Hey, Mandy here. Last month, I shared the success story of potter/artist Katrina Piercy of Meraki Pottery. You guys told me that hearing the success stories of other creators invigorates and inspires you. So let’s keep sharing small business stories and the lessons that come from them!
Introducing Jennifer Nicolo, owner and lead floral designer at Petals Boulder, a Colorado-based micro-farm specializing in growing and designing one of a kind arrangements featuring organic & sustainable blooms. That’s her tending to her micro-farm.
Business SHOULD be mutually beneficial
And in Jennifer’s case, mutually beautiful! Jennifer’s floral arrangements are beautiful and her farming process is too. Jennifer plants flowers in residential yards so that Boulder homeowners can enjoy them during the grow, then she harvests them later.
This reclaims land that’s already in use, doesn’t require any additional water, and doesn’t use pesticides. So really, Jennifer’s grow process is triple-beneficial: she gets the land for free, homeowners get a more beautiful view, and the earth thrives.
As you run your business over the next few weeks, consider whether any processes could be tweaked to benefit yourself, other small businesses, or others in your area. You'll get the gratification of business success and the gratification of giving back or helping another business. For example, you can partner with other business for cross promotions or pop-up events. Replica will be implementing this principle in the coming months. Can't wait to share with you once it's done!
Embrace the pivot
Once upon a time, Jennifer was a historian. In 2019, she made the jump from academic to farmer and florist. As she puts it, she’s “found her happily ever after” with Petals.
If you’re considering making a similar leap from 9-5 career to full-time business owner, remember that you don’t need to quit one before starting the other. In the beginning, most businesses don’t require your full-time attention to get off the ground. I like to think of it like monkey bars when we were kids: you don’t let go of the bar behind you until you’ve grabbed the one in front. You can work on your business on the weekends or in the evenings. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s worth it to find your happily ever after. Just like Jennifer overlapped before she pivoted, I started Replica during medical residency and didn’t let go of the medical monkey bar until Replica was able to support me fully.
Listen for opportunities
Early in her floral business, Jennifer spent time analyzing what other Colorado florists were doing. She saw that her competitors also offered attractive arrangements, but the photos on their websites looked unprofessional and weren’t conveying the beauty of their products to potential customers.
Jennifer decided to lean into her product photos to set herself apart. She invested in Surfaces (Subway Tile and Butcher’s Block were her first two) and took time to learn some basic-yet-highly-effective photo skills. That’s when the DMs started rolling in. Other businesses were messaging Jennifer, asking her for her product photographer’s contact! The smile spread across Jennifer’s face as she proudly told them “I’m my own photographer.” One company even asked if they could hire her to take their photos! Jennifer thought deeply about the opportunity and decided to take it. She now has a side income, gets paid to hone her photo skills, and is a “professional photographer” by definition.
Jennifer exemplifies one of the most valuable traits of a small business owner – being a good listener. Jennifer listened (well…looked) at how she could set herself apart from competition with high-quality photos, then she listened again when the opportunity to create a side income presented itself.
Listening to your customers — what they’re asking for, what they’re liking and disliking, how they’re engaging with you. Listening to successful friends or other entrepreneurs — they’ve been there before; trust me you can learn a lot from them. You can avoid making mistakes just by listening to their stories. That doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice. Just listen actively and think “could I apply this lesson to what I’m doing?” or “would I enjoy the opportunity they’re finding success with?”
If you enjoyed this Success Story, here's how artist/potter Katrina Piercy turned her hobby into a business after deciding that launching now was more important than business-plan perfection.