Anyone who knows Tatyana Levina understands how much she loves flowers. So it would come as no surprise on birthdays and holidays that friends and family from out of town would send her bouquets and arrangements. But as much as she appreciated the gesture, the flowers themselves often disappointed.
“I understood how much money people were spending; they probably ordered them from 1-800 whatever,” says the native of Belarus in Eastern Europe. “But two days after receiving roses, the heads were all bending to one side. Instead of making me happy, it would break my heart.”
So after years of being a stay-at-home mom, the former computer programmer decided to take botanical matters into her own hands. In 2012, Levina launched FlowerToy out of the Boca Raton residence she shares with her husband and two children. The business combines her childhood passion for stuffed animals with her interest in creating fun, artistic—and long-lasting—arrangements. Her floral figures, which rely heavily on chrysanthemums, stay fresh anywhere from 10 days to two weeks.
Levina, who had no background working with flowers, starts with floral foam, which she carves and shapes into the desired character. She then soaks the foam in water and begins inserting the flowers. By her own admission, her early efforts needed polishing.
“My first project was supposed to be a bear,” she says. “It looked like a monkey. But it was a cute monkey.”
As evidenced by her website (flowertoy.com), Levina clearly has perfected her craft. Customers from all over South Florida call on her to create everything from puppy dogs and teddy bears to snowmen and flower cakes.
“Eventually, I’d like to be a franchise,” she says. “I want to bring something to the market that doesn’t exist—and I want to make my customers happy.”