Have you lost the spark of joy for your brick-and-mortar business? We have a special guest on today’s episode, Michelle LaPointe, the owner of Michelle’s Flowers. And she’s sharing how to go against the grain in your brick-and-mortar business successfully.
Have you lost the spark of joy for your brick and mortar business, or are you doing things that aren’t in alignment with you but you’re scared to pivot in fear of failing?
We have a special guest on today’s episode, Michelle LaPointe, the owner of Michelle’s Flowers. And she’s sharing how to go against the grain in your brick-and-mortar business successfully.
So, if you’ve lost the spark in your business or you’re doing things that aren’t in alignment with you, tune into this episode.
BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING TO TODAY’S EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:
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To connect with Michelle and see her beautiful floral artistry, you can follow her on Instagram at @michellesflowers
So my special guest and I, go way back to our youth soccer days before we ever owned and operated our own brick-and-mortar businesses. We even had big dreams then as we strived for excellence on the field and often went against the grain too. And we both did for our respective teams, and when it came time to take our soccer to the next level, Michelle moved to the states to play there for college, while I stayed close to home and played my five years of varsity soccer at the University of Saskatchewan. But the soccer girl community is tight knit so we were always in each other's life. She’s my life and biz bestie. We’ve travelled to Peru and hiked Machuu Pichhu, had an amazing time exploring the Galapagos, and enjoyed many vacations to Mexico, California, and Domician. We always have the best time together. While we love to travel, today’s episode isn’t about that–although I know you’d love our travel stories! But we’ll save those for another time.
When I first decided to ditch my corporate career, Michelle was one of the first people I talked to about starting my own small business, brick-and-mortar shop. At that point she’d been in business for ten years running a highly successful brick-and-mortar flower shop so she was sure to dish it to me real, and she did! That’s what besties do, right?
So it was a no-brainer to invite her on the podcast to share with my listeners that you can build a thriving small business going against the grain that doesn’t fit the typical mould. You can also reinvent yourself and do things differently even when things are working.
What’s the saying? Don’t fix what isn’t broken? Well I don’t buy that in business (or life) because we all evolve and grow which makes keeping things the same impossible. And the more we grip our small business and try to control the changes the harder it will get.
And Michelle is going to share how she’s gone against the grain and continued to evolve her business. She’s built a widely successful brick and mortar flower shop that’s won many awards, achieved great business success, and she’s getting ready to celebrate her 15th year in business. If there is anything Michelle has taught me about BEing a successful entrepreneur it’s that you can go against the grain, and do what others tell you will fail in the name of staying true to yourself. She’s pivoted her business multiple times throughout her entrepreneurial journey, tried and implemented things most people wouldn’t dream of doing….like closing down her day-to-day flower service a month or three at a time to rest and recharge. I know what you might be thinking...there is no way I could close my shop for any period of time because I’m barely surviving.
And you and I both know that closing down your small business for any period of time is unheard of in the brick and mortar space, yet Michelle has done it on numerous occasions and she’s still thriving and experiencing business success.
How? She will tell you!
So without further adieu, let’s welcome our guest Michelle LaPointe to the show!
Yeah, for sure. Thanks, Kathryn. Thanks for having me today. So I opened my brick and mortar flower shop when I was about 23 or 24. And I had opened that basically right out of university. And what I went to school for wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do with my life. And I worked at a flower shop while I was going to school for the latter part of my degree. And I thought, hey, this was so easy. Running a small business can't be that hard. Why don't I just open one. So that's what I did. So I opened Michelle's Flowers here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. And I had run a brick and mortar for about 10 years before I went against the grain in my small business. And that's kind of how I got started.
Yeah, so cool. And it's so funny how you said, You know, I worked at a brick and mortar flower shop during University, and you, Oh, this can't be that hard to start a small business and get it going. So what did you go to university for? Because I think a lot of our listeners, especially when they're first starting out, as a creative, as an entrepreneur, we've got all these really grandiose ideas. So I knew when I went to university, I went in for business, and obviously I'm still in business. But I mean, I went through sort of those phases to where I wanted to try different things and go against the grain in life and do things differently. So share with us about, what was your undergraduate degree?
So initially, I had gone to university for psychology, I'm not sure if I even really talked to you about it before. That was my direction I was going in with psychology, and I really didn't want to do it. And I continued on way too long in that section where the creative side of me was what was really taking over. So I eventually switched direction and studied art and design. And my area of focus was photography and graphic design.
I think it will resonate with a lot of our listeners just because wherever they were in their career, I know a lot of our audience either started in corporate or worked corporate, and now have gone against the grain to open their own brick and mortar small business or online business. So Is that why you decided flowers like the floral brick and mortar business, something that kind of sparked more of that creativity for you?
