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Executive Diversions
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 8 months ago

In quest for creative outlet, financial industry executive turns to wreaths

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Penny Parks deals with numbers all day. Searching for a creative hobby, she started making wreaths. She hasn’t looked back.  
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

EXECUTIVE: Penny Parks is the founder and president of Tampa-based Links Financial. In her role at Links, she helps businesses raise capital.

DIVERSION: Parks has been making wreaths and small decorative trees since late 2014. It was a tough year, she says, and she sought a creative outlet. It turned out making wreaths was perfect. So far, she’s made more than 250 wreaths and trees. 

Courtesy. Penny Parks makes wreaths for a variety of occasions.

TIME TO CREATE: Parks grew up in a creative family. Her father made furniture and painted while her mom did  arts and crafts projects. “I really felt I hadn’t done anything creative in a long time,” she says. Initially, she just made wreaths for herself, but then people saw them, gave her compliments and wanted to buy them. “I thought, ‘I’ll just sell them and whatever profits I make, I’ll give to charity,’” she says. “It went from there. I have a wholesale license and I can take credit cards now.” Parks sells the wreaths to friends and at area boutiques and donates them to charities.

MAKE IT BETTER: Parks had never made a wreath before. Her first finished products were for Christmas and Gasparilla, a festival that includes a parade each year in Tampa. She started making wreaths for Gasparilla after seeing other people’s wreaths and thinking she could make something better. 

Courtesy. One of Penny Parks' wreaths.

RISE TO THE OCCASION: It’s not just Christmas and Gasparilla that get all of the attention from Parks. She also makes school-themed wreaths. She’s made University of Florida wreaths, Florida State University wreaths and Wake Forest University wreaths, her alma mater. Parks makes special order wreaths, too, like the one she made for a University of Michigan graduate. Plus there are the other holidays throughout the year that are perfect wreath-making occasions: St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Valentine’s Day, to name a few.

SPREAD THE JOY: Part of the joy that comes from wreath making is seeing others enjoy her creations. One year, Parks made a wreath for a friend whose mother loves Scottish terriers. The wreath included a ribbon with the dogs on it. “He said it was her favorite Christmas gift she’s ever gotten,” Parks says. “It just makes me feel good.” She also enjoys seeing them around the neighborhood. “When we’re walking the dog and we see the neighbors have the wreaths on their doors and I made them, it makes me happy,” she says. “It just has that affect.”

“Everyone needs to have something positive and something creative that uses a different part of your brain.” — Penny Parks, founder and president, Links Financial 

ALL THAT GLITTERS: Parks’ home has become a wreath-making headquarters, with the living room filled with inventory. “For a while, you couldn’t even walk in the room,” she says. The kitchen serves as her studio. “I don’t do a lot of cooking in my house, so wreaths are made on the counter in the kitchen,” she says. And some supplies have a way of expanding beyond the confines of the kitchen. “You can imagine we have glitter everywhere,” Parks says. “I have two little white dogs. You see glitter on their noses.” It turns out no one is immune from glitter in the Parks household. She says one time her husband went to work and someone told him he had glitter on his face. His response? “That’s my Penny.”

HANG AROUND: When Parks’ sister came to visit in October, they started counting all the wreaths she has in her house. The final tally? Almost 90 wreaths. Parks says wreaths hang from every door, hang from some cabinets and 25 to 30 hang from hooks in the garage.

Courtesy. Penny Parks creates wreaths for Christmas and other holidays.

CRAFT QUARTERBACK: Parks usually makes her wreaths at night and on weekends, generally creating two at a time. Including the time it takes to buy materials and make the wreaths, she estimates she can make two in five hours. Wreath making is a year-round affair for Parks. Her husband’s TV viewing habits give her a particularly good reason to wreath. “During football season, he loves to watch football,” Parks says. “While he’s watching, I bang out some wreaths.”

FRESH PERSPECTIVE: Parks says making wreaths allows her to keep in touch with her creative side. “All day long I use numbers and work on the financial side of things,” she says. “Everyone needs to have something positive and something creative that uses a different part of your brain.” Her wreath making also has a positive effect on Links Financial. “It will help me when it comes time to work on my real business,” she says. “I come back to it fresher and with a different perspective because I’ve done something else.”

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