When Snapdragon Flowers owner and designer Tolani Lawrence-Lightfoot first became a mom she longed for a flower shop where she could bring her children to smell fresh flowers and take home bouquets.
For a while, she had just that on Baltimore Avenue.
Though their West Philadelphia storefront closed its doors during the summer of 2019, the West Philadelphia community responded warmly to Snapdragon when the store opened.
Lawrence-Lightfoot fondly remembers: “People were excited. It felt joyful. It felt like a community spot where people would come and talk, people would stop by to say hello… There would be a lot of new moms and dads that would come in, they’d show their babies the flowers or they just need a change of scenery… It was really nice in that way.”
As Snapdragon grew, Lawrence-Lightfoot found that her love for her neighborhood did too.
These days, however, Snapdragon operates out of a home studio and creates custom arrangements by order. With a classic and welcoming West Philly porch for pick up orders and the ability to deliver locally, the business’ shift from storefront to home studio has actually been a blessing in disguise. Lawrence-Lightfoot and her husband David Hatch now have the flexibility to be parents first, and business owners second. They can run their business with priorities of flexibility and relaxation and their employees can now work from home on their own schedules.
In fact, as Hatch describes, “It’s more focused on creating something beautiful and meaningful and unique rather than just pumping out flowers to the masses. I think we both take pride in doing quality work over quantity, so we’ve always been conscious of when it’s getting too chaotic and too busy. If that means the quality is gonna go down, then we’re going to pull back a little bit and make sure that we’re keeping everything looking nice.”
Snapdragon Flowers has had notable collaborations over the past few years, winning multiple awards for their participation in the Philadelphia Flower Show over the past years. In May of 2021, they also had the opportunity to help design the set for Mike Africa JR’s “FLY BABY,” a music video, directed by filmmakers Maori Karmael Holmes and Rashid Zakat.
Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hatch also believe that by closing the storefront, Snapdragon Flowers has more opportunity to expand their creativity through intentionally accepted order requests. These business owners don’t actually care to make as much money as possible.
The business itself was initially born out of Lawrence-Lightfoot’s combined love of the color, design, and sculpture elements of floral arrangements.
She originally honed her sculpture skills obtaining her BFA at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. After graduating, Lawrence-Lightfoot became a freelance graphic designer and found a niche in the music industry designing music posters and cover art. She then shifted her design work to serve the wedding industry by using floral still lifes to inspire custom cards, invitations, and RSVPs. Her first big gig was her brother’s wedding in New Hampshire.
“He trusted me and it went well. It was beautiful. I kept it going from there,” she says.
A large part of Snapdragon’s business centers around sustainability. The business sources seasonal flowers from local farms as often as possible. They love working with Truelove Seeds, a Philadelphia farm-based seed company that offers culturally important and open pollinated flower seeds. They also source flowers from Philadelphia farm-florist Lunaria Gardens.
Lunaria Gardens owner and designer Kristen Jas Vetty finds the partnership a beautiful one: “I love that our little West Philly farm can provide flowers grown just a few blocks from Snapdragon. Tolani is so sweet. Instead of competing, we regularly talk shop and help each other out with weddings. I feel grateful to have her in our little neighborhood flower community.”
Lawrence-Lightfoot’s desire to prioritize sustainability comes from a humanist perspective.
“We’re trying to always be more sustainable year by year, because flowers are from the Earth and humans are as well,” she says. “We often forget that people are from the earth, and that we do need to protect them and love and appreciate each other as well.”
In her design strategy, Lawrence-Lightfoot above all else desires to keep the florals in their most naturally beautiful state. Lawrence-Lightfoot describes her style as messy and elegant, creating magical bouquets that beg the question from her clients: “These are real flowers?”
The choice to value authentic creativity over financial gain pays off. To Hatch, the community’s love for Snapdragon can be attributed to the fact that “most customers see something unique in what we do. And they keep coming back to see what kind of variety we put in our flowers.”
Snapdragon’s custom arrangements are available to order on their website.