Navigating Entrepreneurship with Kelly Ernst

“It’s hard to be an entrepreneur and work in a niche realm,” Kelly Ernst says with a laugh. “Because if you do something that everyone likes, then everyone will give you their business.”

Whether she intended it to or not, running her own floral shop has made quite the business owner out of the Colorado native.

Kelly’s Denver-based floral business, Fromage Floral Co. (@fromagefloral__), emphasizes the natural artistry of flowers through creative arrangements. It is the longtime creative’s first foray into the world of business ownership.

“Mostly, we’re just trying to stick with a very specific style and brand that is new and funky and fresh. We definitely take creative risks and don’t really identify with the romantic, fluffy—what you think of when you think of weddings.”

Along with the decision to uncommon flowers and to be more selective in which events to take on, Kelly’s artistic vision serves as the significant differentiator between Fromage and other floral arrangement businesses—and for a good reason: among other things, she is an accomplished artist, art historian, writer, photographer and designer.

“A lot of the influence for these flowers is fine-art oriented. It’s bringing a little bit more design, awareness, purpose and inspiration—whatever that may be—and putting it into the flowers,” says Kelly. 

“We like to use fun things; we like to use sticks and fruits and cactuses and weird things we find, and make it more unique to the person who’s behind the event.”

She adds, “The real point, what drives the whole project, is this is a collaborative creative artistic endeavor bordering on fine art, rather than production, delivery—the usual industry.”

After working under the tutelage of Lara DeBroux at her Boulder-based flower shop, Fiori Flowers, Kelly was convinced that working with flowers and plants fit nicely into her larger vision for her future, as well as her plan of moving to New York to pursue new creative endeavors.

Five years later, Kelly has returned to her home state of Colorado, hopeful that Fromage Floral Co. will take root as well.

“I moved back to Colorado intending to grow a community and really stay somewhere. While it’s not as fast as New York, I think it’s worth the investment, and at some point, you’ve got to put your roots down and invest in the people who are around you.”

Working with flowers has tapped into a creative satisfaction for Kelly she has yet to find elsewhere completely. Beginning with how to arrange the plants she is most fond of and drawn to and ending with seeing how customers appreciate her work, Kelly’s business is the rare gig that pays the bills while fulfilling creative desires. 

Flowers, all of a sudden, became an expression of art and color and creativity and weirdness and all the things that artists are in it for. It just totally worked for me.”

“It wasn’t slaving over the little things and paintings and ceramics and whatever it was that I would try for creative expression. It was just broader than that, and the flowers expressed bigger ideas in bigger ways,” says Kelly.

As a creative wading into the waters of entrepreneurship, Kelly is optimistic that she will not have to compromise on her artistic integrity to find her place in Colorado—it just might require some extra patience during the lean times.

“I don’t think I have to compromise. I’m not planning on it. It’s just…developing a business without those compromises takes a different strategy. It takes a different way to market. It takes different conversations. It’s much more collaborative.”

Whether she’s on the East Coast or near the Rocky Mountains, Kelly is embracing her new adventure as an entrepreneur, and whatever her next evolution as a creative may be.  

“I think with any person pursuing the arts or creative endeavors, no one project can be your whole because that’s the purpose of creativity; you’re always regenerating, you’re always coming up with new ideas and new things and moving forward,” says Kelly.

“By that justification, I feel hesitant to say that flowers are my main thing, but there’s definitely something there. It’s snowballing into something that is taking up time, and hopefully will take up all of my time.”