For Brandon Strong, dedication to the support of nonprofits is more than just a talk. Strong has spent over a decade putting his time and money where his mouth is when it comes to lending a hand to the agencies that support so many people within the community.
Strong may be best known locally as the owner of Regent Floral & Mercantile
, 924 Washington Ave., which opened in May of 2019; however, he has used his skill set as an event organizer and floral artist for the better part of his adult life while working for nonprofits and running his own businesses.
Brandon Strong says he feels fortunate to be able to help the Michigan Business Professionals of America, an organization that helped him when he was a student.
Recently, Strong announced that in 2022 he has donated over $25,000 in products and services to local and state nonprofits, some of which are extremely near and dear to his heart.
“The biggest chunk of the $25,000 comes from Michigan Business Professionals of America
(BPA). Growing up, I participated in high school and college; I was a national officer and a state officer,” Strong says. “Their annual state leadership conference is usually in March, and this year was the 50th anniversary. They had not had the conference in at least the last two years, so it was a welcome back kind of thing also.”
Wanting to do something on a grand scale, the state director reached out to Strong, who is well known in the event world for his unique floral creations, hoping that he would work his magic on some centerpieces for the dinner.
“I was nuts and agreed to donate about 250 centerpieces, with all fresh cut flowers and candles, and the stage decor. That was a 100% donation for all the products and labor. I had a panic moment, but I learned I can do 250 centerpieces in a day and a half. I was a part of that organization for over eight years, so it does hold a special piece for me. I learned things in that organization that I use on a daily basis, literally. If I took everything I learned from being a member of that (Michigan BPA), it deserved more than what I have back in flowers and time for one dinner,” says Strong.
In 2022, Strong estimates he's donating more than $25,000 in products and services to local and state nonprofts.
In addition to that massive undertaking, Strong has also worked with several local nonprofits in 2022, including the United Way of Bay County
in coordination with its The Longest Table event, for which he charged only the cost of the flowers and donated his time and labor; this same arrangement was made for the Bay Area Community Foundation
’s Faces of Philanthropy event. Strong also traded services with the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
“On the side of managing events for nonprofits, you are always asking for a handout; it’s just part of the business. And I’m somewhat in a position now that I can help with that. The business is only three years old, so I can’t write a check for these causes, but I am in a position that I can help with something, and that’s my way of helping,” Strong says.
Strong’s background with nonprofits makes him intimately aware of the struggles and realities they face.
Though he grew up in St. Louis, Michigan, Strong has lived in his current home in Bay City for the last six years. After attending Northwood University, Strong journeyed to the Midland area to begin his nonprofit work with an internship at the Greater Midland Community Center
This position led Strong to another concurrent part-time opportunity with the YMCA in Bay City working in debt collection with a goal of cleaning up the membership database as the Y transitioned from its old location on Madison Avenue to its new facility at 225 Washington Ave. Eventually, the position turned full-time, but after four years Strong was feeling burnt out.
“I looked for jobs in Grand Rapids, but didn’t find anything I wanted. I had several interviews, but nothing was exciting,” Strong says.
During this time, Strong was contacted by the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region
in Downtown Bay City, and accepted a job where he worked for five years. During this time, Strong began his first event planning business, Event Masters Limited, on the side. Here, he had the opportunity to demonstrate his talents with florals and event organization as he planned private social events and 5k races.
His clients continually raved about his floral designs, but Strong still wanted to break into the corporate event world, a goal he struggled with at the time due to the fact that he was a one-man show.
It was while talking to a friend about his event business that Strong reflected on his progress and goals and began what would be his second business, the Great Lakes Market
, a pop-up art market offered four times each year in the region.
Strong says, “Essentially I became one of my own clients. My event business was managing my art show, but the show took off and I got rid of the event management business.”
All the while, Strong continued on at the YWCA until the spring of 2019 when he merged his two businesses together to create Regent Floral & Mercantile, a retail shop and event space located in what was once the lobby of the Regent Theater.
“Regent came from merging my two businesses together in a way. We focus on unique houseplants, fresh cut flowers, and handmade gifts and original art. So we took inspiration from the event management business with events and florals and also borrowed the handmade gifts and original art for the retail side.”
Opening his own brick-and-mortar business allowed Strong the joy of creating products for his clients and the satisfaction of still being able to help where he could in the nonprofit community.
“My style is a little different than most. A lot of other shops are very traditional, and there is nothing wrong with that. Lots of roses and carnations, things that are safe. You can use roses and carnations in the right aspect, but my style is more organic and timeless, I hope. That’s what I am aiming for. I try to design in a way that the flowers naturally fit,” Strong explains.