Guillermo Herrera was born in Colombia in 1964, his family owned three flower farms in the country.
“My father along with a group of 7 other friends were the pioneers of the cut flowers in Columbia,” Herrera said.
As a young adult, Guillermo traveled to the United States to attend college, where he met his wife, Marcia. After getting married, the couple traveled back to Colombia to run the family business. Marcia took care of marketing and Guillermo oversaw the farm.
“It’s been good, it’s been exciting work, it is stressful, but we have a lot of good projects we have done together,” Marcia Herrera said.
“We had approximately 350 employees and we did that for 6 years and then we decided to venture up here to the United States to the Hartford area to sell the products from our farm directly to wholesalers,” Guillermo said.
The couple created Bella Rosa International in 1996, a flower import company, now based in Bloomfield. They continued to buy products from the farm they once owned in Colombia.
“We sold that farm, but we are still very tied with the whole floral community down there,” Guillermo said.
As a new minority-owned business in the area, Guillermo says they faced many challenges during the first few years.
“I had to go door to door salesmen to the wholesale people, explain to people what we were doing. Who we were I would say the first 5 years were very challenging. I almost gave up,” Guillermo said.
Over the last two decades, the business was able to blossom. Guillermo said they first sold to wholesalers and then to local supermarkets. But then came the Covid-19 pandemic, and like many businesses, this industry was hit hard.
“To the point where we were thinking of closing. At one point we had 35 employees and right now we only have 8,” Guillermo said.
Guillermo says thanks to the community's support, their doors were able to stay open. Now as the company celebrates over 25 years in business, they are looking to expand.
The couple is launching The Floral Club, individuals or private businesses can sign up for a membership and have access to the company’s facility, amenities, and resources, including transportation.
“So, we have the infrastructure that anybody needs to grow their floral business. So, we have the flowers coming from the farms, we have skilled labor, these employees have been with us 15-18 years, they have been with us, so they know detail and design very well,” Guillermo said.
The company will also offer Design Workshops. The concept is similar to ‘Paint Night’ events. People can sign up for a lesson and create their own bouquet. Each session will be led by a floral designer.
“Flowers make people happy and it’s one thing I can do, and I love the opportunity that I can come here and help with the classes and teach people what someone taught me,” Floral Designer Debra Herr said.
Guillermo says they also want to give back to the local community. Once a month, people can sign up for a class towards charity, where the pieces created will be donated to a local nursing home.
“I know over the years delivering to a nursing home this time of year, the fall, the winter, holiday, Christmas, Thanksgiving it’s usually hard, anxiety, depression in a lot of these homes and just to put a smile on somebody's face,” Floral Designer Tamie Myer said.
“We continue to look for different avenues to make the floral industry happy. I feel a moral responsibility to the employees we’ve had throughout the years, as I told you before we’ve had very challenging times and I’m really hoping this floral club prospers so these people can continue with us,” Guillermo Herrera said.
The Floral Club will launch in October. All members will receive a two-month free trial. You can click here on the first of the month for more information.