How two sisters formed Laurel Floral out of a backyard

Outside her home on Delmar Lane in Laurel, Laura Carrillo, 31, snags a red rose from a storage shed in her backyard. She brings it inside and places it in a glass vase brimming with blossoming red and pink roses. She ties a red ribbon around the bouquet and snaps a photo with her phone. 

About an hour later, in the home across the street, sister Christi Carrillo, 28, uploads that photo to the duo’s Instagram account, @LaurelFloralDesign.

It’s just a typical day for the Carrillo sisters.

In early February, the sisters registered the name of their flower catering business, Laurel Floral Design, in Suffolk County. The “shop” — which operates out of Laura’s backyard – had already catered birthday parties, weddings and baby showers prior to the registration.

Instagram is where Christi receives most requests for bouquets. It’s ideal for a company hoping to cater to a younger demographic, she said.

“A lot of it comes from Instagram, and a lot of people that we know, too, just from talking to them and talking to them about our ideas,” Christi said.

While Christi tackles marketing, budgeting and partnering with local businesses like Kontokosta Winery in Greenport, her sister is more creative: Laura arranges most of the bouquets and also designed the flower arrangements and planned most of her sister’s wedding in August 2017.

“She’s the creative one,” Christi said, “I just go along with whatever she does.”

Laura, who took design classes at the New York School of Flower Design, said her design experience developed after working with Southold catering company Grace and Grit for roughly 8 years.

Once the sisters receive a shipment from their distributor in East Moriches, flowers are kept in a storage space in Laura’s backyard. In coming months, she said, she hopes to construct a temperature-controlled refrigeration system for the summer.

While the price of a bouquet is determined by the flowers used, Christi said, a traditional bouquet typically ranges from $40 to $65.

The sisters, who moved to the North Fork 17 years ago, are currently taking floral design classes at Western Suffolk Boces. Additional experience, Christi said, has come from working in the hospitality industry.

“We’ve learned so much from the people that we’ve worked with throughout the years,” she said. “They introduced us to the hospitality business, and that’s a great characteristic of our business. We know how to cater to people’s needs that makes them feel appreciated.”

The duo previously worked at Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. Christi said owner Carolyn Iannone has offered them guidance on running a business.

“She’s given us a lot of advice in terms of how to manage money and plan now, so problems don’t arise in the future,” Christi said. “We disagree on things, but we go back, talk and work it out.”

When she’s not working with her husband’s contracting company or taking care of their three children, Laura designs custom shirts, party invitations and other personalized apparel a la carte.

Christi said the pair is scouting for a retail storefront on the North Fork. Once a formal storefront is open, they’ll consider merging the apparel and floral design businesses.

“That’s why we wanted to do the shop,” Christi said. “Eventually, who knows where that might lead us.”

Laura said the company aims to guide a “build your own arrangement” class later this month. The business is also planning on offering discounts to college or high school students around Mother’s Day.

“Working locally, you develop relationships, you know? That sets you apart from other businesses, because you want to make people truly happy with what you do,” Christi said.

Bouquets are available online via Instagram or by contacting Christi Carrillo at 631-680-0449.

Caption: Christi (left) and Laura Carrillo of Laurel registered their floral catering business, Laurel Floral Design, last month. They are both taking floral design classes at Western Suffolk BOCES. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

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