Small business owner Michelle VandenBosch, a rebel in the florist industry, joins Sherrilynne Starkie in episode six of the 50 Women Over 50 podcast to discuss taking on life in your own terms as a woman in your fifth decade.
Michelle is the owner of Rebel Petal, a flower shop based in Manotick, just south of Ottawa, Canada’s national capital. But it’s not like most flower shops (the clue is in the name)! She and her team specialize in custom fresh flower arrangements for weddings, home and event décor, and as you’ll learn in this episode, funerals too.
“What they don’t tell you when you’re about to take a proverbial leap into the unknown,” explains Michelle, “is that you’re not jumping off a cliff. You’re not freefalling to the ground. You’ll land on a ledge that is the support of your friends, family and the community. So go ahead. Take that leap!”
In this interview, Michelle explains why she has stopped setting goals for herself but plans to continue in her rebellious ways always changing things up and taking on life on her own terms.
About Michelle VandenBosch:
Michelle VandenBosch is a professional florist with more than 30 years experience. She had no desire to be a business owner or to open her own flower shop until seven years ago when she had a sudden epiphany! From the day she opened the doors of Rebel Petal, Michelle has redefined the concept of flower retailing and to this day she’s reinventing small business ownership.
Resources & Contact Information:
- About Michelle VandenBosch
- About Rebel Petal
- Artist Sue Miller
- Artist Jane McGee
- The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss by Anderson Cooper.
- Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up by Selma Blair
- Finding Me, by Viola Davis
About the 50 Women Over 50 Podcast:
Sherrilynne Starkie started this show as a creative project with the goal of interviewing 50 women past their 50th birthday to learn how they see the world, what lessons they’ve learned and what advice they have for us all. She’s been blogging and podcasting for 18+ years as part of a successful marketing and communications career and looks forward to learning from the women she will interview.
Subscribe to 50 Women Over 50 wherever you get your podcasts and please share it with your friends.
50 Women Episode 6: Over 50 and still a rebel
Machine Generated Transcript
What follows is a machine generated transcript. It may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the podcast.
Hello, and welcome to episode six of 50 women over 50 a podcast for women whose personal confidence is born of experience. On your host, Sherrilynne Starkie. My goal with this podcast is to interview 50 intriguing women who are over 50 years of age. To learn how they see this world and what they’ve learned.
Today. I am welcoming Michelle Vandenbosch to the show. She’s the owner of Rebel Petal, a flower shop based in Manotick just south of Ottawa. Canada’s national capital. But it’s not like most flower shops And the clue to this is in its name. She and her team specialize in custom fresh flower arrangements for weddings home and event decor. And as you’ll learn in this episode, funerals too. She also has a line of unique giftware items all available through her online store.
In this interview, Michelle explains why she has stopped setting goals for herself but plans to continue in her rebellious ways, changing things up and taking on life on our own terms.
[00:01:11] Sherrilynne: So, let’s start at the very beginning.
Tell me about your 50th birthday.
[00:01:17] Michelle: How did you celebrate? Very quietly. My partner Gary, and I just had a lovely evening in, I think we probably ordered some delicious food. But it’s, it was a birthday and we’ve been keeping ourselves very safe through this pandemic. And we didn’t do anything major, but I was the recipient of some beautiful artwork. Pre pandemic we thought maybe the 50th birthday would be a trip or something. Fabulous. And what we decided in the end to celebrate was a, a beautiful piece of artwork that means a lot to me, that all my family members are represented in. So that was how we celebrated. Wow,
[00:02:01] Sherrilynne: that’s wonderful. So, you commissioned something with a local artist?
[00:02:05] Michelle: Yeah, so there’s my parents live up on a lake and there’s an artist there, Sue Miller, who does just beautiful work of landscapes, but she also does these incredible alcohol bottle paintings and. What I did was create a collection, a scene of everybody’s favorite alcohol bottle. My dad, it’s rum that he used to drink when I was young.
My two boys love the vodka. My Hendrix gin that I like. And we, I made this scene of them and. I took a photograph of it, and she painted them and it’s, I walk by it every day. It’s in my kitchen and it’s just beautiful. I love it.
