Reaping the Benefit of Entrepreneurship

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Cathy Daley, left, and Michelle McCutcheon stand next to a map which has every Blossoms Fresh Fruit Arrangements store in Canada marked out for easy tracking.
Photo: Topher Seguin/Telegraph-Journal

As published in the Telegraph-Journal April 28, 2013
When I first visited the Saint John Blossoms Fresh Fruit Arrangements retail shop, I assumed the shop owner saw a great opportunity and was granted a Blossoms franchise. What I quickly discovered after meeting Michelle McCutcheon and Cathy Daley, business partners and founders of Blossoms, was that the Saint John location is, in fact, a flagship store and one of over 60 locations across North America. I learned that Blossoms is very well positioned in a growth industry known as fresh fruit arrangements – a healthy option for gift giving.

We met in their corporate offices, across the street from the Saint John retail location, which gave me a chance to understand how these two dynamic entrepreneurs identified a business opportunity, created a brand and landed on an effective business model to dramatically expand their business.

Blossoms’ business model consists of giving limited licences to entrepreneurs wanting to use the Blossoms brand and use their “proven recipe for success” of creating and marketing Blossom products. At this point, they have an established market with a great network of owners throughout North America supporting their brand and each other. They also have a wire service that keeps all their owners connected.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you become business partners?

Michelle: I worked at a call center where Kathy was my boss. We became friends and took a trip to Boston one day where we saw a concept similar to fresh fruit arrangements. I had been a florist for several years and knew that the floral industry is very competitive but a lot of places, like government buildings, were going “scent free”so this was just a great alternative. We started the business and kept our jobs for about 6 months but then had to quit in order to run the new business.

Cathy: We were both looking to start our own business, so it worked out really well.

Q: What encouraged you to take the leap into the entrepreneurial world?

Cathy: I wanted to put my energy into something that was my own – where I could reap my own benefits.

Michelle: My leap was about freedom and control of my future. I had previously had businesses when I was very young and I just knew that I wanted to go back to being an entrepreneur some day – I was waiting for the right idea.

Q: What can people expect in a starting a business?

Cathy: It’s a struggle in the beginning for everybody – you’ll want to throw in the towel! But if you stick it out, it will pay off. Do what’s in your heart. When we were starting out a lot of people said this may not be a good time to start a business because of the economy.

Michelle: I think a lot of people give up too soon,right before success.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the business. What was the opportunity you saw in it initially?

Michelle: No one in Canada had the concept of fresh fruit arrangements. The concept was very successful in the States and then they were starting to move overseas. I have the same background as the gentleman that started it in the U.S., and we thought we could do this in Canada with a goal of going worldwide eventually.

Q: So it was never about having just one successful location in Saint John?

Cathy: We opened the shop in Saint John just to learn the business and to perfect the processes.

Q: How did you land on your business model of licensing locations rather than franchising?

Michelle: We did a lot of research on other successful companies that use licensing models; 1-800 Flowers, FTD, those types of businesses.

Q: How does your limited license model work?

Cathy: We sell our distinctive specialty fresh fruit, vegetable arrangements and related products through “limited licenses”to entrepreneurs. Each licensee is given full training, a specialized product line, a wire service program, a full marketing package and much more. The fee structure consists of a one time licensing fee and a very low monthly fee for our wire service program, which offers an additional opportunity to increase revenues.

Q: What makes a Blossom’s location successful?

Michelle: It’s the individual Blossom’s operator and how much they put into it. We find it’s the people that come to us and are really asking for us to incorporate the concept.They’re the best operators.

Q: How do you find people who will be good Blossom’s operators?

Michelle: Often word of mouth. We have had huge success with current Blossoms operators referring people. So that’s great for us.

Q: How do you decide where a location should be?

Cathy: Our locations are based on population. We usually only have one location per every one hundred thousand people. We did a lot of research leading up to the two year expansion including what fruit was available in every province, at every time of year.

Q: How does the decision making process work in your partnership?

Cathy: In the beginning, and probably a lot of people experience this, you both want to be actively involved in every little aspect of the business. It gets to the point that, unless you want to work 24/7 and be pulled down by every little detail, you have to start defining roles and respecting them.

Michelle: We both have departments. Kathy takes care of the financial end. If she decides something I don’t necessarily agree with she wins out because that’s her department. And for me, I’m in charge of the staff, marketing, sales and licensing. We don’t step on each other’s toes.

Q: How have you funded the start up and growth of your business?

Michelle: We were very lucky; I had some savings and Kathy had some savings from having a good job for many years and we put our money together. Then, as we got going, we landed a large contract with an American company that helped fund the growth.

Cathy: We did look at getting investors at one point but we just kept coming back to the same point that – in the end – we’re not going to be happy. We wanted to retain 100% of our company.

Q: What are your future goals for the business?

Cathy: We’ll grow in the next two years and have a Blossom’s in every city in Canada.

Michelle: Our next goal is Europe. The States is pretty much saturated with our competitor and we’re not really focused there right now. They’re putting five or six locations in a city and we just don’t want to get into the competition. We want to go to where it’s a brand new concept.

Q: How would you finish this sentence? A leader’s job is to…

Michelle: To inspire.

Q: What is your inspiration?

