Contact: Lisa Sollie
MERIDIAN, Miss.— Two Mississippi State graduate students have opened a floral boutique, crediting the university — and family — for helping them realize their potential in business.
Sisters Kailie and Kelsey Dunlap opened Meridian's Honeysuckles florist a few months ago while in pursuit of obtaining their Master of Business Administration degrees at MSU-Meridian.
The two, who already hold MSU bachelor's degrees, said that without the university and their family, their business would have never gotten off the ground.
“One of the first things we did is contact Mississippi State’s Small Business Development Center, and counselor Karen Kimberl walked us through writing a business plan and gave us pointers on how to apply for a business loan," Kelsey said. "Since my undergraduate degree was in business, I took the lead on this phase, but I consulted Kailie on every aspect."
Kailie, who does the day-to-day floral designing, credits MSU's James DelPrince, an associate extension professor, and floral instructor Lynette McDougald, for their expertise and thoroughness which, she explained, prepared her for operating and owning a floral shop with her undergraduate horticulture degree.
“Dr. DelPrince has high standards and expected our best work, but I appreciate that because it motivates me when I am creating a piece for a customer,” she said. “He is also an excellent source and is gracious to share information and his connections to suppliers and other resources we can use in our business.”
The siblings made their decision to return to MSU for an advanced degree when the pandemic hit in 2020, at which time the university waived the graduate school entrance exam, or GMAT, in support of students.
Kelsey said, “I always planned on getting my MBA, in fact I was going to enroll in the fall of 2017 after I earned my undergraduate degree, and then my stepbrother passed away and I lost all motivation. Lately though, I’d been praying for the right time to go back to school, and this was it.”
Kailie had a different outlook on her future and never really considered earning an MBA, but she said she gave in to her sister’s urging and applied as well.
“My goal after earning my undergraduate degree was to open my own floral shop, but I was scared and felt I was too young. I then thought earning my MBA would open the door to more job opportunities, but instead, Kelsey and I began to consideropening our own place.”
Graduate school, the sisters described, has been very beneficial, particularly when learning to operate a business.
“It has given both of us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the business world and all it entails,” Kelsey said. “I knew the basics but, as business owners, Kailie and I needed to have more specific knowledge so we can have a successful business down the road.”
The two, both in their late 20’s, are equally grateful for all the help, support and encouragement they’ve received from their family, not only in preparing to open the business but in the day-to-day operation as well.
“Our dad found the building we are in,” Kailie said of the flower shop's location at 2626 North Hills St., Suite B. “We had checked out a few places downtown when he called us about this empty store front on the north side of town. It’s not only the perfect location, but he also remodeled our store exactly the way we envisioned it.”
Their mom, who not only macramé’s wall hangings, plant holders and other items in the shop, also watches over Kelsey’s 9-month-old daughter and helps out in the shop when Kailie is out making deliveries.
“It’s challenging balancing school, motherhood and launching a business,” Kelsey said, “but thanks to God’s faithfulness, our family and Mississippi State, we are confident we have what it takes to be a success,” Kailie commented.
For many, owning and operating a business with a sibling may seem like a recipe for disaster. For the Dunlaps, it works.
“Kailie is in her happy place designing the arrangements and buying the flowers,” noted Kelsey, “and I’m the numbers person. I like the paperwork, purchasing items for the gift shop and handling things behind the scenes.”
“We just really complement each other,” they said in unison.