Photo credit: Lindsay Stephany Photography
In just six years, Jenny Siplo has grown her flower farm and design business, Flowerwell, from a captivating idea into a thriving cut-flower cultivator serving Western New York and the Finger Lakes regions. Here’s how she transformed her love of flowers into a viable enterprise, including funding from Pursuit and guidance from our Consulting Corps – both of which she credits for helping to transform her business.
A passion for flowers becomes a business
Growing up, when Jenny would garden with her mother, she loved the joy they’d spread when they’d gift cut flowers to families and friends. Years later, when her enthusiasm for desk-job life waned, she looked for a way to incorporate that passion with her work.
“I really felt the need to be in nature and for me, that meant being around flowers,” Jenny says. “We weren’t farmers and I had no previous experience in agriculture, but I was determined.”
Before making the leap from desktop to farm plot, Jenny’s research revealed that about 90% of the cut flowers in the U.S. are brought in from abroad, including Ecuador, Japan and Holland. As someone who personally supports locally grown, farm-fresh produce, she had no doubt that if she offered fresh, high-quality and locally grown flowers, she’d have a market.
In 2015, the first flowers were planted on land she leased in a blueberry patch. Today, Flowerwell’s territory has expanded to several acres.
“We go from seed to vase, planting specifically for each of our wedding and event clients,” Jenny explains, “so that the varieties and colors are at their freshest and best when their events take place.” The results are lush arrangements of heirloom and specialty flowers at their brightest and most fragrant, harvested just hours earlier. She adds, “We also work with florists in the region, supplying them with fresh-cut flowers for their own clients. As a result, Flowerwell has a multiplier effect that benefits dozens of small businesses in our region.”
How Pursuit helped Flowerwell achieve its potential
“Getting the business off the ground wasn’t the hardest part,” Jenny admits, “because we have great soil here and with the temperate climate, we can produce a lot in our growing seasons, from spring through fall. The harder part was making the leap from an early-phase startup to expanding and becoming viable. To do that, we needed funding, which was the biggest hurdle.”
“I tried other lenders but it was challenging because we were new, small and didn’t have enough collateral to meet their criteria. And for a seasonal business like Flowerwell, if the process takes a while, that can impact an entire year,” she says.
Jenny says that it was purely good fortune when a Google search landed her on a website listing New York State-approved community-development financial institutions – or CDFIs – which are non-profit lenders, like Pursuit.
“With Pursuit, everything changed. Pursuit’s process was quick and easy. It was about four weeks from first contact until we had money in the bank and that made all the difference,” she says. The combination of a Pursuit SmartLoan and New York Forward loan enabled Flowerwell to clear land and erect a 120-foot hoop tunnel, which extends the growing season by a month or more on each end, which is essential in New York.
“Now, we can expand our variety and the flowers are secure from weather events and other garden challenges,” she says. “And the most amazing thing is that our relationship is about so much more than simply the loan – working with Pursuit’s Consulting Corps has totally changed how I approach my work.”
Pursuit’s Consulting Corps provides invaluable assistance
Jenny’s loan qualifies Flowerwell for help from Pursuit’s Consulting Corps, at no cost to her. A human-resources specialist is helping her develop an employee handbook and she’s getting design and search-engine optimization, or SEO, help for Flowerwell’s website to ensure that it’s found in local and regional searches.
“And we’ve gotten the most incredible help from Cheryl Lickfeld,” Jenny says about Cheryl, who is the owner of OptimalCFO and a member of Pursuit’s Consulting Corps. “She’s like a ‘business therapist.’ As passionate business owners, we have a lot of ideas and Cheryl has been invaluable, because she looks at everything from an unbiased and bottom-line perspective. She helps me understand how to manage a team and prioritize. I’m getting much better at analysis and projections and using data to make decisions. It’s been a game-changer all around and it’s exciting to see Cheryl’s advice take hold.”
She adds, “Most small businesses can’t afford to bring on the high-quality team that Pursuit’s Consulting Corps provides. I’m telling everyone I know who owns a business, contact Pursuit today, don’t wait, you’ll be amazed at what a difference this makes!”
Find out how Pursuit can help your business
“A lot of small businesses hit a ceiling because they can’t get funding and don’t have the experts they need to grow to the next stage. Pursuit offers all that and they really care about our success, too. When I look at our land and our tunnel and realize how much stronger my business is today, I know that Pursuit’s more than just my lender – they made my dream come true!”
Contact Pursuit to learn more about how we can help your business.