Budding entrepreneurs

Dakessa Hector, 16, aspires to work in a skyscraper someday — putting to use the business skills she’s developing at Old Arizona’s Petal Pushers program.

Hector is the new assistant manager at Petal Pushers, a flower arrangement business housed in the rehabbed Log Cabin Flowers building next to the Old Arizona at 29th & Nicollet. The business serves as an educational program for young women and is the largest employer of teen girls in the neighborhood.   

Soon the cabin will host a shop open on Saturdays. 

Up until now it’s focused on special orders for customers like the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, YWCA of Minneapolis and Hennepin County Medical Center. Besides floral arrangements, Petal Pushers sells small houseplants and garden supplies. 

Old Arizona is hosting Wine & Roses, a benefit for 29th Street Petal Pushers, on Sept. 20. The event will feature food, wine, music and a silent auction. It’s one of the largest funding sources for the program, said Elizabeth Trumble, a co-owner of Old Arizona along with Darcy Knight. The organization has provided teenage girls with a wide variety of programs since first launching in 1995. 

Old Arizona is a venue for theater productions, dance performances, weddings and concerts, among many other events. It also has a chocolate lounge and coffee/wine bar. Profits from its various ventures help support the youth programs.

The fundraising benefit for Petal Pushers is a good opportunity to try to find new supporters of the program.

“As they learn about the work we’re doing with teenage girls — teaching them work-readiness skills — they can also learn about the beautiful product we can supply them,” Trumble said. 

To date, the teens have earned $6,492 from selling their flower arrangements. 

Hector, a junior at South High School, said she’s started doing a lot better in math class since becoming involved in Petal Pushers. The program, which has employed 22 teens since launching two years ago, offers weekly workshops on floral design, accounting, marketing, money management, customer service and other business topics. 

“With a lot of the business you have to do here you have to do a lot of math and make sure you’re accurate,” she said. “My grades and test scores went up because I was making sure I understood the teacher so when I came here I would know what I was doing.” 

Hector is hoping to study business at the University of Minnesota after she graduates from high school. She’s hoping to help steer Petal Pushers toward hitting its sales goal of $10,000 this year. 

Cecilia Martinez-Miranda, a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, has been working with the Petal Pushers program for two years. She’s helped come up with topics for the business classes and has worked on developing the marketing plan for Petal Pushers.

She said it’s been exciting to see how much the teens have gained confidence from their work at the flower business.

“It’s been really nice to see where people have come from and know that where they are going now is incredible,” she said. 

Besides Petal Pushers, Trumble and Knight run the Arizona Bridge Project, which provides teenage girls with opportunities to nurture their talents through the arts and media projects.

Old Arizona has an outreach coordinator that works to spread the word about the youth programs in Minneapolis Public Schools and other community organizations. 

Trumble and Knight started offering free arts programming to young women in the neighborhood as an alternative to the trouble they were seeing girls getting into on the streets.

“When we bought this building it was the fourth leading corner for drug dealing and prostitution in the city,” Trumble said. “We were concerned about the age of girls involved in illegal activity.” 

They started inviting the girls over for dance classes, arts and crafts workshops and other activities. Since then, they’ve had more than 2,000 teens participate in programs.