Hard-working women of the Alabama wedding industry, Mandy Majerik, Diane Olexa, and Dorothy McDaniel share stories of their business legacy.
Just like you, we do it for love.
Weddings are a high-touch industry, and the professionals within are often part of family legacies, spanning generations. Growing up watching parents and grandparents tends to cultivate artistic interest and talent and helps one understand the sacrifice required to be a business owner.
Owner of HotHouse Design Studio and PropHouse, Mandy Majerik’s family legacy spans nearly 55 years since her Grandmother Tommie purchased Bell Florist. Working at the flower shop was an integral part of her childhood, from sweeping floors for a quarter to assisting her mom Frances when she took the lead at Bell Florist.
In 2006, highly-styled weddings were taking over the market, and that same year, Mandy took over the business and moved it to Birmingham. With degrees in interior design and business, she was excited about the opportunity to evolve and elevate the offerings to meet clients’ design needs.
“All the women in my family have an internal drive, and I just honed in on that talent and ambition,” explains Mandy. “I consider floral design my profession, and I think my grandmother would be so proud to see that her 500 square foot shop is now a 30,000 square foot warehouse.”
Diane Olexa started her business like most professionals in the industry—she made a cake for a friend’s wedding. Diane will tell you, however, that she owes her success to her mom Marilyn. She watched her mother bake cakes for family and friends, then wedding clients and then catering clients. “She loved people through food, and I couldn’t have done this without her,” said Diane.
While traveling in Japan In the late 1960s, Marilyn Olexa took a cooking class. She tweaked the cake recipe from the class, and that same recipe became the basis for Diane’s business, Olexa’s Catering, Cafe and Cakes. Diane watched her mother naturally expand her business from wedding cakes to catering, and Diane followed suit. When the opportunity came along to open a restaurant, Diane knew she could fulfill one of her mother’s dreams. Her parents moved to Birmingham to help Diane expand Olexa’s, and that wedding cake Marilyn tweaked is still on the cafe menu today.
Wedding businesses are born from love—family love. We root for one another and care for one another and our clients. With any luck, we will pass it on to the next generation.
How A Flower Market Grew
In 1977, I rented a room in a small house (turned boutique) on Linden Ave. in Homewood, bought a Pepsi cooler and painted over the logo with flowers. Through my mother I landed my first real account—Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton. They are still my customers, and the rest is history.
From that 12×12 room to our current 7000 square-foot shop, we have joyfully served the people of Birmingham for 44 years. I have been blessed to know thousands of customers who have spanned generations and availed themselves of our services including weddings for mothers, whose daughters were then our bridal clients (see above). I am still excited by each new project and, as the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” I love what I do!
– Dorothy McDaniel
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