• Meet Sara Conklin, Petal Power

    FROM THE Spring 2019 ISSUE

    Parsonage Events’ Sara Conklin blossoms into a truly creative floral designer.

When flower lover Sara Conklin walked in to Parsonage Events some eight years ago, the staff thought she was a prospective client.

“They asked if they could help me and thought maybe I was getting married and needed to order flowers, but I said, ‘well, I’m looking for a job!’ ” Conklin recalls.

Fast forward to now and Conklin is lead designer/consultant at the popular, Clarkston-based event company

“When I was at college [Baker], I actually wrote a business plan in one of my classes for a florist company,” recalls the busy Conklin, who has a 1-year-old daughter and 11-year-old stepson. “My goals were to run a business in a creative field,” she adds.

Parsonage Events started as a flower shop (owned by Liz Stotz and her mother, Susan Andre) and transitioned into a floral event company just when Conklin started working there. “It was so interesting to be there during the transition period, to see everything grow into what we’ve become today.”

Conklin credits Liz for recognizing her skills and sharing all her knowledge with Conklin. “She let me shine,” Conklin says.

She loves being located in downtown Clarkston. “It’s a nice community here and our business is in a very old house, so it’s a charming space,” says the designer, who recently worked on an event for the president of Oakland University.

The company does events that range from weddings to annual corporate gatherings. Working with everything from romantic peonies and classic dahlias to contemporary succulents and modern orchids, Conklin says the company’s bandwidth includes anything that has to do with design, from flowers and linens to graphic design. She’s especially proud that Parsonage is committed to sourcing blooms from Michigan and American farms first.

One of the company’s biggest challenges is when clients ask for ceiling installations. “We’ve had too-low dropceilings or ceilings that are really high that require a lift,” she says. “There’s always a solution and often, second options turn out better than what the client wanted in the first place.”

Incidentally, Conklin did in fact become a Parsonage “client,” so to speak, when she got married four years ago. Of course, Parsonage was her go-to event company. “We did dahlias in fall shades for the tables,” she recalls. The bride’s bouquet was stunning, naturally, and included dahlias, garden roses, orchids and greenery. “It was lush and full; we didn’t skimp,” she laughs.

Conklin’s favorite part of the job is the variety. “I get to do something different every day; every client is different and I’m not behind a desk doing monotonous things. Plus, the floral community is great and we’ve made a lot of friends through it.”

Then there are the flowers themselves. “The day I walked in to Parsonage looking for a job, the whole front room was lined with buckets of flowers. My heart just knew that I needed to be there.”

Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.


Ken Hayward has spent nearly his entire career serving at one hotel. But when you start your career at one of the most iconic and historic hotels in Michigan— even the nation—it’s hard to see yourself anywhere else. Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, was recently named Hotelier of the Year by Historic Hotels of America. This honor comes decades after Hayward was given an unexpected opportunity.


At just 16, Jack Schripsema had already set a long-standing hospitality career in motion with his first job washing dishes at the local Holiday Inn.