While pursuing a horticulture degree at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls, Hoffer explored both the production and retail environments without finding the right career inspiration. It wasn’t until she started participating in the National Intercollegiate Floriculture Floral Crop Evaluation and Design Competition that she realized the wholesale/distribution side of the industry was the right fit. She just didn’t know her love of cut flowers would lead to a successful career in marketing.
Held in a different location each year, the annual crop evaluation competition uses a contest environment to teach university students about various aspects of potted and cut flower quality. Thirty classes of product are evaluated and scored, and the students with the most accurate results are recognized with awards. Through a partial grant from the American Floral Endowment (AFE), students such as Hoffer can travel to the contest, where, in addition to recognition and education, they gain their first taste of industry networking and the national floriculture industry.
According to Hoffer, her early education in quality identification and comparison has become the foundation of her work.
“The crop evaluation competition gave me insight into what’s important to our customers,” Hoffer says. “When you’re knowledgeable about what makes good product, then you can recognize the quality in your own product, and you’re able to communicate that better. A lot of marketing is just communicating and being able to identify from your customer what they need. Because I’m able to identify that in our product, it gives me the skill to explain, ‘This is what we have, and I know it’s good because I’ve studied quality issues.'”
From horticulture student to AFE beneficiary to successful marketing professional–Kim Hoffer may have taken an unconventional path to success, but she is definitely leaving her mark on the industry.
For nearly 50 years, the American Floral Endowment (AFE) has been funding scholarship and grant programs across the United States. The hundreds of thousands of dollars awarded have supported students in national and international educational programs, promoted the floriculture industry, attracted young people to the industry and solved industry needs and challenges.
For more information on the American Floral Endowment, visit www.endowment.org.