Soboba tribal member enjoys flourishing flower business

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Adona Salgado of Se’ish Design shows one of the unique florals she recently created. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

What started as a hobby for Adona Salgado 12 years ago has blossomed into a successful business. Se’ish Design was founded by her love for flowers and all things nature. Se’ish means flower in the Cahuilla language.

“I have always loved florals for as long as I could remember, but it started as a hobby. I played with them and would make arrangements for my home and started getting people wanting memorial florals and more,” Salgado said. “My family and friends were my first customers.”

When she saw a class offered at Mt. San Jacinto College in 2005 through a local florist, The Arrangement Gallery in Hemet, she took the course. It consisted of about six classes and lasted about four months. She said it wasn’t what she would call “formal training” but rather a follow-along type of structure, but it was enough to get her even more excited about flowers.

“Fast forward to 2009. My family and I moved to Orange County to attend school. I was attending FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) at the time, and my husband was attending OCC (Orange Coast College). While there, I came across Phil Rulloda, a floral designer that had his own floral school. I applied, and the tribe funded my education there,” Salgado recalled.

This is where she received more formal training on how to care for, process and design florals. She said it was a great experience and she met other people that had the same interests as her; some that she still has contact with today.

“After becoming a certified floral designer at Phil Rulloda School of Floral Design, I took several courses and workshops from many very cool floral designers,” Salgado said. “I just finished up a Zoom course with Cara (Fitch) from Trille Floral in Australia. She is one of my favorite designers and taught me a lot about foam-free design and color palettes. The floral industry is constantly changing, just like fashion, so it’s important to keep up with what’s trending so that my business stays flourishing.”

Salgado currently works solo so she can bring her personal touch to each arrangement. In time she hopes to build a small team of freelance designers she can count on to help her continue to create and deliver outstanding florals.

“I enjoy the peace and joy floral designing brings me and the happiness it brings my clients,” she said. “My mom is super creative; it’s probably where I get it from.”

Salgado uses several vendors to purchase wholesale, sometimes driving to The Los Angeles Flower Market to pick up specialty items she cannot get through her wholesaler. Her home-based business, at the Soboba Reservation, includes a shop she has set up inside her garage. Her husband, Adrian Salgado, is a general contractor and is working on plans to build her a small shop on their property. Together they have created a garden to grow some of the florals she uses.

The couple, who just celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary in August, designed and built their Soboba home in 2018. Between work and life, they started to landscape and design the yard the way they wanted, whenever they had free time.

“This has been a dream of ours for many years but since we’ve moved into our new home, we’ve been busy with work and life, then COVID slowed the whole world down and that provided an opportunity for us to make plans and make something happen and we are sure glad we did,” Adona said. “My husband and I planted our own organic vegetable and cut flower garden this past year. We are on a micro scale now but intend to grow our own cut flowers on a larger scale as well as market vegetables. This year we started 95% of our garden from seed and had a high success.”

The couple posts their garden grows on Instagram @modernfarmhouse_decor. They have grown dahlias, roses, cosmos, ranunculus, zinnias, delphinium, stock and more for the florals, along with tons of veggies.

“I have used my florals in arrangements and plan to grow so much more,” Adona said. “Maintaining a garden is almost a full-time job but it brings us much peace; my husband has the green thumb here though. We plan and plant together, but I would attribute the garden success to his hard work and drive to see things thrive.”

Adona is the office manager for the general contracting business that she and her husband operate, and that background has helped her maintain the financial side of her floral business.

“My favorite part of designing is the freedom and trust my clients give me to design something beautiful. I think my best work is created this way. No artist likes to be placed into a box, am I right? Just being given a color palette and a good budget is every floral designer’s dream,” she said.

However, each client and job are unique, so Salgado takes her time to understand what will work best. So many details go into planning for weddings and other events, but she typically asks a few general questions such as what their inspiration is, color palette and budget. She said some clients want specific flowers and designs so she will incorporate those factors into her products as well.

Salgado gets orders from local communities as well as throughout Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. One of her more significant events was the planning and designing for an entire wedding from start to finish. Although it was a lot of work, Salgado said she learned so much during the process it was invaluable. Salgado also credits the Cahuilla Tribe for contracting with her for their tribal events over the past several years because it has given her a lot of experience in the coordination and execution of sizable full production events. Soboba most recently contracted with Salgado to provide floral arrangements and table centerpieces for the tribe’s Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony and custom florals for the Tribal Administration building earlier this summer.

“I feel very blessed that our tribal communities believe in me and want to support my business; it means a lot,” Salgado said, adding that she and her sisters have volunteered their time with decor and floral design for some of Soboba’s events to give back to the community. “I love my tribe and am thankful for all they do for our community, so I give back by volunteering my time when I can.”

Salgado credits her ongoing success to the support of her husband, children and family, and the tribe for paying for her education.

“Things are going great,” she said. “I’ve grown so much in the past year. With COVID, being home has allowed me to really hone in on my skills and desire to grow my business. I am excited about what the future holds for Se’ish.”

Salgado can be reached by email at seishdesign@gmail.com or on Facebook @seishdesign and Instagram @__seish__ where she regularly posts photos of her work and has links for inquiries.