[00:02:51] Sherrilynne: does sound beautiful. Does this artist have a, a website that I can put a link it to in the show notes?
[00:03:07] Michelle: will want to see. Yeah, I think her Instagram handle is Sue Miller Art. Okay. And you can see there’s a video actually of her painting the My Commission, which I Oh, wonderful.
Yeah, it’s quite nice to have. Perfect. I’ll
[00:03:24] Sherrilynne: put the link to that in it. So how, how long ago was this? You, you just turned 50 Now this year,
[00:03:31] Michelle: April? Yes. Yeah, I turned, and I was fully thinking I was ready for it. I have worked in the flower industry for 36 years and I celebrate every year because I know an awful lot of women who haven’t made it to 50.
And so, 50 wasn’t coming at me I wasn’t resisting it. I was anxious to celebrate another year here on the, on the globe. But it’s interesting, some of the gifts that my body has given me, since my birthday. Just crazy things. Allergies and hot flashes and, some of those sort of things that women do have at this time of their life.
And it was the door opened the day after my birthday and I’m learning new things about my myself physically. So, but yeah, 50 was definitely a number. I was looking forward to celebrating.
[00:04:23] Sherrilynne: Well, that’s good because not all of us were looking forward to it. Right. I know. I was absolutely not looking forward to it.
I was full of fear about turning 50. Turns out I was just being silly.
[00:04:36] Michelle: Yes, I agree. And but I do try to talk to women about celebrating every year because I lost a girlfriend around this time last year and she will never be 50. And she’s left behind a couple of three beautiful children. And I have buried a lot of women in my career as a florist who didn’t make it to 40 and didn’t make 36 or 12. And it has given me a perspective where you really need to live authentically and look forward to every day that you’ve been given. Because I know a lot of sad people who don’t have the wonderful women in their lives who’ve passed. Yes. And certainly not a lot of people see death that we see in the flower industry. I mean, we have supplied flowers this morning for four different family members at different funeral homes throughout the city.
So, four different families that we have helped today, and that’s just not the normal for friends. But because that is something that we’re so used to in this industry, I think it’s given us a, a different kind of perspective on life and death.
[00:05:52] Sherrilynne: That’s interesting. Actually. I never thought about that in terms of, your. A shopkeeper and an entrepreneur and a small business owner and, and making beautiful things because I, full disclosure audience, I definitely buy Michelle’s flowers.
But yeah. Thank you. I guess you get a whole different perspective when you’re working at that that part of the market
[00:06:15] Michelle: It, it is interesting because it’s, there’s things that we don’t talk about as a society. I know that women still die in childbirth. I know that not every baby is born alive. These are things that I am reminded of.
Quite often, sadly. I know that cancer takes an awful lot of us. And
[00:06:35] Sherrilynne: an attitude of.
What the, what’s the word I’m looking
[00:06:39] Michelle: these are just things that I’ve learned along the way that, that other people would not know about because that’s not their, maybe their business isn’t connected to the funeral industry.
[00:06:51] Sherrilynne: So, you’d say you came into your fifties with practical grounding. Yes. Determination to live life to the
[00:06:58] Michelle: fullest. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, my life might not be fancy, but it is exactly the way I’ve designed it and I love everybody who is in it, and I love everything that I’ve helped build around in my home.
And so yeah, I love every minute of my life.
[00:07:17] Sherrilynne: And you said that you weren’t able to celebrate your 50th birthday because of the pandemic. And I mean, hearing that from a lot of the women that I’ve been interviewing, do you, are you going to try to do some of that travel that you talked about?
Maybe when things are different
[00:07:33] Michelle: I. Very comfortable at home. Very much a homebody, so me and my guy and my, my dog Charlie, we had a great night. And so that is all I needed really. Oh, nice.
I may, I might take out traveling again. This winter? I’m not really sure it’ll, it might be on a whim, but yeah, I have a, a very comfortable home life that I relish.
[00:08:02] Sherrilynne: What advice would you give to your 30
[00:08:05] Michelle: year old self? Oh my gosh. I would tell her to start designing her life. I don’t think we really understand how much influence we have on creating the life we want.
