Floral Artisan Brings Natural Style to the Forefront

by | Jan 2023

Petals for Purpose Dress

Photos: Chris Emeott

Petals for Purpose branches into wearable floral creations.

Pain. Waiting. Rising. For floral artisan Dawn Schelle, who grew up in Wayzata, these stages represent everything. From the ashes of a broken marriage and a resulting crisis of identity and purpose, Schelle grieved, then bloomed. “There is a rising. There’s always a rising,” she says.

Starting in 2019, Schelle left traditional work, raised children and participated in entrepreneurial concepts before embracing her longtime passion for floristry and in the years since has cultivated a thriving business founded on philanthropy, connection and community. At Petals for Purpose, Schelle and co-creator Molly Molitor are spreading a bold mission through flowers. They’ve handed out fresh blooms at the Wayzata Art Experience to promote local businesses, transformed front porches and corporate patios and appeared at local fashion events with wearable floral creations.

The beauty, strength and vibrancy of her flowers is now a language to Schelle. “I don’t know how to make 26 letters of the alphabet communicate my soul …” she says. “The only way I know how to do that is with flowers.”

Dawn Schelle and her first flower dress.

Schelle with the inspired dress that started it all.

Decked out in colorful hand-painted overalls, Schelle and Molitor have traveled near and far to share their art with the world. But, for now, it’s the issues close to home that are the heart of Petals for Purpose. Each branch of the business fuels another mission, The Daphne Floral Project brings support—both monetary and floral—to causes close to Schelle’s heart, including mental health and Sojourner Project, a domestic violence nonprofit and shelter serving the state that has primarily served the west Metro area for more than 40 years.

“There’s a lot of women who diminish themselves … and intentionally were diminished, who had no voice and are trying to rebuild their lives and understand how they can communicate,” Schelle says. “And I think it’s really hard if you don’t have a way to creatively express.”

Since founding Petals for Purpose, Schelle has often donated fresh-cut flowers in canning jars to bring light to Sojourner’s shelter bedrooms and common areas. And in 2021, Schelle spearheaded a fundraising campaign for Sojourner in tandem with Jewelweed, a Wayzata health and beauty shop, that would go on to become The Daphne Floral Project.

“It’s really a heart calling for her …” says Jewelweed owner Jodi McKee. “It’s not about anything external. It’s just that she really cares about people and about women and really wants to give and be of service in the world.”

With encouragement and input from the Jewelweed staff, Schelle crafted the project’s mascot—a mannequin adorned with a bespoke faux floral outfit—to be displayed in Jewelweed’s front window. “It drew lots of people in because it was just so beautiful and so fun to look at,” McKee says.

As Schelle and McKee celebrated the power, beauty and strength the completed mannequin evoked, they decided she needed a name.

One of the women who works in the store suggested Daphne. Schelle says, “When I looked into that name, it’s a Greek name, and it represents strength … and I was like, ‘OK. This is a movement. This is a thing, Daphne’s going to have a lot of sisters in this town,’ and that is where the wearables came into play … How do we create the movement?”

Jewelweed displayed the mannequin for six weeks, alongside information and resources from Sojourner. Patrons were given the opportunity to contribute funds to the cause, and the final amount was matched by Jewelweed and donated to Sojourner.

“[Schelle] brings a lot of really great energy and intentionality around what she’s doing,” says Becca Welna, Sojourner community outreach and education coordinator. “She’s very passionate about the issue, and, for us, domestic violence, despite lots of strides in awareness and services and support, still remains a pretty stigmatized and secretive issue for victims and survivors, and so anytime somebody wants to shine light on the issue … that’s one of the most powerful things that a community member can do.”

Now, Schelle is looking to promote a mission of bold expression for all women through commissionable floral designs—to bring a voice and a platform to those who need it most. Each WeAREable will be a faux or fresh floral creation, made for the wearer or business to make an impact. And it doesn’t have to be a floral dress. Anything that can be worn—hats, bags, jewelry, skirts—can be made into a blooming statement piece.

Molly Molitor working on a flower dress.

Molitor makes final adjustments on one of the stunning creations.

“I want to … give [clients] a space to express. It’s kind of like when you wear a costume … it gives you the opportunity to just be something. It’s very intentional …” Schelle says. “To help people show up and feel confident about it.”

But Schelle sees her WeAREables as more than a costume. “People want to connect with nature, and they want to connect with people, and so to me, that makes the WeAREables perfect,” she says.

It’s been nearly four years since Schelle forged a new path, taking a leap into the unknown to pursue a passion and build a better world for her children and community. And she’s just getting started. “It wasn’t on accident. Everything about a flower is everything about me. It represents strength, courage, community [and] empowerment, and they never compete. They just bloom. They just do their thing, and they always perform in authenticity …” Schelle says, holding back tears. “I credit flowers for saving me and saving my soul.”

Front Porch Refresh

Schelle’s passion for making a statement isn’t confined to event florals or WeAREables. Alongside Molitor—an interior design and landscaping afficionado—Schelle also brings her creative genius to Front Porch Refresh and Design (part of a Petals for Purpose), which brings color and personality to spaces with planters, wreaths and décor.

“I know what [the flowers] represent, and when it’s sitting on a WeAREable or at an event or on your front porch, there’s the message. It’s powerful. It’s strong. It’s beautiful. It’s bold and blooming,” Schelle says.

The service involves a consultation, budgeting, plant and care recommendations and installation. It’s available to individuals and corporations. Schelle says she especially loves that the refresh “gives people the confidence to have amazing flowers on their front porch.” The team designs to the personality of each home and the season, and Schelle shares that she is already excited about upcoming spring refreshes.

Floral wreath on a door.

Petals for Purpose
Facebook: Petals for Purpose
Instagram: @petalsforpurpose


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