Community over competition

Kayla Gaczewski, BS ’15, was standing outside Lockwood Library when she got the call from her dream job in the luxury floral business.

The call — from Winston Flowers in Boston, Mass., one the nation’s most respected florists — launched her career.

“As an undergraduate student, I worked summers at small, local florists to get a toe in the industry,” says Gaczewski. “My dream was to live elsewhere so that eventually I could bring big city thoughts, modern design style techniques and knowledge home to Buffalo.”

At Winston Flowers, Gaczewski was on a team of 17 working in the client services department. She credits the skills she learned at the School of Management for her quick promotions to assistant manager and then manager of the department. After two and a half years, she was hired as sales manager at King Florist in Austin, Texas, where she continued to hone her skills until moving back to Buffalo in 2018.

Today, Gaczewski is the founder and owner of Wildroot Floral, a floral boutique located on Niagara Street that is known for its high-end, contemporary floral designs and superior customer service. The business name pays homage to Wildroot Hair Tonic — a successful Buffalo business at the turn of the 20th century — while also relating to her personal journey immersing herself in the floral industry before returning to her “roots.”

“There are so many boomerangs back to Buffalo, which is exciting,” says Gaczewski. “Our Buffalo small business scene is incredible; it is so tightknit and everyone is genuinely interested in community over competition. If any alumni are considering coming back, don’t hesitate.”

Gaczewski admits she doesn’t garden at home due to the around-the-clock nature of entrepreneurial life, but she still makes time for her family and the community.

Her passion for all things local and seasonal shines in her work. From May to October, she sources 98% of the flowers in her boutique from local farms, and 90% of the gifts come from companies in New York State. She also collaborates with the other businesses on Niagara Street — many of which are owned by UB alumni — to offer classes, create signage and elevate the neighborhood.

“We don’t have the foot traffic that exists in Allentown or other areas, so the businesses on Niagara Street work together to make our area a destination,” Gaczewski says. “We launched our first market with the neighborhood on Mother’s Day and our second one this fall — bringing more than 65 vendors to the neighborhood.”

Gaczewski’s skills in collaboration and organization can be traced back to the School of Management, which proved to be college as she envisioned it, with discussion-based classes where she sat in the front row. As a transfer student to UB, she found her voice both in the classroom and during group projects, perfecting the art of delegation and collaboration.

“If you are in an entrepreneurial journey or questioning if you are applying for jobs you aren’t sure you are qualified for, know that you have put in the work,” she says. “Trust what you’ve been given by the School of Management, and go for it.”

Written by Alexandra Richter