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Daphny Bravo was living the life she thought she was supposed to live. The daughter of two immigrants, her parents’ opinions on career prospects were limited: doctor, lawyer or business. She chose option three and attended NYU Stern School of Business and went on to climb the corporate ladder, serving as a buyer for more than 700 Macy’s stores.
In 2014, she had a son and was determined to go back to work because, on paper, her life and career were perfect. Then she began to feel something else.
“When he was born, I realized things changed,” Bravo said. “I was burnt out. I started looking for something different.”
To turn the page, the Amityville resident went back to the drawing board. She took some time to think, to feel. She realized how much she missed being creative — she used to design her own clothes growing up — and kept noticing paper everywhere.
After a career of managing spreadsheets, Bravo decided to tap into the right side of her brain, bought a package of paper and decided to teach herself to make flowers. She gravitated toward large and modern designs. She didn’t want to mimic Mother Nature, but put a fantastical spin on it.
After a couple of months, Bravo felt she was finding her footing and wanted to help others do the same. For 100 days, she created 3-to 20-inch flowers and left them for a stranger. Each one had a note or wish for something she felt she was lacking in her own life and wanted for herself and others — things like self-confidence and energy.
“I wanted a reason beyond just exploring a new path,” she said. “I was a new mom, I didn’t have a whole lot of support, and I felt this was my vehicle to give a little of what I wanted to receive.”
Bravo left her Instagram handle at the end of each note in case the recipient wanted to keep in touch. The comments poured in and went something like, “Hey, I found your flower. I was having a bad day, and your wish was that I’d find some positivity. I did. Thank you.” Another person’s mother had died from cancer shortly before she received Bravo’s flower.
A few months later, Bravo was in demand — people wanted to pay her to make paper flowers for weddings and events. She started D Lauren B in 2016 and now does three weddings and two pro-bono charity events per year, in addition to custom orders for people’s homes and showers (flower walls are in high demand). Hitch LI in Babylon and Hampton West in Sayville carry her flowers for fellow DIYers, and she also has an Etsy shop.
Her typical customers have allergies, want flowers that will last or are searching for a look they can get any season (peonies, for example, are only available for so long). Many of her clients are also looking for something unique. She’s currently working with a bride on comic book arrangements.
“It’s kind of whatever you want it to be,” she said of the designs.
In February, Bravo designed the bar cart for a major vodka brand, which was on display at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The company needed a standout design that would last for the week in the dead of winter and Bravo delivered. Garlands of greenery with large pink, yellow, orange and coral flowers adorned the iconic cart, brightening gray winter days.
“It was validating to see, in what I considered a short time later, a business I built with my own two hands,” she said. “[I] felt fulfilled not only with that, but finding success financially. I think that is a testament to how determined I was and how right I was to follow my heart and gut.”
And Bravo feels she’s just getting started. As her two children near school age, she’s looking to continue to expand her business organically.
“I’m a giver. I like to share my craft,” she said. “I think it can enhance an event … there’s no limitation to what I can do … and still have the ability to be a working mom and touch my children’s lives on the regular.”