I hung onto working for others longer than I should’ve. And, and with this fear of, oh, I don’t think I could do it on my own. And, and certainly that probably just took a while for me to get the courage, but when you jump, and nobody knows this at the time that you’re, you’re agonizing over creating something new or doing your, busting out onto your own or opening your own business.
What we all don’t know is that when you’re about to jump off that cliff and you jump. There’s actually a ledge that’s four feet that you don’t even see. You’re not free falling to the ground. The universe will, will support you and your friends will support you, and your family will support you.
And suddenly you’ve jumped thinking you’re going to fly and, and crash to ground. And there’s actually a ledge that you’re four feet and you jump and you’re, Oh, I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be so far. And it’s not that far and, and we just need. Have more courage, to do these things and create the life we want.
I have a great flower shop. I love what I do. I’ve worked in this industry for 36 years. My flower shop is called Rebel Petal because we’re doing things completely differently than a lot of flower shops have always done things. Right now, we’re not open to the public coming in. All of our work is online, over the phone.
If you had told me five years ago that I could actually pay the bills and pay my team and keep them safe, by keeping the doors closed, I wouldn’t have believed you, but we are fully functional operating six days a week, most days, if not seven online and over the phone flower shop without people coming through the door.
[00:10:10] Sherrilynne: is, I wouldn’t, That is rebellious. That is rebellious. You’re
[00:10:13] Michelle: well, named. I thought it was just, we don’t sell point that, as in Easter lilies, but, or roses at Valentine’s Day.
[00:10:26] Sherrilynne: What do you sell then if you’re not selling The more traditional things?
[00:10:30] Michelle: We, I mean, we certainly have a lovely line of giftware and fun things that we sell online. And, but we are very flower focused. Mm-hmm. fresh flowers is definitely our, the majority of our sales. We handled for the last two years we’ve been handling all of the funeral work for Kelly’s funeral home and capital funeral home in the Ottawa area.
Between funeral work, daily orders events, weddings, from time to time when they are, you know when we’re able to, Those sort of things are definitely the, the focus. We’re fresh flower focused flower shop.
[00:11:08] Sherrilynne: You sound busy.
[00:11:09] Michelle: It’s not even plants. We’re, we’re busy. And we don’t even really sell plants. That’s most people think plants should last forever in a day. And when we live in Canada, our homes are too dry, and we don’t have enough sun most of the year. And so, we hardly even sell fresh plants. We, from time to time we’ll get in some air plants or some orchid plants who can take a little bit of abuse.
But when you turn on your furnace and your fireplace, it dries out the air. And these tropical rainforest plants want tropical rainforest conditions. It’s not even really plants that we’re selling here. It’s, it’s absolutely beautiful fresh flowers.
Well, I can attest that there you do some really beautiful arrangements because I’ve bought several over the years and in fact, I was just thinking today it’s time for me to chuck out these mums.
They’re looking a little bit dog eared. So. Yes, I hear what you’re saying about the furnace and how hard it is, on the plants, that’s for sure.,
sounds you’re working really hard and you’re, you’re having a successful business, but what do you do for fun?
That’s the interesting thing about owning a flower shop that’s not open to the public.
My days are very different than how they used to be. I would easily work 40, 50 hours on any given week when the flower shop was open. Well, this Friday I’m taking a painting class here in Manotick between nine and noon with another artist, Jane McGee, who’s local, who’s lovely with my sister.
And then I have a massage in the afternoon. So as decadent as that sounds, our alarms go off usually around four 30 or five in the morning. And we come in, we get things done. I’m going to then head off to the massage or to the painting class while things are being delivered. I’ll come back here troubleshoot anything that’s come up while I was gone and then head off for the massage.
That’s not every day. I can assure you. Because we’re not open to the public. We, our productivity has skyrocketed, and I don’t have to hire another staff member to manage that retail section of the business. And we can come and go and, go for lunch one day when we have to work a full day because we’re not really here, we’re ho here all over the phone, but because you can order things online, a lot of our business is done that way. Because you can order flowers on rebel pedal.com 24 7. So, it, it makes for a very different schedule for our weeks and even if we. Six or seven. I, I went for a haircut a little while ago.
