When the Rolling Stones sang about sending dead flowers by the US Mail, they likely never imagined that dead flowers would help launch an in-demand business 46 years later.
In 1993, Carli Dixon (then a college freshman) and her mother Nanci Hames (then a dissatisfied corporate worker) purchased a freeze dryer and started a business in the floral preservation industry.
Since starting Freezeframe, they have helped thousands of customers from all over the world preserve their floral memories from weddings, memorials and other occasions.
>> PHOTOS: Behind the scenes in the Bloombeads workshop
Not everyone who writes a business plan in college ends up actually starting a business, but Dixon knew it was a great idea. Customers would bring in or send their flowers from a wedding bouquet or other event, and the Freezeframe staff would work with them to create a unique 3D floral design keepsake to display in their home.
Flowers can be one of the largest expenses in a wedding, but other than photos, there was no way to keep costly bouquets, centerpieces, corsages, or boutonnieres long-term. The business quickly took off as brides from the southwest Ohio region and beyond heard about the service. As Freezeframe’s volume increased, they had to purchase new dryers to keep up with demand.
In 2008, Dixon added Bloombeads, a line of jewelry and accessories made of flower petals from customer-supplied flowers. Since then, the volume of orders for Freezeframes and Bloombeads grew so much that Dixon and her team had to make decisions about how to manage the growth. In 2016, they made the difficult decision to indefinitely suspend the 3D offerings. Customers love the custom jewelry keepsakes for many reasons, such as they ship more successfully and provide more offerings for men, which made Freezeframe’s decision to suspend the 3D floral designs a little bit easier.
The nature of custom floral preservation is very personal. Customers come in with flowers from some of the most emotionally-charged life events like weddings and funerals, and each one has a story to tell.
“I remember one day approving an arrangement for memorial flowers from a grandmother’s memorial service, and the customer had requested that the tribute tag inserted in the packaging say ‘Don’t forget about me.’ It made me cry, thinking about that grandmother just hoping to not be forgotten. You know, we all just hope that we mean as much to the people we care about as they mean to us,” said Dixon. “Yes, we definitely cry with our customers!”
Being the leader in an industry can have unique challenges, and custom floral preservation can be especially challenging. Dixon puts it into perspective: “Imagine you’ve started a restaurant where everyone brings their own food and the expectation is that you can take that food, in various stages of decay, and create consistent, mouth-watering meals from it that satisfy your customer – without a menu and occasionally without knowing exactly what the customer wants. There’s a reason why no one else does this.”
So what keeps her going, despite the challenge?
“The customer,” Dixon said. “It’s not about us in here.”
Despite the demanding schedule of her business, Dixon loves her job.
“For 24 years, I’ve never thought, ‘I don’t want to go to work today’,” she said.
Now that Bloombeads has settled into its gorgeous, newly-restored design studio at 905 E. Third Street, many new developments are on the horizon, including a Bead Bar and a new website featuring a new range of jewelry and accessories.
“We’re also going to be introducing a new artisan series featuring jewelry designs by local artists such as Hamilton Dixon,” she said. (Hamilton happens to be Dixon’s husband, in addition to being a well-known metal artist.)
Several years ago, the Dixons considered relocating to another city, but ultimately they decided to stay. “We wanted to raise our kids here, it’s so creative here, and we wanted to stay close to family and friends,” Dixon said. “Plus Daytonians are fun people to do business with and for.”
They will be making an exciting announcement sometime toward the end of spring, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.
Want to go?
WHAT: Bloombeads by Freezeframe
HOURS: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, closed Friday & Sunday.
WHERE: 905 E. Third Street, Dayton