On the last day of every school year, when the Blanton Museum was still on Speedway and 21st streets, Sunni Graham would visit Jerry Bywaters’ painting “Oil Field Girls.” Graham related to the painting and its bleak depiction of two women waiting on the side of the road, suitcases in hand, as the barren West Texas landscape stood behind them.
This art inspired the creation of her business, Gypsy Floral & Events.
After graduating from UT in 2002 with a degree in American studies, Graham immediately worked toward combining her love of florals, art and design into a career. In 2012, Graham and her partner established their bohemian-styled floral and events business.
“I’ve always wanted to provide for people,” Graham said. “Whether it’s food or flowers, it just became clear that events, entertaining and arrangements are what I need to be doing.”
Graham came to UT in 1997 intending to study dance and theatre. After changing her major a few times, she found her interests were in liberal arts and decided on American studies.
“You could take film, art history and language classes that attributed to the degree,” Graham said. “I really feel like studying those little bits that I was exposed to really influenced what I do now.”
During her time at UT, Graham spent most of her time studying and working in the garden center of a hardware store. She was motivated by that job to join a botany class, in whichshe discovered her affinity for flowers.
“The botany class got me going,” Graham said. “I remember the really gorgeous greenhouse behind the main building and spending a lot of time in there and just being
Directly after college, Graham worked on odd jobs for friends and family, creating arrangements and helping with weddings.
“It just kind of snowballed,” Graham said. “Pretty soon they were saying, ‘Oh, you know, I want you to do my flowers and also coordinate and can you pick out my tablecloths and what do you think about this?’”
In 2001, she and her husband started her first company, Puerta Bella Events. Eleven years later, Graham was introduced to her partner, Emily Reid. Together, they created Gypsy Floral & Events and became equal partners.
“It’s required us both to know a little about accounting, social media and marketing,” Reid said. “We really both do everything.”
Graham said Gypsy Floral is a boutique company that tries to give its attention to only one event per week. The duo likes to combine non-traditional and vintage objects into their design concepts while making sure to incorporate their clients’ personalities and backgrounds.
Despite the hard work and energy owning her own business has required, Graham said she loves what Gypsy Floral gives her.
“There are a lot of fabulous perks to it,” Graham said. “We set our own schedule, get to take time off to spend with our families, and, also, I feel like its just nice to have something that’s really your own.”
Graham said she remembers the transition from college to establishing a career being intimidating.
“But, I had some advice from a couple of different folks in the business community around Austin,” Graham said. “They said, ‘If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, don’t be afraid. You’re young and it’s OK to make mistakes. Just go for it.’ So that’s what I did. I don’t know if it was naiveté or craziness or what, but I just haven’t looked back.”