To Top

Inspiring Conversations with Rachel Penn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Penn.

Hi Rachel, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Floral design has always been a form of creative expression for me. I grew up around flowers and gardening in Nashville, but I first took a floral design class while I lived abroad as a way to unplug from my demanding tech career. Eventually, I realized my passion for floral design was more than just a hobby and started freelancing for other florists and for events. I eventually helped launch a botanical design studio in Singapore as their Director of Operations & Events.

In early 2020, after my husband and I moved back to Nashville, we found out we were pregnant with our daughter, Lillian. In June 2020, Lillian was born premature and passed away a few hours after she was born. Due to COVID, I wasn’t able to have anyone in the hospital with me, we weren’t able to have a funeral for Lillian, and I had nowhere to put my grief. I had all this built-up parenting energy and love for a child that had nowhere to go, so every week I would buy flowers from local wholesalers and make arrangements to take to Lillian’s grave. Pretty soon, I realized that I wanted to create a legacy for Lillian so that her short life would always mean more than our loss.

When you lose a pregnancy or child, people are afraid to mention it. It can be incredibly isolating. I wanted to launch Lillian’s Floral Studio not only to honor my daughter but to ensure we can openly talk about loss and support those that have to experience it. Rather than a part of our lives that people are afraid to mention, we get to say and hear Lillian’s name every day and she’s simply a part of our life and our story. Even better, we can create beautiful blooms for our community to express any of life’s most important moments. I’ve also worked to center sustainability around everything we do at Lillian’s, from sourcing flowers from local farmers when available to using natural floral arrangement tools instead of toxic ones like floral foam and composting our floral waste. To encourage recycling, we even offer a credit towards the next arrangement to our customers who want to return a vase they previously received from us.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I had experienced on the business side of floral studios after my work in Singapore, but it was a big challenge to pursue a new career path and start my own business. Like many businesses amid the pandemic, we faced some supply chain delays getting the studio together and launching the brick and mortar shop due to delays in renovating, but luckily we were able to fulfill orders from my ‘home studio’ during our early months. My husband was very happy to have us out of our home kitchen and into the shop full time!

And building a creative team is always a challenge. To find the right personalities, skills and team identity is not an easy feat as you need this team to feel cohesive and work together well. Especially when your team needs to power through a lot of time-consuming and physically challenging conditions when facing a large event, a holiday, etc.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Before working with florals, I spent over ten years working for big tech companies in Hong Kong and Singapore, including Google and LinkedIn. I was used to managing a team across Asia that spanned several time zones and as the only person based in Asia on the management team, it was not uncommon for me to work during the evenings or odd hours. I had always loved flowers, growing up in Nashville my mom had always kept a beautiful garden, but I took my first floral arrangement class as a way to carve out time for myself amid a busy work schedule. I needed to get away from my phone and e-mail and find a new way to express myself creatively. Pretty soon, I was lucky enough to start working with some of the best and most innovative floral designers in Southeast Asia and helped launch This Humid House, a botanical design studio in Singapore.

As of I’ve started to build Lillian’s Floral Studio, I found that so much of what I learned at Google and LinkedIn and what makes them great companies to work for were incredibly important for me to try and instill at Lillian’s. For example, Google and LinkedIn invest most of what they do in research & development (R&D) to ensure they continue to evolve, grow and better their products. At Lillian’s, we carve out time monthly to work with new products and designs. If we simply continue creating the same floral arrangements and use the same flowers over and over again, the job is actually no longer creative, it’s actually rote. So we practice something I learned called ‘creating without expectations’. We set aside time to just create without having an end vision in mind. So often, we’re creating to fulfill a client’s brief and Pinterest board. Instead, each designer just creates what s/he wants to with the product s/he wants to use and designs something that makes him or her happy. We’ve found it re-energizes our creativity and also pushes our designs forward.

How do you think about happiness?
There are two things in particular that make me happy: my French Bulldog, Fitzgerald, and the ocean. I’ve always liked dogs, but Fitzgerald made me realize how an animal can truly be there for you when you need them most. He was there when I needed him and gave me a little being to mother when I needed it the most. We’re hoping to turn him into a shop dog, but we’re still working out a few training kinks! My husband and I are also passionate about scuba diving and ocean conservation. After we became certified divers, it became a way for us to both set down our phones and carve time out of our busy schedules to explore a world completely unknown to us. In fact, it ended up creating a second travel bucket list – one of just dive destinations!


  • Our studio offers designed vase arrangements (start at $75), hand-tied bouquets (start at $100) in our signature box bag and centerpieces (start at $150) for daily delivery or pick-up.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Natalie Wilson – Headshot image Sarah Bond – The Lillian (Designer’s Choice) & shop photos

Suggest a Story: NashvilleVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories