St’Art Up 317 Vendor Spotlight: Urban Contessa

Photography by Elese Bales

St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.

This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.

Asia and Olivia White lacked a proper blueprint for turning their dreams of creating artisan flower arrangements into a profitable business, but that didn’t stop them from opening Urban Contessa, downtown Indianapolis’ first pop-up flower shop. The source of their confidence? A simple belief in their product.

“Flowers are nature’s simplest pleasure,” Asia says. “[They] bring joy to people’s lives and energy into one’s space. Who doesn’t love flowers?”

The mother-daughter duo with a self-described entrepreneurial spirit began selling flowers when they realized that the only option for purchasing flowers was through chain stores. Now, they compete with the national sellers and grocery stores by combining the highest quality flowers available with a talent for creating one-of-a-kind arrangements.

While they began by selling their work from a vendor cart at farmers markets, Urban Contessa has found a new home within vintage decor and furniture store, Society of Salvage.

“We were looking for space to expand our business beyond our living room floor,” Olivia says. “It is important to us to reuse and upcycle our vessels. [Society of Salvage owner] Sandra [Jarvis] is passionate about salvaging time-worn architectural office and machine-age goods and rescuing them from the landfill … it was an obvious marriage between the two.”

Urban Contessa and Society of Salvage’s partnership extended to their St’Art Up 317 display window, which they designed together.

“We had some vignettes in mind and we worked together to build them cohesively,” Asia says. “We knew we wanted to incorporate a flower garland and use vintage test tubes to house the flowers, as well as cutouts of old maps and vintage National Geographic botanical prints.”

Asia and Olivia hope that the St’Art Up 317 project encourages Indianapolis residents to support local artisans.

“Community involvement is very important to us,” Olivia says. “We believe supporting local [business] is paramount in building relationships, communities and thriving businesses.”

While building a successful small business hasn’t been easy, Asia and Olivia hope that their experiences can help others who want to pursue careers as entrepreneurs.

“The hardest part of running a business is wearing all of the many hats it takes to be successful,” Asia says. “Identify your mentors, work on a plan, and recognize everything costs more and takes longer than you anticipate. We work with a business coach monthly and we network with supportive, successful women regularly.”

For Asia and Olivia, the hard work is paying off. They cherish their opportunity to play a role in some of their customers’ most precious moments.

“We are able to connect with our customers on a deeper level by sharing with them birthdays, weddings, holidays, the birth of a child, and even funerals,” Olivia says. “The most rewarding part is being recognized for our unique style.”

Check out their website to find out more and to purchase their work.

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