And so definitely the business is very different than when you run a retail location.
[00:14:03] Sherrilynne: Yeah. So, what I’m hearing here is a lot of similar themes that I get when I’m talking to women who had a former nine to five office job. Now they’re all working from home and they’re able to integrate life with work, in a way, yes, That makes both of them a lot more enjoyable
[00:14:21] Michelle: and well. I definitely noticed in the first two years of the pandemic that my stress level was off the charts, and I was creating my own anxiety by trying to make things perfectly perfect in this world that is still completely broken.
Right? And I knew that I had to put in some boundaries. That was probably more around my 50th birthday than it was at the beginning of the year. I knew I needed to create, have, bring in a little bit more joy because the world is opening up a little bit more. And I definitely knew that I needed to put in some, some more fun and a little bit more flexibility into our day as well to, to keep us all happy and enjoying our, our day to.
[00:15:13] Sherrilynne: And where do you see yourself in 10 years
[00:15:15] Michelle: I don’t know. And I’m okay with that. I don’t know how my business will be in 10 years, if I will still be here, if I will be moving it online. I’m not sure. I often see things happen or hear things happen, and I can then see how my business should be directed.
So, at the moment, which was part of my, it feels like this year I’ve taken the year off quite honestly, because I have stopped making goals this year because the last two years were so hard as a business person. This year I needed it to be kinder, gentler, and. And I’m just waiting for the, for the signs from the universe to tell me where we’re going next.
And I’m okay and confident that whichever happens will be great.
[00:16:17] Sherrilynne: There’s two things that I’m hearing there. The first thing is that you and I are lined about this idea about, and we need more fun because I, that’s why I’m doing this podcast because, as much as I love my business and I love my job, I mean, I wanted to do something that’s a little bit, less work oriented and just pure fun having slogged it out for the last two years.
I totally hear you on that. But the other thing, the thing I’m not hearing from you is anything about slowing down or retiring or anything like that, you’re still very focused. You’re going to be in business, you just don’t know what that business is going to look like.
[00:16:57] Michelle: Well, yeah, I, I know I’m always going to have to do something.
I’m not very good at sitting still for long. But yeah, I, and who knows, it may be completely out of the flower industry. I’m not really sure. But I’m open to whatever it ends up being and I’m sure, I’m sure it’ll be great. But yeah, I, at the moment, I have no idea the next 10 years what it’s going to look.
And you’re not afraid of that? No, not at all. Oh my gosh. No, no, no. not in any way. I’m excited. I, I’m excited by it, quite honestly. The flower, it’s interesting. Rebel Petal. I was not thinking of opening up a flower shop. 36 years in this industry. I started when I was 14 and probably until I was about 42 or so, I was not going to open a flower shop.
I was sure that was not my path. And one day I was looking for a flower shop for another client in the States. She wanted to send flowers to that city. And as I was searching up different flower shops, I found one that was named Florist Fire. And. Thought in my head, what a cool name for a flower shop.
I wonder what I would call mine if I had one, right? And as though somebody was screaming at me in my right ear, I heard Rebel Petal, and I didn’t come up with that name. I hadn’t been thinking of that name. I hadn’t been thinking of owning my own flower shop. But there was somebody who was not there who was screaming that at me.
And so that, that roller coaster is how we came up or how I found the name. It was sort of yelled at me from the universe I’m thinking. And away we went. Fully confident in whatever my next steps will be, will be again, fully supported and exciting. Yeah. You
[00:18:54] Sherrilynne: just have to listen for that epiphany.
[00:18:56] Michelle: That’s right. Yeah. Absolutely.
[00:18:58] Sherrilynne: Changing tracks here a little bit to, to the quick round., what are you reading, What are you watching? What are you binging? What content are you consuming these days?
[00:19:08] Michelle: I am very interested in Anderson Cooper. All of a sudden, I’ve just finished his chat that he had with his mom.
