April 02, 2020
Two Philadelphia sisters left their careers in the corporate world to pursue their passion for flowers. Caroline and Christine Strzalka, found a creative and sustainable way to transform the average person into budding florists.
After working in investment banking and corporate media, the Villanova and Wharton grads felt they needed a break and turned to flower arranging at Longwood Gardens. Picking up the craft quickly, the sisters entered their pieces in the Philadelphia Flower Show and landed first place! “Philadelphia is one of few cities where a love of flowers and green spaces can take you far. We have so many connections from the Philadelphia Horticultural Society to Chanticleer Gardens,” says Caroline Strzalka.
Combining the DIY and subscription box trends, with their passion for floral arrangements, the Strzalka sisters came up with a clever business, It’s By U. As the name suggests, it’s a do it yourself floral arrangement in a box, made entirely by you. The kit includes farm-fresh blooms, reusable vases, and simple video instructions on how to create personalized bouquets with themes ranging from Warm Industrial to Rainbow Rosy Outlook.
It’s By U has been featured on Oprah Magazine, The View, Good Morning America, QVC, and Univision. “When people work hands-on arranging flowers, they feel really confident in themselves! I believe anyone can make a beautiful floral arrangement in the comfort of their own home, without adding to the global carbon footprint, ” says Strzalka.
After fleeing Poland in WWII, Strzalka’s grandparents set up a new home in Latin America before they came to the United States.The sisters capitalized on their connection to Latin America as Ecuador produces the highest amount of roses each year. Strzalka says companies often demand farmers to pump out quantity over quality flowers, which takes a toll on the lives of the growers and harvesters. “We would hear stories of the unjust treatment of workers in the floricultural industry, and the amount of waste produced. We decided to visit South America.”
It’s By U took on a zero-waste model, buying leftover flowers that normally would be unsold. Strzalka says they source directly from fairtrade farms, who are creating a whole new middle class in Latin America. It’s By U has helped bring 25 per cent of local communities out of poverty in Colombia and Ecuador, where farms provide amenities from daycare for children to washing machines. Christine Strzalka says, “I especially have enjoyed experiencing different cultures and traveling during this journey.”
The Uncommon Individual Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit leader in mentor-based learning, founded in 1986 by Dr. Richard E. Caruso. A successful entrepreneur, Caruso attributes his entrepreneurial success to the mentors he encountered throughout his life. UIF is his way of ‘mentoring it forward,’ to help individuals and organizations succeed through curated connections to mentors in Business, Education, Media, and Technology. For more information about UIF, visit:uif.org.
UIF recently launched a new media studio to help innovators navigate the media landscape. Visit: uifrecstudio.org.