have to do. I’ve embraced my inner artist and I’ve never been happier. Being courageous is something that I’ve learned over the years as I’ve grown up. Now, I make decisions based on what my heart wants, instead of fear. The beautiful thing is that choosing to be courageous is something that you can do today, right now. You don’t need to wait for permission to be courageous and take a leap of faith. I would rather break out of my comfort zone, do something that I am absolutely passionate about, pursue my dreams and be my authentic self, than settle for anything less.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years?

In 5 years, I know that I will be wiser and stronger from everything I will learn. I’d love to buy a house with a beautiful yard to grow my own flower and vegetable garden…with chickens!

In my business, my vision is to inspire as many people as possible to nurture their inner artist/floral designer through my content, classes, workshops, and flowers. It would be so amazing to have my own network/tv show! If I am spreading kindness and beauty everywhere I go, to everyone I encounter through brightening peoples lives with flowers and love, while taking care of myself and being true to who I am, then I have succeeded!

In 10 years, my dream is to have travelled the world, published a book about self love and body image, and bought properties in a few different places so I can live in multiple cities.

Hopefully the cookbook will be published by then, too! My business will expand exponentially, and I will constantly be learning more about my craft, growing, creating, and being the best I can be. 

Do you have any advice for our students or alums who would like to pursue their passion in floral arranging and start their own business?

Just go for it!!! My motto for this year has been, “you’ll never know until you try”, or in other words by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to try as many things that you’re interested in. Even if you find out that you don’t like it, at least you tried and you’re further on your path to finding the thing(s) that you truly love.

Also - it’s ok to have multiple interests and to be a multi-passionate human. If you have even the littlest inkling of excitement about something, that is the sign that you should try it! If you’re interested in learning floral design, take a class at a local flower shop, or head over to Skillshare and take my floral design classes! You can simply pick flowers from your backyard and experiment. Have fun with it!
Any other inspiring words you would like to share with our students, especially our 8th graders?

Enjoy every moment you can, and have fun!!! Don’t take yourself too seriously - I wish I knew that when I was your age. Don’t sacrifice your values or authenticity to fit in. Going into high school is a huge transition, and a great time to learn about yourself. Try any hobbies or classes that interest you, and know that you have so many people supporting you, rooting for you, and loving you on your unique path!

Where can we find your work or get in touch with you?

Head over to Skillshare and check out my profile and my classes here. Follow me on Instagram: @pepperrosedesign. Also, my website is coming soon! In the meantime, check out my Youtube channel here!
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