It was a biography he and his mom did together, which was really quite interesting. His podcasts on death have been really good and I recommend everybody listen to them. So, I’ve been doing that.
I’ve just downloaded Selma Blair’s new biography. I love to learn more about people’s stories. Viola, Viola Davis. Oh my gosh. Everybody should read her book. She IS Amazing. But yeah, I love, I love biographies.
[00:19:46] Sherrilynne: Yes. I didn’t know that she had a biography and I agree with you. She is
[00:19:49] Michelle: amazing.
She is amazing. I’ll have to check
[00:19:52] Sherrilynne: that out. I’m going to add that one onto my watch list for an audiobook,
[00:20:00] Sherrilynne: great. What are you doing that’s, outside of business right now? I know that you’re involved as a volunteer on the Manotick BIA. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that or about any other volunteer or community roles that you have?
[00:20:19] Michelle: Yeah, I’m the vice chair of the Manotick BIA. And certainly, Plans on continuing with the board moving forward as we’re about to have our elections. I definitely support different volunteer groups and things because of course every event is, is made better by flowers. Oh, right. I think, I think probably the painting is the thing that’s the most outside of my wheelhouse because it’s really cool to be 50 years old and totally suck at.
I am, I am not an artist. I’m not a painter. My, I’m definitely a designer in a completely different medium and I can also make you a great dinner or bake you an awesome cake. But I’m really good at those things and I’ve honed that for those things over 50 years. And. But painting you set down to a white canvas with a brush in your hand, and I suck at it, which is great because I’m learning something new.
And so that to me has been really quite exciting and terrifying in the same, the same way.
[00:21:32] Sherrilynne: Yeah. You reminded me. I, I don’t know if you went to see Moonage Daydream, the latest the movie about David Bowie’s life that came out a couple of weeks ago, but, well, you remind me of a, an interview that he gave where he spent most of his time in, in his last decade painting.
I, I didn’t know that. And I got to tell you, I am a pretty committed Bowie fan, but I didn’t even know that. And, but he wouldn’t show it because he says, Look it, I know I can write music and I know I can write lyrics, but I’m not convinced that I can paint. But His family that supported this production showed a lot of his artwork.
And of course, he was super talented and should have had more confidence in it. So, I’m thinking that you are probably super talented at this too, but it’s just because it’s a new thing for you. Maybe you don’t have the confidence around
[00:22:21] Michelle: it, and I think that’s great., I think learning something new, I know.
So, my mom and my sister are great sewers and knitters and that just isn’t my, my thing. And, and certainly with color and the painting I love playing with color, so that certainly works. But there’s something very terrifying about having a white canvas and a paintbrush in your hand. So
[00:22:44] Sherrilynne: well, as a writer, I can certainly identify because looking at that white page without a single mark made on it yet always, even although I’ve been doing it professionally for 30 years, it still fills me with dread. So, I hear you all. Yeah, sure.
[00:22:59] Michelle: Yeah. And
[00:23:03] Sherrilynne: Is there an app that you can’t live without?
[00:23:10] Michelle: Is there an app I can’t live without? I love social media and I am fully aware that social media has catapulted my business because I don’t sell screw drivers. I sell a very visual, beautiful product that everybody loves, and I hear all the time, if I won a lottery, I would have fresh flowers in my house every day.
. But definitely Instagram and Facebook feels like a community of friends and so I would definitely say, I think I’d probably have to say Instagram first.
Yeah. If there’s an app I can’t live without, yeah, I’d say probably I. Is probably my favorite, but I can kill ours on TikTok., I’m with you on
[00:23:56] Sherrilynne: that too. I mean, I just got into it this year because clients were asking me for, advice on TikTok. I thought I better get my brain wrapped around this so that I can give some sensible advice.
But what I like about TikTok is that it’s entertaining as hell. It is and it’s nobody preaching at me or telling me what to think or how to talk or how fat or thin I should be or anything like that. It’s just people having fun.
[00:24:22] Michelle: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s so educational. I found out all kinds of things about myself, about my body, about cooking.
