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Bricks, Mortar, Heart and Soul: Periwinkle Flowers

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Name of business: Periwinkle Flowers

Name of owner: Jessica McEwen

Neighbourhood: Mount Pleasant Village

Address: 661 Mt. Pleasant Rd. Toronto, ON

Tell Us About Your Shop:

Periwinkle Flowers is a retail flower shop. We work with mostly locally-grown blooms and design bouquets and arrangements for all occasions, including weddings and corporate functions. The shop itself is filled with fresh flowers, quirky houseplants, plus a curated selection of maker-made ceramics and housewares. We're all about colour and happiness and helping people bring joy into their lives!

Before this business, did you have experience that prepared you for running a brick and mortar shop?

Prior to running Periwinkle as it exists now, I co-owned a flower shop with the same name, alongside a business partner for 13 years.

We pretty much made all the mistakes you could make. We picked the wrong location and didn't get enough traffic (plus, the neighbourhood didn't match our aesthetic); we didn't create the right network of people around us; we got stuck in the technician's part of the business, the making, and weren't able to do the more important working ON our business; we regularly got stuck in analysis paralysis.

My business partner walked away to pursue other things & I made the choice to start over and use the experience of failing to propel me into creating a shop that was exactly what I wanted it to be.

What is most challenging thing about running your business?

My biggest challenge is definitely getting feet in the shop. We have several strands of business- event work, corporate and much of the daily flower sales are by email or phone. My focus is primarily on getting the in-shop retail part to function better, which means constantly trying things, learning what works and what doesn't, adjusting, testing, and sometimes letting go of things that should work on paper but just don't in the real world.

What surprised you most about your business?

How much it means to our clients and people in the community! A client's daughter had a school project on "community helpers" and she did it all about me and the shop. People stop in to chat and tell us how uplifted they feel when they walk by our displays.

We get emails and phone calls telling us how much clients have appreciated not only our flowers but the interaction with us whether by phone or in person.Running a business can feel very head down and insular & sometimes I forget that a shop like this is a living breathing piece of the community. Every time I get reminded of that, it brings tears to my eyes.

Is your business seasonal? Do you have good seasons and challenging ones? How do you manage that?

We tend to have a slump in January, July- August, and then November. These are months that I'm focused on bringing sales up, which is a mix of trying to create more reasons for current clients to come in or use our services, plus trying to expand our reach to new clients.

Having some slower periods is great to allow us to tackle some projects that need a little more time in the shop, but there is plenty of room for growth. It can feel frustrating at times. Slow days that the till doesn't ring are hugely demoralizing - even worse when you've had to have staff in for whatever reason. I try to use those days to get laser-focused on my goals and get super organized with my marketing plan, which helps keep me positive because at least I am taking action rather than waiting for clients to walk in the door!

Why did you choose this type of business? What is it that you’re most passionate about?

I got into it because I love flowers but couldn't find a florist to work for that was exactly the style of work and the type of workplace I wanted. Now it's more about the retail puzzle to me. I am fascinated with it.

How to make each part of the business work is a constant project that fuels me to keep going. Retail isn't for everyone, and I'm surprised it's something I love so much. I really am passionate about brick and mortar shops and the challenges they face.

How is your customer service better or different than other shops?

Even though we are in the business of flowers, what we are really selling is emotional language.

My staff & I do a lot of active listening when helping clients, as there is always a subtext that sometimes even the client isn't aware of. A large part of our job is to help them figure out what it is they are trying to convey through the flowers & then putting together something that conveys those feelings and emotions through colours, textures and forms.

We don't have many issues with our product, but when we do, our complaints-handling process is very considered and loving. If something wasn't right, we ensure the person that was supposed to enjoy beautiful flowers does get to enjoy them.

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