Michelle: My inspiration is that I like to empower people, so the fact that we can help other people be successful is my inspiration. I like seeing my licensees and my employees doing well. That’s why I get up everyday Cathy: I was just thinking along the same lines as far as licensees. When you’re meeting with trainees or when they’re coming here, it’s amazing how appreciative they are. You’re giving them the ability to go out and make a really nice living for themselves.I find this inspiring.

Dave Veale is a leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc.in Saint John.He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or via Twitter@Dave_Veale . To read past columns and watch videos,go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca.


PERSONAL TRAINER POSITIVE ABOUT HIS MISSION

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Photo: Cindy Wilson, Telegraph Journal

[Dave Veale’s interview with Terry Blizzard, Founder & Owner of Afterburn Performance Centre.]

For a couple of years I had been hearing from some of my clients about this fabulous personal trainer named Terry Blizzard. When I finally had the chance to meet Terry and tour his training facility on Bayside Drive in Saint John, I quickly understood what my clients were raving about.

Read the rest of this entry »


Dykemans celebrates 100 years of success

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Published Thursday May 5, 2011 in the Telegraph Journal   Photo: Noel Chenier/Telegraph-Journal
Dave Veale interviews Don and Bob Shaw, Dykeman’s Hardware as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.

“The Six Success Factors” for starting a small business are self-motivation, business and industry knowledge, organization and management capabilities, marketing skill, customer/vendor relations and vision.

– According to studies conducted by the Bank of Montreal Institute for Small Business,

Now imagine what it takes to keep a small business growing and thriving for 100 years.

Don (left, in the photo) and Bob Shaw, owners of Dykeman’s Hardware Store in Saint John, know a bit on this topic – their family-owned business just celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Originally named R.G. Dykeman (opened by their grandfather on April 20th, 1911), it was incorporated in 1965 and became Dykeman’s Hardware Limited.

Business failure statistics show that only 70 per cent of small businesses survive to celebrate their five-year anniversary, let alone their 100th anniversary. I sat down with Don and Bob to learn what they believe has supported their business in reaching the century mark.

Q: Tell me about the important milestone that Dykeman’s Hardware recently reached.

Bob: Last month, April 20th, was our 100th birthday.

Q: You have a book in front of me, what is it?

Don: Starting inventory book, dated April 20th, 1911. It lists total inventory consisting mostly of groceries and everyday necessity needs of $233.30.

Q: So your grandfather started Dykeman’s?

Don: His passion was to start his own business. He was 21 or 22 years old at the time. Dykeman’s started by selling feed/flour and, in the early years, a lot of his customers were farmers from the Kingston Peninsula. There would be teams of horses with wagons and it was a two-day trip. They would come here and unhook their horses and back them into the warehouse where my grandfather would keep the team of horses overnight. Then the farmers would go and get their supplies and stay at a hotel on Main Street.

Q: I understand that your father took over from your grandfather?

Bob: Yeah, after the war dad came in and was on and off for 60 some years. He married the boss’ daughter. He was originally scheduled to go to Chicago and my grandfather, not wanting to lose his daughter, asked dad if he would consider working here. So he took his three-piece suit off and put on a pair of overalls and came over and started lifting feed and cement.

Q: What have you learned over the years, in terms of running a successful business?

Don: My grandfather gave me a neat tip when I first started and I was just a young guy. He said “Don, let me tell you something. If you are going to be working in business remember people’s names. It is very, very important – people like to be called by name.” Treat people the way that you want to be treated yourself.

Bob: Another lesson is to have a broad knowledge base. Prices are important to a certain degree but, as Don mentioned, service is everything. We have been blessed with great staff and they have been with us for years. They are trustworthy, honest and very knowledgeable.

Q: What else has helped you survive in such a competitive landscape?

Don: You have to be competitive in your pricing and affiliated with a buying group in order to survive. Lee’s Hardware is one of the largest hardware distributors in the world and we hook on to their purchasing powers, if you will. We can buy what we want, not what we are told to buy.

Bob: This also allows us to maintain our independence completely and we dictate which direction we want to go. We never want to give that up. Independence is huge for us.

Q: Since the business started more than 100 years ago, it’s gone through a lot of changes. How do you guys embrace change?

Bob: You have to evolve according to what your surroundings are. We are not about to take on the Wal-Marts and Canadian Tires. We have our own niche hardware products and niche marine products. We have specialized – it gives us an advantage.

Q: So evolving with customer demand and finding niche product lines has been the key to your success?

Bob: We’ve had the same location for 100 years which is kind of unique. We just evolved and morphed into a different building from one door to the next but we have basically had the same address for 100 years.

Don: I’ve worked here for 44 years. When I started here I think there was something like 15 stores like ours in the city and I can’t think of any that are left except for Dykeman’s.

Q: What does the future hold for Dykeman’s?

Bob: It will end at three generations in our family – there is no interest from our kids to continue with the store. So the family part will end at three generations. We would like to think that it has a future and business has been strong for the last couple years so that’s encouraging. We just haven’t figured out what that form is yet.

Q: If you could give other entrepreneurs out there one piece of advice, what would it be?

Bob: There are certain things that you may have to eliminate from a business because you just can’t compete anymore and you have to accept it. We couldn’t exist in just the houseware business that this business was founded on.

Don: Don’t spread yourself too thin trying to please everyone.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale. Don’t miss any of Dave’s interviews with leaders…get blog updates in your inbox by signing up over here, at the top of the right column ==>