There’s all kind, if you, want a little education, my goodness, you can spend lots of time learning about alot. And it, it really has been really interesting I find, and getting out information. It’s definitely IT and Twitter, I think those two rival each other for trying to get, push out information about what’s going on in the world.
[00:24:52] Sherrilynne: Yeah, exactly. They do rival each other, but targeting different audiences, so they they work together. But anyways, that’s my day job. I don’t want to talk about my day job. Sorry. Sorry,
[00:25:05] Sherrilynne: Okay. Is there an over 50 life hack that you’d like to share with our audience?
[00:25:11] Michelle: An over 50 life hack. I don’t apologize for my appearance. And I, I think that goes back to TikTok because it seems like anytime mostly women who is obviously the audience that I look at I’m a 50 year old women, so I see a lot of 50 other 50 year old women’s with the algorithm. What I find is everybody opens up the app and they’re apologizing for their appearance.
They’re apologizing for their, Oh, I’m, I’m just out of the shower. I’m sorry. It’s a busy day. I don’t have any makeup, yesterday’s makeup, this is me. I’m doing the best I can. We’re all doing the best we can, and we all don’t look magazine Perfect every single moment of our days. I don’t apologize for the extra 10 pounds that I have.
I don’t apologize for wearing makeup or not wearing makeup or doing my hair. Or not doing my hair., I just don’t, I’ve stopped apologizing for, Oh, I’m sorry. I’m, I wore jeans. I just don’t anymore. This is me. I’m doing the best I can, and we all need to get. We’re all doing the best we can, I think would be my stop apologizing.
You’re beautiful. This is you. Yep, totally. That might be my hack
[00:26:27] Sherrilynne: and what a wonderful hack
[00:26:28] Michelle: it is. Yeah. Well, it’s certainly freeing. Some days I don’t even realize that I didn’t do my hair and makeup
[00:26:37] Sherrilynne: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I, during the darkest part of the pandemic, I just didn’t,
[00:26:43] Michelle: Yes. Yeah, I know. I, I had a Covid outfit I called it. I had a About three or four gray t-shirts that had rebel pedal on them and jeans, which you’ll always find me in jeans regardless of most situation. But yeah, I just consecutively wore that I think for months because it was right in the thick of things and we all weren’t seeing each other.
And I think we all are not the same as we were pre pandemic, that’s for sure. I know just in, in dealing in this industry with how people order flowers and how they behave, we’re all not the same anymore. And I think we’ve all struggled in different ways through this pandemic and we’re all learning new things about ourselves and hopefully we’re all okay, but I know we’re all different.
[00:27:38] Sherrilynne: Everybody’s at a different place. Yeah, but I agree with you. Look, I, I feel like doing this podcast is a little bit of about me accepting the fact of this is where I am in life and I’m willing to say it out loud and embrace it. And I’m not going to be in my fifties for very much longer, so to be a while to get my arms around it, that’s for sure.
But I’m giving it a big hug now.
[00:28:01] Michelle: Good. Good. Where
[00:28:03] Sherrilynne: can our listeners
[00:28:04] Michelle: find you? We are rebel pedal flowers on Instagram. If you want to see pretty things, if you would like a little bit of the sarcasm I am, then certainly Rebel Petal itself is the Instagram handle. I don’t know. You can find us everywhere.
Google Rebel Petal and you’ll find everything.
[00:28:26] Sherrilynne: That’s it for episode six, this has been 50 women over 50 a podcast for women whose personal confidence is born of experience. Thank you to the rebel petal herself, Michelle Vandenbosch for joining me today and for sharing with us, how life in the pandemic changed her. It changed how she does business, how she sees the world.
And her role in life. I put links in the show notes so you can easily find Michelle online. And I’ve also included many links to some of the items that we discussed
I’ve got a lot more exciting interviews, lined up with some incredible over 50 women. So don’t miss an episode. Subscribe to this podcast now. And if you have a second, please drop me a rating or review on apple or wherever you get your podcasts from let’s connect.
Let’s create a whole community of wise women over 50 by sharing a link to this show with your friends and connections. See you next time on 50 women over 50. I’m your host, Sherrilynne Starkie.
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