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Saying Yes!

Posted by Bloomatini Co-Owners Molly Exum & Jen Cilley on

Alamance County Service League Spring Luncheon 2016 Past President's Speech

While going through some old files the other day, I found this speech & decided to share it with you all because I thought it might give you a little more insight into who we are & how Jen & I came to be friends & business partners. 

This speech was from the heart, I meant every word & it still rings true today. I look back on the Jen & Molly who spoke at the ACSL luncheon 2 years ago with admiration & a ton of love. You see, even though we were a YES for the day and we dressed up nicely & smiled our biggest smiles, we were facing some BIG challenges both personally & professionally.

Jen had just lost her father with whom she was very close & she needed to devote more time to helping her mom who had just lost her partner & best friend of 50+ years. My husband & I were struggling big time with the financial ups & downs & uncertainties of having 2 small business owners under one roof. While on the Bloomatini front, Jen & I had learned some tough lessons the hard way. We paid too much to marketing “experts” who didn’t “get” us or our product. We allowed other people to make BIG decisions for us, & as a result, we were down to our last few investor dollars. On top of that, we weren’t meeting sales goals, & for the first time, Jen & I were really worried. Not a good place to be.

2 years later we’re still a struggling small business, but we’ve learned from our mistakes, we are stronger & we are still a “yes” for Bloomatini & for showing up every day to face whatever challenges come our way. We looooove hearing your stories about sending our blooms to friends & loved ones all over the US & we looooove helping you spread joy! You keep us going!! Thank you. 

Good morning & thank you for the introduction.

Jen & I are honored to be here today as past presidents to welcome the 2016 Provisional Class, 28 new members of the Alamance County Service league, that's remarkable! And to recognize the outgoing class who are our friends & who we had the privilege of serving with & getting to know.

That’s the thing about being a part of this service organization where casual acquaintances, friends of friends or perfect strangers unite for a single cause—to support and uplift the community. That common denominator brings us together, & in the process, we really get to know one another.

When you’re in the middle of it, it can be messy & imperfect, but when you take a moment to reflect—to stand back and look at the good you are doing and the families & children you are serving & the talented & accomplished group of women you’re sharing this experience with—you realize that yes, we do rise by lifting others. It’s a beautiful thing.

I want to take a moment to say thank. I love that the league is changing & growing to represent & meet the needs of our changing and growing community. Thank you all for rising to that challenge—for continuing to make this a relevant & viable organization. 28 new members speaks volumes! And finally, thank you for inviting Jen & me here today. As I said, it’s an honor.

When Julie asked if I would speak at the luncheon, I could not bring myself to say no. As a matter of fact, “yes” rolled right off my tongue before my brain had time to catch up. There was one condition though (which I’ll circle back around to). But I couldn’t bring myself to say no because, little-known fact, I was your president’s high school senior English teacher! 

Yes, I taught Julie AND her husband Justin senior English at William’s High School! And do you want to know the truth about Julie? Well, here it is. She has always had a can-do attitude, she’s always been a hard worker, & she has always been neat, organized & a pleasure to have in class ;-)

So, I simply could not say no to such a lovely former student!

We talk about the word “no” quite a bit. Actually, as my Service League tour was about to end, I remember thinking I would become a refined adult who would learn to say no & not spread myself too thin. I had this vision that I might be more put together or more balanced, whatever that means.

We talk about how women need to learn to say no more often so that we don’t burn out since we’re the givers & the doers & the glue that holds traditions & families & communities together. I won't disagree with that, but instead of talking about saying no, let’s talk about saying yes!

I’ll start with this… How did Jen & I both come to be Presidents of the Alamance County Service League in 2011?

For those of you who know this story, bear with me. For those of you who don’t… Jen began as president & one of her first responsibilities was to name her executive board & fill all the project chair positions. She asked me to be her vice-president. I said yes.

I said yes & then jokingly said, if you promise not to move! Ha! I was actually serious because let me be very, very honest with you, if I said yes to vice-president that meant I wouldn’t have to chair a project, & as vice-president (no offense to other VPs out there), I could fly under the radar. Now don’t hold that against me, I had chaired my share of projects at that point, but you see I had several things going on in my personal life. I was in my final year of graduate school. I was teaching. My husband & I, along with our 7 & 9 year old children & our dog, were living with my parents in their townhome while we were remodeling our home. I was busy & I didn’t know how much more I could take on. Then a few months into Jen’s Presidency, lo and behold she said, "I have to tell you something." Oh, boy! She said, “there’s a 10% chance we’re moving back to NH.” What the what?!

Fortunately, about that same time Jennifer Moxley, a former league member who many of you know (& if you know her, you love her, & just thinking of her makes you smile & sometimes laugh out loud) was in Duke Divinity School & introduced a new phrase or concept to me. It was the first time I had ever heard of “first world problems”.

You see, my “problems” were first world problems, which meant I had the means & the support to rise up & meet whatever challenges came my way.

Besides, for those of you who know Jen Cilley, you know that she was an organized & effective president who had wonderful chairs in place & all projects were running smoothly. She built the foundation & by the time she told me there was a 95% chance she and her family were moving, I just had to step in & finish the work she had already begun.

I was blessed. And I wasn't alone. As I said earlier, we all join this league for the same reason - we are united in our commitment to service. I still cling to this Margaret Mead quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

And so, I said yes. Maybe I didn’t really have a choice, but I said yes with enthusiasm & with respect & with love.

Before I turn this over to Jen, I want to take a moment to share with you a few other things I’ve said yes to over the years. I know many of these will resonate with you.



Going back to school at 40

Going back to work after being a stay at home mom

Joining the Alamance County Service League

Being a stay at home mom

Taking on an extra puppet show because someone had to stay home with a sick child

Delivering Food Lion Pick up to Loaves and Fishes

Letting my kids go away to summer camp

Starting a summer camp without knowing anything about starting a summer camp


Letting go

Social media

The family bed

Figuring it out

Solving all the worlds problems while doing Meals on Wheels with a friend

Holding on tightly

Allowing my children on social media

Starting a paper flower business without knowing anything about starting a business

Starting a paper flower business without knowing anything about paper flowers

A messy house


Making cheese balls for Holly Days

Moving to another country


Saying Goodbye

Prepping lunch at Good Shepherd Kitchen

Going to the gym


New Friends

Taking on too much

Asking for help

Finding common ground

“Yes” has brought me great joy, laughter, fun, friendship, & personal fulfillment. Saying “yes” has challenged me socially, emotionally, financially, academically, & culturally. Saying yes has taxed me & worn me out & opened up the world to me.

I bet there are many of you here who, rightfully so, had reservations about joining the league. It's a big commitment in our already busy, hurried, messy but beautiful lives. Thank you for saying yes. You won’t regret it.

Finally, I mentioned that I said yes to speaking today on one condition. That one condition was if Jen would say yes too. We shared the presidency, we share a business, and so it was only fitting that we share today. 

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