Will Heatter describes himself as a "creative dreamer that decided to jump off a cliff and chase a dream." His life has followed a trend of the unexpected. Heatter was born in Oahu, Hawaii, and his family relocated to the Mountain Home Air Force Base when he was 14. He worked for a decade as a fisheries biologist, then left behind a 401K and a state job to open a floral shop.
With one arm decorated in a colorful sleeve tattoo, a strong passion for floral arrangements and an insane work ethic to match it, Heatter opened Flowers at Will in 2012. He shares a space near the corner of Vista Avenue and Overland Road with his partner, Nick Roundtree, who owns Nick Roundtree Real Estate.
"I never realized how special this could be," Heatter said. "It's pretty amazing to know the impact that a simple flower arrangement can make in someone's life."
How many flower arrangements are you working on today?
I've got 30 as of right now, as well as a completely empty cooler because I've had so many walk-ins already. Valentine's Day is about to get insane. Last year, I did 238 deliveries. Some deliveries had five or seven arrangements. It was a lot.
That is a lot. How many people work for you?
It's just me. One guy answers my phone and takes down the orders. I make all the arrangements myself. I do the full gamut: weddings; corporate events for St. Luke's, Boise State, Red Sky PR and MetaGeek; holiday parties; the day-to-day birthdays; and anniversaries.
Are you going to burn out?
I don't believe so. I don't know if it was from being in Hawaii and having this floral scented air around me that just infused into my blood, but I feel that it's just within me. I've been in a dream lately because I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be in life.
Moving from Hawaii to Mountain Home, was your dad in the military?
Yeah. We went from ocean to Christmas trees in our front yard. I was not a good kid when we moved here. Full of trouble. But I grew to fall in love with Boise like everyone else. Went away for college then started my career with Idaho Fish and Game working at the Eagle Fish Hatchery, raising endangered sockeye salmon.
I was doing weddings on the side, as a creative hobby and an outlet. Then when I was making more money doing weddings on the weekend, I decided it was time. There was something in me that needed to be lit, needed to be explored.
I met my partner, Nick, around then. One day, he pulled me in the alley behind Craig and Company [the first florist Heatter worked for] with a bunch of papers. He said, 'Sign here, here and here.' I was like, 'What am I signing?' And he said, 'You're now the owner of Flowers at Will.'"
How do you put together flower arrangements this time of year, without much local stuff growing?
It's pretty much about having connections all over the place. I get a lot of stuff from Guatemala, Alaska, Ecuador. I don't like dealing with the everyday daisies and lilies that everybody sees. I like bringing in funky, unique and crazy things like artichokes and king proteas. I do a lot of stuff with succulents and air plants. I have tropicals that come in from Hawaii every Tuesday, all kinds of stuff from the very place I was born.
Are there any other florists in Boise doing the same thing?
Everyone else in Boise uses these five carnations, and these five roses, and this baby's breath. I think we are leading the way when it comes to creating our own path and being trail blazers. People thought we were crazy for combining flowers and real estate, but it's the perfect business plan.
Is there anything about being a florist that has surprised you most?
I never realized how intertwined into other people's lives I am and how much a florist is trusted. There was one lady, we sent flowers to her mom for the last three months of her life. It was a flower arrangement every single day. I got to know this 90-year-old lady I would have never crossed paths with otherwise.
The very last day after she passed, I couldn't handle it, I was so sad. All I wanted to do was go deliver another flower arrangement to her, so I did. I left it on her doorstep.