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How Vulnerability Helped My Small Business Community Connection

Stems Floral Shop

October 5, 2023

Guess what? It’s ok to show some emotion to your clients.

This is the most important lesson I have learned as a florist; we share so many experiences with our clients; the good, the exciting, the bad and the devastating. We often go through all these experiences with the same clients throughout their lives. Do we have to keep a certain level of composure to assist the clients through the process… of course. When I first opened Stems Flower Shop in December of 2018, I was trying so hard to present myself as the stoic owner of the newly introduced business that at times I missed great opportunities to really connect with our clients. Acting like I wasn’t emotionally affected by client stories sometimes made me feel like I came across more detached and impersonal. This didn’t happen often — but when I got the sense it was happening, I could feel it.

Overcoming 2020

Our first year in business was the regular climb into the industry, and then came 2020. Over the next three years I dropped my guard substantially and decided instead of using so much of our marketing budget on search engine advertising and social media, I was going to save some money and invest in connections with as many clients as possible and invest more in the Altoona Chamber of Commerce.

I can’t remember how many clients I cried with during 2020 and 2021, sharing stories of loved ones and planning their memorials. I found that instead of trying to create a sense of normalcy for the client, I started to naturally grieve and sit in pain with them. By June 2020, there was no point in trying to pretend that the year had been an easy one, either emotionally, mentally or financially. We were all in it together. By dropping my guard and being vulnerable and sharing that experience together, I developed some very loyal customers… and dare I say… friends?

Mums at Stems Floral Shop

I have continued this approach with my clients, sharing stories about my family, getting to know the community and putting myself out there a little more through the chamber, local volunteer work and on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. The more clients share, the deeper the trust and meaningful the connection. I also found that creating a quiet and peaceful atmosphere in the store was an inviting scenario for a client weighing their options while selecting their flowers and giving the opportunity for us to visit with them to really get a sense of their needs.

Our town is growing, which means more walk-ins experiencing our store for the first time and opportunities to connect with new people and earn lifelong clients. You earn it through connections, you earn it through exemplary customer service, you earn it through riding the highs and lows that bring a customer into a local flower shop. Small things can make a huge difference, and I found that kindness can also go a long way.

If you receive flowers from us, you might find that if it’s trash day, your trash can was brought back to the house after being emptied. I’ve helped people unload groceries, chase after their dogs, brought in the newspaper, retrieved ice packs from the freezers of elderly clients that were post-surgery and aided emergency services. It does not take away from further deliveries and only takes a couple of minutes. A small gesture like this translates to thousands in marketing. Don’t quote me on that, absolutely no research has been done. But what I’m getting at is … being kind, helping others and being vulnerable has brought great connections between clients and my business.

Show some emotion and vulnerability. Our town, state and country has been through so much. It’s ok to acknowledge it within business without it being a sign of weakness. You’ll be surprised how much it may open new doors and connections within your community.

Looking for tools to help grow your startup or small business? Visit the Small Business Resources Hub to find the information you need, including connections through a Resource Compass and Business Counseling through the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s network.

Stephanie Groom

Stephanie Groom is Owner and Designer at Stems Flower Shop in Altoona, Iowa. She grew up in Leeds, England and moved to Iowa in 2003. With 20+ years of experience in the floral industry, Stephanie combines her passion for flowers and community for her first entrepreneurial adventure, Stems Flower Shop.