Sue Hesslink sits in her special spot next to the window, dappled sunlight casting a warm glow over her shoulder. Her hands are busy as she wraps royal blue satin ribbon around two cream tea roses. She smiles as she adds final special touches to the delicate wrist corsage.

Sue worked 24 years in the high-risk obstetrics department at St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee before retiring in 2002. "Retiring wasn't an easy decision, but I felt good about it. It actually was a sense of relief," she admits.

It didn't take long for Sue to embark on a new adventure with her daughters Kristin Zietlow and Jaimy Klubertanz. After all, the seeds had already been planted.

"Mom and I took a floral design class at Waukesha County Technical College in 2001, and we started doing a few weddings on the side. We really learned a lot, and we discovered we had a desire to start our own business together," says Zietlow.

Klubertanz was just finishing up her degree in finance at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, and Zietlow was trying her hand at event planning. All three decided it was time to join together to walk down a more fulfilling path in their lives.

Born out of a love of family and a desire to creatively shape some of life's most memorable moments, the three women opened Magnolia Floral and Gift Shoppe in downtown Oconomowoc in 2002.

"The first wedding we did together after opening our shop was mine," says Klubertanz, laughing.

The women quickly learned that the secrets and artistry of floral design would blossom as they worked on their craft together.

"We have developed an eye for color and design over time. We follow the trends and continue to take classes. We buy our flowers from wholesale florists in Milwaukee and they will often bring in designers from New York and other places and we take advantage of those workshops," she adds.

Budding business

When major road construction was in the works for downtown Oconomowoc several years ago, the trio decided to change course a bit and moved from their store front and into a space in Zietlow's home in Hartland.

"We knew we were giving up a store presence and the gift line, but we wanted to focus our business as a full-service florist," explains Klubertanz. "The Internet has also made a huge difference in how we can reach out to our customers. It was perfect timing."

The move also made it possible for Zietlow and Klubertanz to have their young children around them as they worked. "Our families are very close. We brought our babies to work with us. Our customers loved that," laughs Zietlow.

Zietlow and her husband Andrew have two daughters, Olivia, 14, and Emmaleigh, 13. Klubertanz and her husband Tom live close by in Nashotah with their children Owen, 11, and Kennedy, 9.

Hesslink and her husband Jerry live in Oconomowoc and have been married for 47 years. "My dad's family is Dutch, so working with flowers is in our DNA," adds Zietlow.

The Hesslinks also have two sons, Rob who lives in Delafield and Mark in Oconomowoc.

"We love the flexibility to come and go and it really balances our family life. I love being home for my girls," says Zietlow. "Customers can come here to our space or we will meet them at their event venue or wherever they feel comfortable."

Magnolia Floral Shoppe is now all about floral design, from wedding bouquets and centerpieces to one-of-a-kind arrangements for special events to wrist corsages and boutonnieres and so much more.

"We will try anything and we each have our own specialties. Mom is the silk flower expert. She just designed our first Kentucky Derby Hat this spring. Our client told us it was the prettiest hat at the party," adds Zietlow.

Life and laughter

As Hesslink works on the order for 71 blue and white wrist corsages and boutonnieres for the eighth grade graduation ceremony at Lake Country School in Hartland, Klubertanz and Zietlow begin pulling together a flower arrangement featuring deep crimson dahlias, velvety red tea roses and delicate pink ranunculus.

The shop's bright work space is filled with the fragrance and vibrant colors of flowers, cascading bolts of ribbons and tulle and of course, laughter.

"We love what we do and we really love working together," says Hesslink. "We just had a big wedding this last weekend so we're a little slaphappy."

"It's lovely working here, surrounded by flowers and their smell. It uplifts you and puts you in a good mood," says Hesslink. "We deliver flowers, too. No one is ever unhappy receiving flowers."

Pouring their shared passions for love, life and laughter into their floral designs is key for the women of Magnolia Floral.

"What we do is very personal. We love to get to know our customers to learn what they really want. It's a great feeling to walk into a bridal suite and see the bride's face light up when she sees her wedding bouquet for the first time" says Klubertanz.

"We want to always go above and beyond and we'll do whatever it takes," adds Hesslink. "The most important thing is having my girls here every day. It's special and I feel very blessed."

 For more information about Magnolia Floral Shoppe, visit www.magnoliafloralshoppe.com.  

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