By Laurel Thompson-

Three years ago, Caitlin Dunnagan was sitting in her childhood home, mourning the death of her mother, who had lost her battle with cancer after 10 long years. The room was filled with sympathy flowers, and as a way to cope, she spent hours rearranging them and removing the spent blooms. 

She daydreamed about one day becoming a florist and bringing joy to others the same way her mom’s funeral flowers did for her. Then she stumbled upon a flower truck on Instagram and, jobless, realized she had nothing to lose. 

With the encouragement of her now fiancé, Nate Hunt, an entrepreneur and CPA, Dunnagan searched for a vehicle she could sell flowers in. She had her heart set on a vintage VW Transporter, but only about 12,000 of them had ever made it into the country. As if the universe heard her wish, she stumbled upon a 1968 model that had recently been restored by a hobbyist in Georgia. She bought it sight unseen. 

A customer building their own bouquet with fresh flowers from the truck at a Fall pop-up in front of Ginger and Baker, in Fort Collins. Photo by Peach Street Photo Co.

“I didn’t know anything about business, I wasn’t a florist, and I couldn’t drive a stick shift, so of course I decided to start a mobile flower business out of an old truck,” she says, laughing at the mere thought. “But I really believed in this idea because Fort Collins didn’t have anything like it.”

By February 2020, Dunnagan was on the road. She found wholesalers in Denver, filled the truck with buckets of blooms and came up with the business name CC’s Flower Truck—one C for Caitlin and the other C for her mom, Cathy. Her model lets customers build their own arrangements with individually-priced flowers instead of a grab-and-go bouquet at the store.

Pop-up events were the backbone of her business. With her model, Dunnagan parks her truck at businesses and venues all over Northern Colorado, fills the bed with buckets of flowers and guides customers through constructing their own bouquet. Her first pop-up event was at New Belgium Brewing Company on Valentine’s Day (one of the biggest flower holidays), and it was a huge success.

Fresh flowers for sale on CC’s Flower Truck, outside of Snack Attack in Fort Collins last June.

The next month, COVID shut everything down, including CC’s Flower Truck. Without her pop-ups, Dunnagan thought of other ways to keep the business going while doing something to help. She posted on social media about donating bouquets to local nursing homes, and soon the money came pouring in. 

Suddenly, she was doing more deliveries than she could handle. When summer rolled around, she was able to resume her pop-ups, but she didn’t stop delivering flowers. 

That summer was a fresh start for Dunnagan—she had a new business model and people were starting to recognize her truck around town. With flowers coming up everywhere, she sourced most of her inventory locally and formed relationships with Northern Colorado growers, including Little Hollow Flowers in Berthoud, Rocky Mountain Blooms in Loveland, Little Seed Flower Farm in Johnstown and Blush Flowers on Vine in Fort Collins.

Now Dunnagan has a team of five women who help her deliver flowers and run seasonal pop-ups, and they’ve even taken on a few weddings and taught some flower-arranging classes at the OBC Wine Project. Her fiancé also left his job as a CPA to help Dunnagan run the flower business and manage his real estate investments. But something bigger is on the horizon: a brick-and-mortar location at the Jessup Farm Artisan Village, which is expected to hold its grand opening in early June.

“We’ll have a build-your-own flower bar, so if you can’t catch the truck at a pop-up, you can create your own bouquet anytime in the shop,” she says. “It’ll be a fun place to hang out, play with flowers and take our classes—we’re waiting on a liquor license so we can serve drinks and make it a whole experience.” 

 

CC’s Flower Arranging Tips

PICK ONE BOLD COLOR

When choosing your blooms, it can be tempting to mix and match lots of bold colors. Dunnagan recommends letting one bold color shine and adding muted tones that subtly contrast or complement it. “Keep it simple because the flowers will do most of the talking, we just need to assist them a little,” she says.

USE GREENERY

Dunnagan says your blooms-to-greenery ratio should be almost equivalent: “Don’t underestimate greenery—it supports your blooms and creates space between them, giving your arrangement a more full, organic look. If you have a flower flopping out the side, prop it up with some greenery and it’ll look like it landed there naturally.”

TRIM THE STEMS

Varying your stem heights is another way to add dimension to your arrangement, says Dunnagan. Not only does it look more natural, but trimming your stems also gives them a fresh “straw” to drink from. Do this every time you change out the water, ideally every couple days, to keep your bouquet looking fresh longer.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT VESSEL

Different vases pose different challenges, so choose your vessel wisely. Dunnagan says short, wide bowls require additional support for your stems (create a grid with balled-up chicken wire instead of wasteful floral foam), whereas tall, wide vases allow for easy arranging. Bonus points for using a repurposed vase!

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Laurel Thompson is a Fort Collins native and CSU alum. When she isn’t writing for local lifestyle publications, you’ll find her soaking up the sun, cooking something delicious, or reading a good book while sipping an iced coffee.