This is a guest post by our high school intern, Christine Oh
Prior to 2018, I genuinely believed I was just a Korean immigrant who loves to laugh, play dodgeball at 3am, and eat Hot Cheetos (all simultaneously). I truly was not aware of the power one person can have to stir intentional confidence in others, and I definitely didn’t think that person could be me. Because I experienced severe bullying at school, I acquired a great lack of emotional stability. During the most difficult moments of my life, I would always think, “Why do people treat me like this?” I began to holistically translate this question to the world, especially in societal terms, and realized that the way that they treated me did not sum up who they were. I learned more about the poverty, abuse, and anger that these specific people were suffering through, and was shocked at my oblivion to their wounds. Because of how they mistreated me in their frustrations, I ultimately forgot about their humanity, dignity, and worth -- aspects that should never be lost in any human connection.
Humanity holds imperfections that we often feel too embarrassed to share. We lose jobs, people, money, and relationships, and experience traumas when least expected. We slide the white lies that we are “good” when asked how we are doing, and sneak in mediocrity when running to excellence. Throughout these underlying intricacies of human nature, we can often underestimate how our joyful victories can root from the same somber seeds of struggle. The imperfections in our lives give us courage in our shame, passion in our doubts, and confidence in our fears. There simply isn’t any defeat we cannot conquer. With our choice, hope can abundantly shower us in freedom. However, it’s that choice that can be difficult to make.
To help spread hope to strangers in the community, I founded Blooming Others in September 2018. By handing out free flowers with uplifting handwritten notes, we hope to remind people they were made for purpose and in love. We hope to radiate their worth in who they naturally are, independent from past failures, doubts, or rejections. We hope that we can show others that life doesn’t simply end in sufferings. And most of all, we hope that strangers we encounter will see that giving with unconditional love can be done by not only us, but them as well.
Through the tears, smiles, conversations, hugs, and gratitude that people have expressed to us, I personally have witnessed hearts open and soften as they allow hope in. From a local school’s principal that lost her husband the morning we met her, to the mother of nine who has been severely struggling with her self-image, we have received numerous emails and social media posts about the impact we made in others. It has been beautiful and transformative to see how Blooming Others has united Tallahassee residents in a seemingly minimal way.
However, as I continued to lead this group of volunteers, I began to struggle with the finances, communication, and structure of the organization. Fortunately, this realization came to me as I was getting acquainted with Domi Station; the timing was absolutely impeccable. Upon my first visit to Domi Station for my “interview,” I immediately felt attracted to the ambiance of the workspace. The dedicated entrepreneurs were not only working diligently, but also brainstorming ideas with each other. The offices were packed with team meetings, and each chair was occupied with passion, drive, and intelligence. After my meeting with Director of Community, Sabrina Torres, I left Domi feeling firm and excited. I discovered my passion in Blooming Others, and was reminded by this new community to remember my purpose. Less than a month later, on my first day as a Domi high-school intern, I was advised to develop Blooming Others using Kauffman FastTrac. Ready to acquire more knowledge on entrepreneurship, networking, and authentic perseverance, I felt inspired as I studied through each module with my cup of coffee.
It didn’t come as a surprise that the most concerning weakness of Blooming Others was its finances. We were depending solely on the small financial contributions our thirty volunteers gave each month, while buying flowers from an overpriced company. I conversed with numerous entrepreneurs at Domi, and began to enact a change in the provider of the flowers and look for other revenue streams. I designed a Comfort Colors Blooming Others t-shirt on Custom Ink with an initial order of 100 t-shirts arriving at my doorstep on February 11, 2019. 60 pre-orders, 40 indirect orders, and numerous generous donations later, we had found a new revenue stream. We gained about $600 in profit in four days, and I could not believe how many people supported our mission. T-shirt demand got higher and higher as I continued to receive messages, emails, and DM’s from local high-school students, parents, and complete strangers, wanting to place an order. I immediately ordered 60 more shirts, and was even more shocked when they all sold in less than five days, along with gaining twenty-five new members. As a seventeen year old girl and new entrepreneur, observing this dramatic growth was revolutionary. It meant that there were more flowers to buy, more people to encounter, and more hearts to transform. Even if we impacted one person out of 100 people, that one person was worth it to me.
Immediately after, with the help from Director of Entrepreneurship, Hannah King, I was able to connect with the founder of Heritage Apparel, Adam Serota. Our extremely raw conversation revealed the unlimiting, incredible ways to start a business, and how age nor previous experience could ever diminish that. He encouraged me to be wise about selling t-shirts, keep researching sales, and become more aware of the market. The conversation was simple yet informative, short yet meaningful, and far beyond my expectations.
Today, eight months later, I am vastly thankful to say that Blooming Others has bloomed. We have handed out about 550 flowers in 11 different locations, and gained 55 active members. We have been sponsored by Chiles Fellow Christian Athletes (FCA) club, along with Millennium Nails & Day Spa. We helped raise funds for Relay for Life of North Leon by designing and decorating a wooden pallet photo drop at the event. We will be expanding to the University of California, Berkeley in the fall, and designing more t-shirts, stickers, and hats to increase our revenue streams. Lastly, with the help of the Domi team, I designed a new website to spread our mission more clearly. Without the internship that Domi Station has provided me, I would never have had a fire ignited in my heart for change, action, and truth. I am extremely grateful for Domi’s openness to students, and specifically igniting my journey to authentic and purposeful service.
To the person who might be losing hope in their business, relationships, employment, education, family, and more, I desire for you to be uplifted with the open vision of hope. You are incredibly made, capable of every challenge that you will meet, and I personally believe that your strength is larger than any desire for settling in mediocrity. You are important. You are worth defending.