With $150, I started a small flower-selling business that raised my income from minimum wage to earning $66 an hour.
I was in college when I started my first small business. Earning minimum wage as a florist assistant, I was forced to work 20-hour weeks to earn enough for my keep. One morning, I met the farmer who delivered flowers to the store. He asked, "Why don't you sell flowers yourself outside a supermarket or door-to-door?" And that's how the story of my small flower-selling business started.
Looking for a Venue
That evening, I went to a local supermarket that sold fresh produce from local farmers. I put on my charming smile and asked to speak with the manager or owner. "I'm a student trying to earn money for school," I explained. Then, I asked if I could stand outside the store every afternoon and on weekends and sell fresh flowers from local farmers.
I thought the store owner would ask for some sort of payment. But he didn't. He was happy to give it a try for a week. My small business venture was halfway there.
I probably would not have received so favorable a response if I went to an ordinary supermarket that sold cheaper produce. My decision to go to a more upscale store that was in the habit of supporting local farmers paid off. And it didn't hurt that the neighborhood where the supermarket was located was also upscale, with higher-income families who were more likely to spend money on flowers.
I called the farmer that evening and asked how many flowers $100 could buy. "That depends on the flowers" was the answer. But my friendly farmer was happy to put together a delivery that would give me the most effect for the buck.
Looking to save more money, I asked if there was a way to reduce the cost further.
"Sure," he said, "if you pick up the flowers yourself."
And so I met him at 5 a.m. the next morning at his farm.
Trusting the farmer's experience paid off. I added bulk to the order by focusing on cheaper carnations with only a small share of lilies, irises, and sunflowers. Arriving early at the farm also opened the door to another opportunity. I was able to buy an order that another client canceled at half its original price (because the farmer had already kept the 50-percent deposit from the original client).
Earning $300 in Three Hours
That afternoon, I set up a small flower shop outside the supermarket. I put the flowers in green buckets. I stuck a red patio umbrella in a green bucket filled with rocks. Then, I started arranging flower bouquets, using rubber bands to hold the flowers together. I displayed the bouquets in red buckets with a sign on them stating the price. There were three categories to choose from. My total investment for the buckets, rubber bands, and sunshade was $50.
By 5 p.m., when people were going shopping after work, my little flower booth was ready and charming. I greeted everyone who passed and was amazed at how friendly everyone was in turn. I kept talking with people because I noticed that when one person stopped, others quickly joined him, curious to see what the attraction was.
I sold $300 worth of flowers between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. that sunny summer evening. I offered three prices - $10, $15, and $20 bouquets - though I thought most people would buy a $10 bouquet. In fact, almost everyone chose the middle price range: $15.
After the wholesale cost of my flowers, I was left with a $200 profit. Instead of earning minimum wage, I earned $66 an hour that afternoon. Even if you deduct the cost of the buckets, sun shade, and rubber bands, I still earned $50 an hour. My small business venture was simple but successful from the start.
What I Learned With Time
As my business grew, I hired friends to sell flowers door-to-door. I even sold flowers on campus. Interestingly, the lessons I learned remained tried and true throughout. Choose your venue carefully. Find a supplier you can trust, then squeeze the best deal out of him. Keep it simple, but offer your customers choices that will encourage them to spend more.
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