By Alecia Brooks
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– Becky Stensland stands behind a black and grey tinged granite countertop as she speaks with a man who’s going door to door to promote his addition to the growing list of North Liberty businesses.
“Does it worry you to start a business in this economy?” he asks Stensland.
Located in Liberty Plaza, the storefront is filled with two wedding tables that are draped with soft lilac and white colored cloths. Various glass pieces and a wedding cake top them, while balloons and velvety red, canary yellow and other flavorfully-colored flowers line the walls.
But to her right lays the foundation of her answer: an open Bible.
“No, God has placed me here for a reason, and because he has placed me here, I know that supernatural things can happen,” she said.
Through her new business, Stensland Event Planning and Floral Design, the second-time entrepreneur will certainly attract customers for divine ceremonies, but the artist can plan and liven any every day and special occasion.
Stensland said event planning can be stressful, since the host may have to complete various tasks that may include planning a menu, contacting unresponsive guests, choosing a venue and decorations and remembering stay within a set budget.
“Being an event planner, I can relieve the stress so you can focus on the excitement of the actual event,” she said.
Event planning can also help hosts complete artistic wishes. Stensland’s most unique completions have included a cake topped with piles of presents and 50 Looney Toons® characters, a renaissance wedding and a wedding in which every floral arrangement and centerpiece differed.
Customers can use the event planning service for small occasions, like a couple’s dream evening and birthdays, or for large events like conventions, corporate gatherings and fundraisers.
To accommodate needs, two packages and al-la-carte are offered.
First is the “comprehensive package,’ which is most inclusive. Basically, customers communicate their overall idea of the event, and Stensland will create and organize the rest.
Second is the “day-of” package. Stensland coordinates the rehearsal and event to ensure a smooth run.
The shop also offers an array of balloons and flowers to accompany “just because” or every day occasions. Gift baskets, chocolates, stuffed animals and greeting cards– co-designed by Stensland’s daughter– will be available soon. Customers can also purchase off-season flowers, which are force bloomed.
An array of seasonal flowers is available, and the Gerbera Daisy, a flower with deep color, is this season’s most popular. Arrangements and flowers can be purchased directly through Stensland, by calling 1800-FLOWERS and online through stenslandevents.com and teleflora.com. Photos of sample arrangements are available in-store and online.
Mavis Nelson of North Liberty is one of several curious but potential customers who visited the store.
“I don’t need an event planned, but I will purchase my flowers from here because they look beautiful and fresh,” said Nelson.
Nelson also said the location is close and convenient, which means she doesn’t have to drive into Coralville for flowers.
It’s clear from the decorations – and Stensland’s sense of personal style – that she has an artistic niche. Less visibly apparent, but still important, is her diverse professional background.
She received a diploma from American Floral Art School in Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and finance from Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids.
The artist is a single mother of five who has been involved with design for over 20 years. She presently teaches cake decorating classes at Hobby Lobby.
She also owned a retail business that had a bakery and floral shop in Mt. Vernon.
She was a fire fighter and paramedic.
And all the experiences complement the North Liberty business.
“I keep my paramedic’s license current because I attend all kinds of events, and anything can happen,” she said.
But being a firefighter and paramedic has also meant learning to channel stress and other emotions.
“I’ve worked with all types of personalities, and people react differently under certain circumstances,” she said. “I always remember how people act at the moment may not represent who they truly are.”
The planner uses several methods, like magazine cut-outs, photos, verbally repeating customers’ ideas and being realistic and honest to decrease and avoid stress.
Logistics aside, she said, “It’s really a fun place, and I enjoy meeting and working with people who often become like an extended family member.”
The idea is expressed through a hanging sign that reads, “You’re a stranger but once here.”
The sign hung in the home of Stensland’s parents, who she described as gracious and comfortable.
“People would stop by to be consoled or to say hello, and I want customers to feel that when they come here,” she said.