Floral design classes inspired ACES alum to start high-end event design boutique

Tim Jung and Rachel Wyffels pose in front of a “Life in Bloom” sign, surrounded by flower arrangements.
Tim Jung and Rachel Wyffels operate Life in Bloom, a high-end floral design boutique in Chicago. Photo: Artistrie Co.

As a college student, Rachel Wyffels made a serendipitous class choice that sparked a passion and shaped her career path.

“As a horticulture major, I was focused on landscape design; then I took one of Dianne Noland's floral design classes because I needed to fill an elective. I ended up really loving it, and I became passionate about flowers,” she said. “I got an internship over the summer working with a floral design business in Chicago that did events, and I was hooked.”

Wyffels graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

She is the founder and owner of Life in Bloom, a high-end boutique that creates elegant floral designs for weddings and other events. She started the business in 2012, and her husband Tim Jung joined in 2018 as co-manager. The couple met at Illinois where he studied landscape architecture in the College of Fine and Applied Arts.

“When I came back to campus after my internship, I took a floral design business class where we had to make a business plan. Tim and I worked on it together and came up with the name ‘Life in Bloom.’ Taking that class essentially set me up for the path that I'm on now,” she said.

“The business purpose in my plan focused on attention to detail and exceptional customer service, which are two pillars of Life in Bloom today. We always make sure we have the highest quality product and that our customers are satisfied we are going above and beyond.”

While Life in Bloom focuses on floral designs, they have recently expanded to provide full event designs, including tables, chairs, linens, and other visual design elements. The company has 12 full-time employees, as well as 10 to 20 freelancers during the event production season.

“Our business is unique in that we create a 3D rendering of our client’s space, showing their venue with their vision in mind as part of our presentation and proposal phase,” Jung said. “This is something I learned in landscape design, but it’s not typically used in the wedding industry, so it gives us a competitive advantage.”

Life in Bloom primarily creates custom wedding designs, but their portfolio also includes other events. For example, they recently set up a space for the Food & Wine Festival in Kohler, Wisconsin.

“The event’s headliner was Martha Stewart. We got to design a tablescape for her dinner, which featured a long dining table for 50 people in the Kohler Design Center. That was a really cool project to do,” Wyffels said.

Based on her own experiences, Wyffels advises current students to try out different courses and clubs while they’re in college.

“Definitely be persistent with trying to get an internship,” she said.  “When I was looking for an internship in Chicago, I emailed perhaps 50 different people. Only one person responded, but I jumped on that opportunity. I recommend trying to make as many connections as possible to discover what you might be passionate about.”

For Wyffels, coming to ACES was part of a family tradition. The Wyffels family received the 2023 College of ACES Alumni Association Family Spirit Award, which recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of one loyal ACES family annually.

Extended family stands near Wyffels Hybrids sign
The Wyffels family

The Wyffels family has two generations of ACES graduates, including Rachel’s father, Robert (Crop Sciences, 1977) and her brother, Jacob (Crop Sciences, 2012), as well as other relatives. The family owns Wyffels Hybrids, a seed corn company in Geneseo, Illinois, which has a long history of support and cooperation with ACES. The company partners with Department of Crop Sciences faculty on research projects and has created the Wyffels Hybrid Award for faculty excellence. Representatives attend the annual ACES Career Fair to recruit employees and interns; they also give their time as guest lecturers and on external advisory boards. The company and individual family members have provided scholarship support to ACES and are engaged in Illinois Extension and 4-H efforts at the local level.

“Coming back to the College of ACES to receive the award was a great reminder of the endless opportunities and talent that exist at the university and why it played such a pivotal role in my growth as a young adult,” Rachel Wyffels stated. “From arriving at the university as a freshman and building that next level of independence, I found that it provided tremendous opportunities for trying new things, surrounding yourself with people who share your passions, and learning from experts in the field.”

To explore giving opportunities, such as establishing an award or scholarship in the College of ACES, contact the Office of Advancement at 217-333-9355 or acesadvancement@illinois.edu.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Wyffels as a graduate of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, not the Department of Crop Sciences.

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