Not more than six years ago, Kayli Head ’08 sat in an eatery in Wimberley on the verge of tears.

Just months before, she and her husband, Derek ’09, had moved halfway across the state to the burgeoning city of San Marcos, where Kayli took a job at an area florist. She had always dreamed of making a career out of flowers, and now, in the midst of her first solo gig with the company — during most of which she and Derek spent refortifying her arrangements against strong winds and taking flak from a particularly stern wedding planner — Kayli’s determination faltered.

“I remember taking a picture of her at lunch and telling her, ‘You’ve got this, Kayli. You’re going to look back at this picture one day and wonder what you were worried about,’” Derek said, seated next to Kayli in the couple’s current floral shop on the San Marcos square.

He was not wrong. Now, four years after creating her own company, The Bloom Bar has doubled its business every year. In 2018, Kayli created floral designs for approximately 100 weddings. This year, she is averaging five to six events each weekend.

“When you’re on the other side of it, it seems so scary to launch,” Kayli said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be successful. You don’t know if you’re going to starve and be destitute. Now, I think, ‘What was I afraid of?’ I’m so much more likely to take risks now.”

Budding love

Kayli’s love for the art of flowers stretches back as long as her and Derek’s relationship.

“We went on our first date when we were 14,” Derek said.

“We were really cheesy,” Kayli laughed, the two of them throwing glances at the other. “Like, my mom dropped us off at the movies.”

Both attended high school in Garland, where Kayli took a floral design class at age 14. Two years later, she nabbed her first official job at a local florist.

“Everyone took [the floral design class] as a blow-off class except me,” she recalled. “For the first arrangement we ever made in class, I remember the people next to me were fumbling with stuff, and I was like, ‘If you do it this way and spin it like this … ,’ I was hooked.”

Kayli joined her high school’s FFA and took part in floriculture competitions through the organization. She competed in one such event on the SFA campus, unaware the university held an important future for her.

After high school, Derek went to West Texas A&M University, and Kayli enrolled at SFA. Though no longer dating, they both “stayed really good friends — best friends” for several years until Kayli heard Derek had transferred to College Station.

“It’s one of my favorite memories,” Kayli said. “I was standing in front of Steen Hall in a toga, and I called Derek on my flip phone and said, ‘I heard you’re in College Station. I’m going to come visit you tomorrow.’”

A visit turned into dating. Then dating turned into Derek’s enrollment at SFA, and their renewed proximity eventually led to marriage.

Profound Impact

After graduating from SFA, where Kayli earned a degree in mass communication and Derek a degree in health science, the Heads stayed in Nacogdoches for several years, each getting a job in her/his respective field.

Early on, Kayli had toyed with the idea of pursuing a floral design degree but convinced herself it was more expensive and less practical. With a communication degree in hand, she was hired as a marketing communications specialist at SFA where she wrote stories about alumni for Sawdust.

“SFA truly set me up for success,” she said. “Especially as a member of the Student Activities Association, I got a taste of the event world. Then, of course, working at the university was awesome. It’s come full circle, because I remember interviewing people for Sawdust and being inspired by alumni who came before me. I’m also grateful I finally got Derek to come to SFA. We loved it there. It made a profound impact on my life.”

Headed West

In 2013, Derek took a grant-based job in Lockhart as a community gardens coordinator for Seton Healthcare Family, where he worked to improve public access to healthy food. The couple opted to settle in San Marcos because of its small-town feel, yet close distance to several major cities.

While working with an area florist, Kayli landed a Main Street coordinator job with the city of San Marcos, which opened up a network of business connections that would benefit her future floral company in major ways.

“I loved it. I got to be really creative and did all the downtown district’s advertising and events,” Kayli said. “I met all the business owners downtown, and that’s when I was introduced to the idea that I could have my own business, because I saw people successfully doing it.”

She later took a Main Street job in Bastrop and, after realizing it didn’t fit her talents in the same ways as San Marcos had, she leaped.

“I started my business in 2015 and took on some of my first gigs,” she said. “Then I started my home studio in early 2016.”

Everything’s Coming up Roses

In June 2016, Kayli moved The Bloom Bar into a San Marcos downtown storefront, working alongside the businesses she had for so many years watched grow.

“It happened really quickly,” she said. “I was sponsoring lots of parties just to build content. I didn’t have a massive fund — I think I started with $500 — but I popped up a website, arranged a few flowers and took them to people.”

In a position to cater to clients in multiple major nearby cities, Kayli quickly took to networking.

“I had made some connections along the way and called those people and said, ‘I started my own business, if you need floral work.’ It was almost instant,” Kayli recalled.

Derek was in real estate at the time, but as Kayli’s business bloomed along with her need for weekend assistance, he decided to quit and join her.

The Bloom Bar now has a core of five employees and works with various freelancers, as needed. As her business grows, Kayli continues to find herself venturing into new creative territory. She’s taken on engineering major installations using various materials for corporate events, including Mercedes, PayPal, Formula One, Apple, Firefox and South by Southwest.

In The Bloom Bar’s first two years of operation, Kayli won two International Live Events Association awards and two local awards — Downtown Business of the Year and Emerging Business of the Year by the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce. She also co-created a local chapter of the Rising Tide Society, which connects creative entrepreneurs to foster “community over competition,” according to its website.

As a business owner, Kayli struggles with finding the time to relax and spend time away from work, although she says it’s getting easier. She’s also begun taking on fewer but larger projects, which has lessened the chaos of coordinating several small events at once.

Kayli doesn’t have much time nowadays to look back at the photo of herself, distraught after her first gig and uncertain about the future, because the future Derek predicted has arrived, and the Heads are busy living out their dreams.