If you had told Catherine Wayman as a new Auburn graduate that she would be creating larger-than-life floral designs for rapper and celebrity, Cardi B’s baby shower in Atlanta, she wouldn’t have believed you. Ten years ago this Hotel Management and Hospitality major had big dreams that have come true in unexpected ways.
There are certain people in life that have a depth about them that makes you lean in deeper to know their story. There’s usually a juxtaposition about them that leaves you incapable of putting them in a box. Catherine Wayman is one of those people. This Auburn, Alabama, native who grew up dancing and making things with her hands, not too differently from her grandfather and mother is a creative and artist at heart.
“My grandfather was a woodworker and painter for Auburn when it was still Auburn Polytechnic, and it reminds me that growing up I was always affirmed in my creativity and interest in flowers, but not everyone is affirmed in their creative gifts, because it does not have the same monetary value as other things. It makes me want to encourage others in their creative passions because oftentimes no one is calling that out in them,” said Catherine.
What started for Catherine’s mother, Cathy as a way to serve her church with weekly floral arrangements for Sunday gatherings, soon became a small business in Auburn, Alabama, called C. Wayman Floral and Events. Five years ago, after working in the hospitality and hotel industry for years Catherine took over what her mother had started, and has run with this dream with her mother by her side ever since. With dirty hands from freshly cut stems, matching aprons with garden scissors tucked inside and a sparkle in their eyes, this mother-daughter duo find purpose in every work day spent together. In the beginning it was found in picking out the perfect flower to capture everything from the season of Lent and Easter Sunday to arrangements hanging thirty feet above ground at the President’s mansion.
Catherine defines the term “Steel Magnolia”, and after her many years in the hospitality industry, internships in New York City and global travel, their small town business exploded into one that has buzz from press like Vogue and People Magazine. From Real Housewives of Atlanta 40th birthday parties to Cardi B’s baby shower, Catherine has been stretched creatively. However, she seeks this excellence that she executes for high profile events in every aspect of her business.
Will Givens a senior at Auburn University started working for Cathy Wayman while he was in high school as an extra pair of hands for heavy lifting, but today he still works for the Waymans, giving his style expertise and second opinions before he graduates in December with a major in Graphic Design. Givens explained that despite his rigorous major and internships, working for the Waymans has been his toughest job because of the hard work they not only put in, but also expect for their entire team. It is an atmosphere of true grit, but also festive celebrating when the sun goes down and the job is done.
He was quick to explain that the Waymans treat every client and interaction with a genuine hospitality that transcends the aesthetics and execution of their work, which is why recruitment chairs to record labels keep coming back and asking her to bring her unique message and design to their celebrations.
“The average person cannot tell a difference between one florists’ and another’s work. It’s how you treat people that keeps them calling for Catherine’s work,” said Givens.
Flowers have been a “day dream” job for Catherine for years before she entered into the industry with her mom, and stepping out and pursuing her dream to be a part of making timeless and beautiful arrangements for important days in peoples’ lives, is what gives Catherine satisfaction in her now dream job. It is not the flower’s nostalgic scent or the undeniable radiance of a bouquet that attracts Catherine to floral design. Instead it is the expression on people’s faces when they receive a bundle of peonies, the conversations fostered in front of a gorgeous installation or the relationship built between her and the clients.
“Recently, I have had a sort of epiphany and calling on my business. I believe that all of these years of work, hitting goals and monetary levels have set me up to take that success and start being able to train people who didn’t have the same opportunities that I had and the family that loved and supported my business,” said Catherine.
Long before Catherine was a floral designer, she had volunteered at an orphanage in Thailand, and taught the girls there how to arrange flowers. She saw not only the healing impact of creating something beautiful with your hands. But she also saw the empowering aspect of giving the gift of skills that can be used for a job and livelihood to those girls. This experience was left in her memory but has resurfaced as her success has grown, and she realized that she can do the same act of teaching and inspiring with women in Atlanta. There is a non-profit in Atlanta that rescues and partners in recovery for women who have been human trafficked, and Catherine is partnering with them to teach her trade to those women. Catherine shared a quote close to her heart these days, “Talent is distributed evenly but opportunity isn’t.”
Catherine has seemingly found a way to weave the varying parts of her blooming business into something that has an autonomous creative thread. That theme is teaching and inspiring. Through her large scale luxury events in Atlanta she is able to hire and equip people who were not given the same tools and opportunities as her, to inspire not only beauty but a relational factor. That is also why Catherine desires to also stick to her Auburn roots and continue to help with sorority events, Auburn weddings and things at the President’s mansion because she sees her younger self in those moments. It’s another opportunity to give her winsome smile and sassy wink to the girls like her with big dreams.
“I was the one decorating for rush, I was the girl in my garage, in Alpha Omricon Pi tiredly setting up for an event. Wherever you are, girl stick with it, the sky is your limit. We love working with college kids,” said Catherine.
It is obvious that Catherine’s passion for her business does not come from the cutting edge arrangements or outstanding publicity- but rather her desire to live out her faith through hospitality. Not unlike her mother’s ministry of creating beautiful arrangements for sanctuaries, Catherine is now taking that baton and using the same gift of hospitality to impact lives. It is full circle in a way, her major and jobs over the years have set her up to find value in events because events bring people together and enable conversation, inspiration and making others feel at home. Which is a lot like flowers for Catherine, they show up when the party does and they leave people feeling a little brighter and known.