Living Life In Bloom
The 18th century Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once wrote: “Work is love made visible. And if you can't work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work…”
On a recent day, Tasha Abdul-Ali sat in the dining room of her suburban Atlanta home surrounded by varieties of exotic evergreens speckled with hues of pink and subdued purple. Caramel-colored geodes sparkled like gemstones in the afternoon sun. Stacks of frost green succulents, baby cacti and delicate pussy willows, softer than Egyptian cotton, spread across the floor.
This lush and peaceful environment of her creation is where Tasha is most content these days. It is a far cry from the harsh, sterile office where she spent her work weeks six years ago, managing accountants tasked with balancing the books for a multinational media conglomerate. Born on the Greek Island of Crete and raised by a Filipino mother and an African American father in the south Georgia city of Valdosta, Tasha decided to pursue accounting as a career because an uncle was an accountant and made good money. And she did, too. She was also very good at her job. So good, in fact, that she introduced methods that saved the company over $2 million in a single year by eliminating inflated operating measures finance groups used to retain budgets and protect bonuses.
“The savings were real, but the drama was priceless!” Tasha muses.
In 2012, the internet disrupted the once-dominant cable business. Traditional media companies were no longer king, as their one-time customers began preferring to view content over multiple devices instead. Although Tasha liked the responsibility and benefits of working in corporate America, she often felt her livelihood was out of her control. “I was working for one of the largest media companies in the world and even I wouldn’t justify paying $200 a month to view their programming," she says.
In 2014, when the then-chief financial officer she worked for told her and 500 accounting and finance employees the company was “big and slow to turn,” she was the first to stand up and respond. “This reminds me of the Titanic,” she recalls saying. Two weeks later, after the company fired the CFO, she took the day off and cried in her car.
Feeling uninspired and unfulfilled at work, she turned her attention to pursuing her hobbies and interests. She took up gardening. Getting her hands dirty was a complete departure from accounting – and she loved it.
She began making potted arrangements for her home and others. She read up on terrariums and glass arrangements that would allow her to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside. In two years, she began selling them.
While her artistry was improving at home, she was facing increasing resistance at work. The environment was becoming more toxic. Then, in October 2014, 1,475 employees were laid off. A reorganization and new micro-manager was the proverbial final straw, and she began plotting her exit strategy.
She drew on the lessons about self-reliance and determination she’d learned as a child from her mother. “My mom began working at the age of 9 as a merchant selling Cuban cigars,” Tasha recalled. “She raised me and my two sisters to depend on oneself, and she always worked two, sometimes three, jobs.”
Creating and selling terrariums alone wouldn’t cut it, Tasha thought. She needed another product. That’s when she discovered Tillandsia, or “air plants” – miraculous plants that don’t require soil, just light and watering every other week, to survive. More than 500 unique varieties exist in nature. Some live 20 years or more, and they all bloom.
In 2014, Tasha named her company Bloom Designs, created a website, allthebloom.com, an Etsy page and an EBay account. It wasn’t long before orders were picking up and she started contemplating leaving her job and devoting herself full time to her growing business. “In five years, I’d accomplished my goals at the company, and my business was at a point where I needed to fully commit,” she says. “Initially I was so nervous to leave, but I found strength through yoga and meditation. In stillness, I found the courage to jump.”
These days, Tasha says she feels more alive working for herself and with the air plants than she ever did as an accountant for her former employer. She enjoys sitting among her own creations, content in a space of love, tranquility and beauty. On February 1, 2017, the accountant-turned-entrepreneur took the next step, opening her first retail location with a kiosk at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody.
Tasha wants her shoppers to discover the beauty of air plants and learn more about them – and, of course, purchase a few to take home or share with others. But that’s not all, she says. “I want the people who visit my kiosk to reconnect with nature and let it inspire them to think about their own lives and which environment is best for them to bloom.”
Edited By The Amazing Pat Burson: www.matlockadvertising.com