Small businesses are at the heart of everything we do here at BusinessBlocks. In our new series, we celebrate and highlight the brave visionaries, who work day in and day out to turn their dreams into reality. Read Christina Matthews’ story about turning her passion into profit with The Flower Lady.
Tell us a little bit about you and The Flower Lady.
I started my flower business, The Flower Lady, last summer, while working full-time as the office administrator and health and wellness coach for St. Francis Seraph School.
Prior to that, I worked as the Admissions Leader and Green Team Leader for the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School in Cincinnati for eight years. Looking back, it was actually the Paul Mitchell culture of love, peace and happiness that inspired me to get involved with making the world a better place. Late one night in 2013, I wrote a letter to the CEO of Paul Mitchell, John Paul DeJoria, describing my idea of creating a partnership between Paul Mitchell and the food co-op program, Grow Appalachia.
This initial contact eventually led to John Paul funding a $10,000 grant to the city of Cincinnati to help Grow Appalachia supply fresh fruits and vegetables to youth, families and elders in the area. After one year, the organization grew almost 3,000 pounds of food. It was a huge success!
Fast forward to 2016, I transitioned out of the cosmetology industry and decided to pursue growing crops for profit. I took what I learned from Grow Appalachia with vegetable growing and applied it to flowers in the Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden, the oldest community garden in Cincinnati.
At that point, I became engrossed with nature. In addition to being an avid hiker and camper, I love introducing people, especially youth, to the concept of growing their own fruit, vegetables and flowers. Currently, I lead a youth entrepreneurship program doing just that. My hope is they will not only benefit personally from these skills, but they could potentially earn extra money someday.
What inspires your flower growing?
I love blending flowers and food. I grow local and native species and some favorites, like the sunflower or bachelor button. The majority of my arrangements also incorporate flowers with herbs. I’ve built my own niche around teaching people the importance of seeking local, buying local and supporting small businesses through The Flower Lady.
My inspiration also comes from my neighborhood and my previous experience in the beauty industry. My husband and I live in Over-the-Rhine—a continually growing and developing inner-city Mecca. As an added twist, I started to up-cycle doll heads cosmetology students use to practice on and create one-of-a-kind “green” arrangements that are sure to brighten up a salon front desk.
Finally, I’m constantly inspired by my mentee in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I’ve been a volunteer for 8 years and in my attempt to be a good role model for her, she has never stopped motivating me to follow my dreams. Together, we are determined to make the most of everything that's possible in life.
What’s changed since you joined the Businessblocks community?
I had a structure of what my business could or might look like, but BusinessBlocks was an answered prayer. First off, I was the person who was way too nice. I started my business by giving away my flowers for free, and that’s where my coach, Nina, had to rein me in. She helped me focus on the fact that selling flowers was going to be my income, so I had to figure out what my boundaries were.
I was also able to avoid making a lot of mistakes many beginners make when they start out. Some of it isn’t crazy or rocket science. It's the little tips here and there that have made a huge difference. The course also gave me the foundational knowledge I was looking for. For example, I had no idea what I was going to do for my business leading up to Valentine’s Day. Nina put me through a Valentine’s Day boot camp and taught me everything I needed to know to capitalize on this one-day major flower event of the year.
Building confidence was also a game changer for me. One of the first things Nina advised me to do was to reach out to existing flower farmers. She wanted me to get to know the industry and learn from those already in the space. By doing that, I was not only able to capitalize on what was working but also differentiate myself from them by creating my own niche. Since then, I’ve landed 10 accounts including shops, restaurants, salons and a golf course.
Lastly, Nina helped me establish my pricing. This was huge for me because I was very fearful of losing customers by charging too much or not being profitable by charging too little. She helped me identify the clients who would benefit most from my products and services and helped me attract those clients to my business. She was really the icing on the cake after completing each module!
What is your advice for other business owners?
Take that leap of faith. Most people who have thought about starting their own business have thought about it for a long time, but fear gets in the way. Sometimes you just need someone to give you a push. It takes a lot of courage to hone in on what makes you happy and often a lot of sacrifice to get there. You have to decide what’s important to you, and then you have to have the courage to go for it.
Reach out. I can’t believe how many people are willing to help! I never thought I’d get the opportunity to convince a millionaire to invest in an initiative I came up with.
Finally, it’s okay to be scared. It’s not going to be sunshine and daises all the time. You will probably shed some tears, but that’s why a support system is important. And you have to have someone to lean on and learn from - like a business coach - in your most doubtful moments.
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