Stephanie Simpson understands the importance of personal interactions. In fact, it’s the premise of her nonprofit 901 Petals of Purpose (POP), an organization that uses repurposed flowers to spread kindness throughout the community.
After losing her grandparents within a year of one another, Stephanie wanted to find a way to honor them. One day while at work, she glanced at a bouquet of flowers sitting on her desk that she’d received from a recognition ceremony. In what she calls a “heaven-sent” moment, Stephanie came up with the idea to use flowers as a vehicle for personal engagement. 901 POP was formed in 2019, and in just a matter of months, Stephanie and her team of volunteers donated hundreds of flowers to residents in hospice homes and assisted living facilities throughout Memphis.
Although 901 POP was inspired by her grandparents, Stephanie has a unique connection to many of the flower recipients. As a breast cancer survivor, she’s used her story of recovery to inspire others through her philanthropy. We spoke with Stephanie about how she manages a full-time career as a chief administrative officer for an investment firm while also growing a “budding” nonprofit. Meet our newest FACE of Memphis, Stephanie Simpson.
What prompted you to start 901 POP?
In May 2019, I had flowers on my desk at work from recognition I received [for] some volunteer work. The idea of repurposing event flowers “popped” into my head. I immediately contacted my lifelong friend; we had discussed this idea years ago as we’ve always tried to reuse flowers from our own events, but the timing was not right to start any sort of organization. It was the right time a year and a half ago, and we have been blown away at the growth in such a short time. We look forward to receiving our 501(c)(3) approval in 2021.
My grandparents had always been a huge part of my life, and I lost two of them in 2018 when I was 43. I have seen firsthand the difference that personal interactions can have on senior citizens. The idea of starting a nonprofit that honors all four of my grandparents was the foundation for me. I even thought about naming the organization “heaven-sent” because I felt like the concept was sent directly from above.
Besides doing something to honor your grandparents, which is amazing, what do you love most about what you do through 901 POP?
The interaction with bouquet recipients is the most rewarding aspect of 901 POP for me. I really miss the in-person deliveries and look forward to when they resume. In the meantime, I’m thankful we can drop off arrangements at front doors for staff to distribute.
I’m also motivated by the tremendous interest and support we have received. We are very grateful for what we refer to as our “community of care.” I love that we have volunteers from all over — from Arlington to downtown, Collierville to Midtown — friends who volunteer together and individuals who have joined us alone. We have something for all ages; we engage youth and retired adults and ages in between. This is incredibly inspiring to me!
Is there a story that stands out to you when you think of someone who has benefited from 901 POP?
We have numerous special stories already, and I know we need to make sure we record them so we don’t forget the details. One that stands out was in October when we provided bouquets to breast cancer warriors. As a survivor, this was very meaningful to me. One of our high school volunteers delivered to her teacher and the teacher sent a thank you note. She shared that she had battled cancer twice with her husband by her side. He later got cancer and passed away from it. The day she received the bouquet was a special anniversary for them, so she was especially touched by the surprise gift.
As you mentioned, you are a breast cancer survivor. How did that experience alter your perspective on life, if at all?
I don’t think my perspective toward my life and priorities changed, but everything seemed more real, and I knew I had to apply what I believed through my faith. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 41, and I vividly remember standing in front of the mirror shortly after learning of my diagnosis. At the time, I didn’t know I would have an easy treatment path; I was still somewhat numb. I asked God if this was really it. I remember thinking I had experienced a very full and meaningful life, but I wanted more years on Earth. I am incredibly grateful I was given the gift of time. I learned to appreciate every single day. I can best sum up my life philosophy through a quote by George Meredith: “Don’t just count your years, make your years count.”
What’s next for 901 POP?
We have a vision of this being a stand-alone 501(c)(3) with staff. There are other cities that have this, but we wanted to be local and not join a franchise. We’ll be doing a lot of fundraising within the next few years so that we can become a stand-alone nonprofit.
How do you balance a full-time job as a chief administrative officer, running 901 POP, and finding time for self-care?
I’ve worked full-time while volunteering for many years, so trying to maintain balance is not new to me. I’m very intentional with how I spend my time, and I’m a big planner. When I have overbooked myself, I’ve learned that I need to fulfill my commitments but do better the next time by providing myself with margins in my schedule. Exercising is also a priority for me. It was important before I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago but is even more so now — for both my physical and mental health.
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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I’m fortunate to have had many people who have invested in me, but a phrase that stands out was one my grandmother said to my dad that he has passed on: “You make time for what’s important.” This message is simple yet so true. You can also analyze how you spend your time to determine what matters to you — it’s not about what you think or say but what you actually do. For example, I’ve learned we won’t regret going to a funeral even if it’s an inconvenience. A short interruption in a schedule can mean a great deal to someone else.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Sweet tea, a paper planner, and of course, flowers.
Thank you, Stephanie! To learn more about 901 POP and its mission, visit 901pop.org.
All photos courtesy of Bob Pierce Photography.