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Meet Yoni Levenbach of Flowers Without Borders

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yoni Levenbach.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I came to Los Angeles to join my family who had emigrated from the southern Cape in South Africa. One of my first jobs was at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. One day a waitress there told me I was a bit of a nature boy and recommended I meet her boyfriend who worked at the Los Angeles flower market. I was greeted by three football fields of flowers grown locally and flown in from every floral exporting country to feed, not only the public but also the machine that is Hollywood. My job interview was at 9am and my boss to be, had just worked from 10pm the night before and he was drinking a beer for breakfast. Last year on my honeymoon in Porto, I had an experience with a similar flavor and warmth. We visited the wholesale produce and flower market, and on the outskirts was a tiny place serving really good and affordable food and whole lot of wine ( at 7am ) to the lively people working at the market. I have been deeply connected to the LA market, a place that has taught me about all things blooming and about friendship and I guess also about barter.

There is a kind of body language or tempo that exists in the wholesale fish, produce and flower markets in Los Angeles that is palpable and I think it may derive from the acquired habit of going to work, just around the time when Angelenos are about to go to sleep. My vocation involves finding the flowers florists need both from local farmers and when they are out of season in California from countries such as Kenya and Japan. I enjoy the process of hunting for unusual floral material for designers that are looking for textures and shades that will distinguish them from their fellow event specialists. I have turned this process of flower hunting into a kind of a game or a personal challenge and often finding something rare means talking to farmers who may not have what I am looking for but are willing to refer me to new leads that do. In this manner, I take on new growers and increase the variety of flowers I can offer my customers. To grounded farmers and talented floral artists is a large part of my day that I most cherish.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When I arrived here I had no post high school education and so I worked on roofs and worked as a busboy and those jobs were fine. The cost of living in Los Angeles back then was low and minimum wage was enough. I am not one that is talented at cooperating and compromising within large organizations and I found that out about myself while working at small family business that exploded into an extremely large company. This presented challenges for me and when I decided to go out on my own in 2006 I had almost no savings and I could not secure a loan. So I started by getting one order, shipping the flowers making a small margin and then trying it again. My first two years leading up to the crash in 2008 were pretty good. Flowers trading here seemed to be somewhat born out of depression and simultaneously a bit recession proof, I am not sure why.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
I communicate with floral artists and event planners about their storyboards, which palettes they are working within, the mood or feeling their clients are after and most the level of footprint they want to leave behind in the wake of their weddings or functions. I specialize in finding flowers others do not want to mess with. My belief is that if the flower you are looking for is growing anywhere but I will talk to as many farmers as it takes to find it. I respect the growers who bring us light and love and I admire the artists who create magic out of the fruits of their labor.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I am reclusive and shy.

Pricing:

  • Chocolate cosmos $0.95 cents
  • Lily of the Valley $3.50
  • Fritillaria $2.00
  • Poppies $0.85 cents
  • Roses $0.70 cents

Contact Info:

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