Columbia-owned business looks to expand – NBC Connecticut

Guillermo Herrera was born in Colombia in 1964, where his family owns three flower farms.

“My father and seven other friends were pioneers of cut flowers in Colombia,” Herrera said.

As a young adult, Guillermo traveled to the United States to attend college, where he met his wife, Marcia. After their marriage, the couple returned to Colombia to run the family business. Marcia is in charge of marketing and Guillermo oversees the farm.

“It’s good, it’s exciting work, it’s stressful, but we’ve done a lot of good projects together,” says Marcia Herrera.

“We had about 350 employees, we did this for six years, and then we decided to venture out to the Hartford area of ​​the United States and sell our farm’s produce directly to wholesalers,” Guillermo said.

The couple founded Bella Rosa International, a flower import company in Bloomfield, in 1996. They continue to buy from farms they once owned in Colombia.

“We sold that farm, but we’re still very connected to the entire flower community there,” Guillermo said.

As new minority businesses in the region, Guillermo said they faced many challenges in their first few years.

“I had to go door-to-door to find wholesalers and explain to people what we were doing. Who we are I would say the first 5 years were very challenging. I almost gave up,” Guillermo said.

The business has flourished over the past two years. They sell first to wholesalers and then to local supermarkets, Guillermo said. But then came the Covid-19 pandemic, and like many businesses, the industry was hit hard.

“It got to the point where we were thinking about closing. We used to have 35 employees, now we have eight,” Guillermo said.

Guillermo said their doors were opened thanks to the support of the community. Now, as the company celebrates more than 25 years, they are looking to expand.

The couple is launching a flower club where individuals or private businesses can sign up as members and have access to the company’s facilities, amenities and resources, including transportation.

“So, we have the infrastructure that anyone needs to grow a flower business. So, we have flowers from farms, we have skilled labor, these people have been with us for 15-18 years, they’ve been with us, So they know the details and the design very well,” Guillermo said.

The company will also offer design workshops. The concept is similar to a “paint night” event. People can sign up for classes and make their own bouquets. Each session will be moderated by a floral designer.

“Flowers make people happy, that’s one of the things I can do, and I love the opportunity to come here to help with classes and teach people what others have taught me,” says floral designer Debra Herr.

They also want to give back to the local community, Guillermo said. Once a month, people can sign up for a charity class and the creations will be donated to a local nursing home.

“I know over the years, this time of year, fall, winter, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, in many of these families, it’s often hard, anxious, depressed, just to put a smile on someone’s face, floral arrangements Designer Tamie Myer said.

“We continue to look for different ways to make the flower industry happy. I feel a moral responsibility to the employees we have had over the years and as I told you before we went through a very challenging time, I really hope that this flower The club can thrive so that these people can continue to be with us,” Guillermo Herrera said.

The Flower Club will launch in October. All members will get a two-month free trial. You can click here for more information on the first day of the month.

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