White House floral designer brings roots to suburban store

  • Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations, White House events, weddings, and others.

    Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations, White House events, weddings, and others. COURTESY OF FTD

  • Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations, White House events, weddings, and others.

    Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations, White House events, weddings, and others. COURTESY OF SKAFF FLORAL CREATIONS

  • Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events.

    Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events. COURTESY OF SKAFF FLORAL CREATIONS

  • Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events.

    Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events. COURTESY OF SKAFF FLORAL CREATIONS

  • Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events.

    Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn owns Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale. He has worked on many high-profile events, including presidential inaugurations and other White House events. COURTESY OF SKAFF FLORAL CREATIONS

  • Kerry Lavelle

    Kerry Lavelle

  • Lauren and Allan Woodrow

    Lauren and Allan Woodrow

  • Pamela Wyatt

    Pamela Wyatt

  • Cindy Grogan

    Cindy Grogan

  • Linda Bartman

    Linda Bartman

  • Yvonne Surowiec

    Yvonne Surowiec

  • Deepa Kartha

    Deepa Kartha

 
 
Updated 8/16/2015 7:25 AM

Michael J. Skaff of Glen Ellyn knows the importance of color, texture and the appeal of flowers during life's milestones.

For more than 30 years, the former FTD executive has been the floral designer for big events, including Bill Clinton's 1993 presidential inauguration and George W. Bush's presidential inaugurations in 2001 and 2005. He still does special events at the White House under President Barack Obama.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now, Skaff has opened Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale that is more than a florist. He designs for weddings, anniversaries, other parties and corporate events in the suburbs and nationwide.

"I feel that flowers make a difference in everyone's lives," said Skaff, 54. "It has an emotional effect on many people."

Skaff was born in Paxton, Mass., near Boston. His late father, Joseph, was a visual merchandiser who designed the windows at high-end men's clothing stores. His mother, Julia, was a homemaker.

He always loved to work at greenhouses and conservatories and earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. A floral design class in college had him hooked, he said.

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He opened a floral store in Massachusets and also subcontracted his work as a designer for about 20 years, including for FTD. He came to the Chicago area when he was hired full-time on staff at FTD's headquarters in Downers Grove. He worked his way up the ranks to vice president of design at FTD.

After about nine years, he decided to return to his entrepreneurial roots -- designing for events. So he started Skaff Floral Creations to cater to that part of the industry, he said.

"There's nothing more fulfilling than when you're adding beauty to a special occasion," he said.

He loved doing the presidential inaugurations, which were massive undertakings, and enlisted teams working around Washington, D.C., to ensure everything went well at the ceremonies and galas.

"It's during a celebratory time, but it's also mind-boggling with all the details," he said of the inaugurations.

Besides his work at the White House, he did other high-profile events. He was a member of the design team for the 75th annual Academy Awards. Eunice Shriver employed Skaff for her charity fundraiser, Best Buddies. And he was a floral designer for the Kennedy Center Honors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With so many nationwide events, he relies on a network of subcontractors. And with new technology, ordering is much faster and shipping can bring specialty flowers from all over the world to his doorstep overnight, he said.

"People enjoy the artistry and the beauty of nature," he said.

Palatine lawyer becomes author

Palatine attorney Kerry Lavelle is the author of his first book, "The Business Guide to Law: Creating and Operating a Successful Law Firm," published last week by Chicago-based American Bar Association. He is also the founding partner of Lavelle Law Ltd., so he used his experience going from a single attorney to boosting the ranks to 21 lawyers. "As I was starting out, and as my practice grew, I relied on many of the excellent books already written on the topic," he said. "In the process I came to realize that none of the books paid attention to the fact that a law firm is a business. Partners and managers must adhere to business principles in running and growing a firm." The book is available through the ABA.

Author, designer start restaurant

Husband-and-wife franchisees Allan and Lauren Woodrow of Vernon Hills have opened Zoup!, their first restaurant, at the Hawthorn Hills Square shopping center in Vernon Hills. Allan is a published children's author, with numerous magazine and book credits. He writes under both his own name and the alias Fowler DeWitt. Allan's next novel, "Class Dismissed," will be published in September by Scholastic. Lauren is a graphic designer specializing in textbook and educational development. As for Zoup!, it has 80 restaurants in 18 states and Ontario, Canada, including 10 in Chicago and the suburbs. FastTracks

Cindy Harris, mother of three girls and CEO of Rising Empress LLC, is launching "Rising Empress," a collection of products that provides young girls, ages 3 to 12, with aspirational role models to combat negative stereotypes. The launch is at 2 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. Harris lives in Chicago and her business partner, Margaret Lee, lives in Sandy, Utah.

Pamela Wyatt is the new executive director at the Greens of Elgin, an independent living condominium community in Elgin. ... Jim Smith and Joe Smith, owners of Allegra Marketing, Print, Mail in Elk Grove Village, were recognized by Alliance Franchise Brands with the franchise network's annual Sales Excellence Award.

Cindy Grogan, vice president of global strategic alliances at Flexera Software; Linda Bartman, chief marketing officer and Yvonne Surowiec, chief human resources officer, both with CDK Global; and Deepa Kartha, senior director of card technology at Capital One, were among the speakers at the Chicagoland Women in Technology Meetup last week in Hoffman Estates.

Condolences to Meghan Brickley, communications and membership staff member at the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce, on the recent loss of her father, Michael Brickley, also of Mount Prospect. ... Nicole Runions is the new human resources generalist at Baxter & Woodman Inc. in Crystal Lake. ... Matt Kelley is the new senior vice president of consumer journey, a newly created position at Leapfrog, a digital marketing agency in Evanston. ... Jeff Cohen will head up business development at Snagshout, a new social deals website in Northbrook.

•There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to akukec@dailyherald.com. Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

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