Now she wants to go national, following in the footsteps of her idol, cooking legend Child, who became rich and famous with her cooking show — and her imitable high-pitched voice.
Von Pollaro debuts an hour-long show in August titled “Flower Empowered” on Washington’s public television station,WETA on Channel 26 (where my wife works), which will provide tips, tricks and techniques for making your own floral arrangements. To help build her brand, she recently signed a deal with Whole Foods to produce how-to videos, sell flower kits and “spread the joy of flowers.”
I rarely buy or think of flowers, except on anniversaries and special occasions. But my wife, Polly, loves them. And I do know this: A beautiful centerpiece at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or just a nice bouquet, really brighten up the home and make me feel better. I get it. And that’s what von Pollaro is hoping to tap into.
“I am trying to demystify floral design, which has been confined to rich housewives,” said von Pollaro, whose career so far has been built on initiative.
More than the show’s premise, von Pollaro’s secret weapon is likely to be her outsize personality. To say she is an extrovert is putting it mildly. Her passion is infectious, an essential ingredient in many successful enterprises.
Von Pollaro, who lives with her entrepreneur husband, Sam, in Columbia Heights with their 2-year-old son, Theo, isn’t exactly starving. The markup on flower arrangements can be as high as 500 percent. I estimate she was pulling down $150,000 to $200,000 a year running her one-woman floral design business called Urban Petals.
The St. Louis native developed her passion for flowers spending summers with her grandmother in Wisconsin, roaming through gardens and collecting wildflowers. She later volunteered to design flower arrangements for dinner tables, parties and social events at Yale.
A turning point came during the summer between her junior and senior years, when the mother of one of her friends, who edited a garden magazine in Manhattan, found her an unpaid internship working for some big-time floral designers.
That’s where she learned the rudiments of the business. She’d tag along with the designers when they made the rounds, starting about 4 a.m., at the wholesale shops in Manhattan’s floral district. Von Pollaro lugged boxes, made deliveries, sorted flowers and snipped thousands of stems.
“You are not sitting on a stool doing dainty work,” she said.
Von Pollaro graduated from Yale in 2000 and moved to Washington, where she worked at a couple of nonprofit groups before she decided to see whether she could build a business around her passion for flowers.