I really enjoyed flowers and designing. And I just kind of was at a point where I sort of had to do something with my life. And it seemed really easy to open a brick and mortar business. So I thought I would do that. I enjoyed it on a regular day to day basis. But I didn't really understand the small business side of how much work went into it. So that was kind of a little bit of a rude awakening as the years went on in owning my brick and mortar. But I mean, I still enjoy designing to this day. And this is almost 15 years later. So I know I chose the right path, and I’ve gone against the grain in different ways to make it my own.
So you talked about having a brick and mortar. And that was the first thing you opened when you were 23. And then you've now gone against the grain a couple of times. So share with the audience, what that all looked like and why you decided to go against the grain in your brick and mortar but still achieve business success?
I would say that after a year or two, I knew that brick and mortar wasn't for me and I just continued on because I was achieving business success. I was making money, the small business shop was successful, I was very busy with the wedding side of things. And all of a sudden it rolled into 10 years basically. But during my eighth year of owning my brick and mortar business, I had lost my mom to cancer. And it really opened my eyes to show that life is just way too short to be going somewhere from 10 to six, when you don't even want to be there. So I decided that when my lease runs out, I'm not renewing, I'm going to go against the grain and switch it online and work a fraction of the time without the regular customer flow and just do exactly what I want to do, which is design and weddings. So that's what I did. I closed the brick and mortar storefront and moved into my garage, and now I just do online orders and then the wedding portion of the small business.
So cool. Because like, you were saying, you know, your small business was so successful, and is still so successful. And yet you still decided to go against the grain after your mom had passed away? I know our listeners will want to know if deciding to close your brick and mortar scare you?
I reached a point where my happiness trumped any fear or doubts that I had in going against the grain. And I knew that I would lose customers. And that's that I was fine with that. Having a brick and mortar flower shop in a local area is a convenience for people. And so a lot of the time people don't order in, like they'll do same day orders. And I knew that there would be customers that I would be losing in that portion. But I was okay with that. Because we were busy small business, so knew I would still be fine. And I knew customers would follow us just based off of our customer service and our designs as well, too. So it really worked out quite nicely.
Exactly you established a name in the city for your brick and mortar and having that customer base built up. Let's talk about that a little bit in terms of how you build up your customer base for your small business?
I would probably say the biggest thing was just doing what I felt was good for me and the small business and customer service has been a key part of Michelle's Flowers. It’s the customer service with the great designs that has helped us achieve massive business success.
I totally agree with you when it comes to customer service. And it's so important when you own your own brick and mortar to devote time to ensuring you’re providing the best service. So now share with the listeners how you’ve gone against the grain even more in your small business?
Honestly, I would say the main thing that was at the forefront of my thought was just my general happiness, and how I can be the happiest doing what I love the most. And there's things about my small business that I don't enjoy doing. And I still do them because they are a part of the business and it helps the brick and mortar run. But I can delegate some of those things to staff as well. So I've started doing that. And that's really helped with enjoying what I do. But the main thing that drove everything and when I decided to go against the grain is just being happy in what I'm doing versus any other thoughts like financially or what other people think of me in our industry, or in Saskatoon or anything like that it was just mostly, how can I be the happiest in my small business every day?
It’s an important point you touched on in terms of really allowing your happiness to drive the decisions that you make in business, regardless of what the impacts or what might happen. And it's interesting, because I was just reading, if you guys know the bucket list family, I follow them, I love them. I love what they do. But recently, they decided to pitch a cartoon idea to Disney, Netflix and Pixar. They actually got a 10 million dollar offer, but they turned it down. And they decided to open their own studio production studio to create this cartoon, and a lot of their advisors were like, You're crazy. Why would you do that? But sometimes it's what feels good for you, and it might be really hard to explain to other people, and there's gonna be tons of advice given. And it might not necessarily align with what you want. And just being able to trust that inner knowing and go against the grain is what is needed. What do you think about business advice given and how do you handle it when it comes to your brick and mortar or stopping you from going against the grain?
I feel that people have these ideas of Oh, I did business this way. So this is how you have to run your small business, or the industry does it this way, so you have to do it that way to achieve business success. And I think people need to be able to step out on their own and figure it out on their own. And if they choose to go against the grain we have to stop feeding them advice like it’s not going to work.
Exactly. When we started our brick and mortar we often heard things like most small businesses fail, prepare yourself for slow seasons. But you’re right we needed to figure things out on our own, and that included going against the grain often. Well I want to thank you for joining us today and sharing with our listeners how you’ve gone against the grain successfully in your brick and mortar.