Flowers are amazing. Getting flowers can make anyone’s day. But what about making and delivering them? Rhoda Paurus has owned St. Cloud Floral for more than a decade. The industry has changed tremendously in that time. Listen in as she talks with Michelle and JoyGenea about what it takes to continue to be the premier floral shop in central MN.
02:04 What do you know about locally grown flowers?
04:15 What do you do when flowers are off season?
04:46 Tying up with local and international flower suppliers so you can have flowers all year round
06:49 Trends must be always in the forefront of your mind
09:24 Stay flexible and adaptive
11:14 As a consumer, do you prefer to buy common or not common items?
12:42 Controlled climate is a big factor in keeping the flowers fresh
14:56 It is important for a business owner to be well-equipped and a well-rounded person
16:59 Having and working with employees are one of the biggest challenge as a business owner
17:26 As a business owner, you tend to be an all around staff
18:12 As a leader, it is difficult to make decisions
18:34 Is it always fair to look at a consumer’s vantage point?
20:17 When handling a business, you need to weigh pros and cons
20:58 Continuous learning
22:29 Being a florist is a hard job physically
24:41 Visit St. Cloud Floral
JoyGenea: Hi, I’m Jo… We’re good. We’re making this a really good habit. Michelle, would you please introduce us?
Michelle: Hi, everybody. Welcome to “If These Heels Could Talk.” I’m Michelle with BadCat Digital.
JoyGenea: And I’m JoyGenea with Solutions by JoyGenea. Who do we have as an amazing guest today? We have company.
Michelle: Today we have Rhoda Paurus, who owns St. Cloud Floral in St. Cloud, Minnesota. And we are so excited to hear from her today. So Rhoda grew up in Cold Spring, and is married, and has an adult son. She has worked in the floral industry since high school and has been the owner of St. Cloud Floral for the last 10 years, which I’m sure has felt longer than that in the last 2. Rhoda’s true passion is creating and designing with fresh flowers. So, Rhoda, thank you so much for being on “If These Heels Could Talk.”
Rhoda: Thank you for having me here today.
Michelle: Super excited for having you today. Big important question is the first question, a warm up question, what is your favorite shoe?
Rhoda: Oh, well, truthfully, that was kind of a tough one for me, because I love shoes…
Rhoda: …and I do have a few pairs. Probably my favorite shoes would be Mary Janes. And, you know, you can get a Mary Jane in a tennis shoe, or a heel, or a Clark. Dansko carries some very fine Mary Janes.
Michelle: Lovely. I love it. And I know you wear Dansko almost solely while you’re at work because of all the standing and walking that you do.
Michelle: And all of the slippery stuff that you have to walk through.
Rhoda: Yeah. Yeah.
JoyGenea: It’s good to know you’re taking care of your feet. Like that is important… In what you do that’s an important thing.
Rhoda: Yes, it is.
Michelle: Absolutely. Well, I think we’ll get into the real questions. And I think…
JoyGenea: Okay. so…
Michelle: JoyGenea, you, I think you have one.
JoyGenea: I do. I’m ready. What is one of the biggest trends you’re seeing in your field right now?
00:02:04 What do you know about locally grown flowers?
Rhoda: There’s lots of trends that are always happening in the floral industry. I think one of the most positive trends that we’ve been seeing for the last year and a half or two years, is the promotion of locally grown, sustainably grown flowers in local areas. Central Minnesota has several that we work with, so during the summer months we have the option of buying local garden flowers that these people have grown for people that do weddings, you know, some of the pickup bouquets, like Flour & Flower Bakery in St. Joe, carries locally grown bouquets. And we have three or four different small flower farmers from Central Minnesota that we purchase from. So it’s really fun to work with them and to be able to support them in their projects too.
JoyGenea: I did not… Thank you. Like, I didn’t know that.
JoyGenea: Is that something people ask when they call you or is that just an additional thing you’re able to like to share with people? I’m curious if the customers are looking for that also.
Rhoda: Some are.
Rhoda: Some are more concerned about the footprint than others. When it’s not summertime, probably my favorite supplier that we work with is Len Busch Roses out of Plymouth. They have been working on their sustainability practices for at least 10 years. And what they’ve done for our industry as a professional grower is pretty amazing. So it’s great to be able to support people like that and be able to tell people that even though it’s the middle of winter we do have Minnesota growing flowers available right now too.
JoyGenea: That’s so cool.
00:04:15 What do you do when flowers are off season?
Michelle: That’s so cool. What is… You know, I know that it’s hard sometimes for people to understand that flowers, you know, are seasonal, we’re so used to getting kind of whatever we want whenever we want it. So, and I would imagine that not just with locally grown flowers, but with flowers in general, that there are times when you just can’t get things that people want. So, what is it that your customers are asking for right now, and are you, you know, able to kind of source and find those things?
00:04:46 Tying up with local and international flower suppliers so you can have flowers all year round
Rhoda: We are. Our seasons always are a little bit off from what the consumer season is because we do…not only do we get local products, we get local tulips from Len Busch right now. But we also get spring flowers right now that are coming out of Holland. So we’re able to order from them year-round, and so we have the spring flowers. We have the tulips, and the hyacinth, and the daffodils, and all of that spring that we Minnesotans are craving right now.
Michelle: Yeah. That’s awesome. So you get that in early because there’s a lot of demand for it now?
Rhoda: We do. And it’s always, it’s kind of in the floral business when you exit December and the Christmas holiday, our next season is spring. And so that’s what people wanna see and they’re ready for it right after Christmas time too.
Michelle: And we are.
Rhoda: So by the time, you know, around May when our Holland products like the tulips and such are done, they start blooming here locally. So it’s a nice transition.
JoyGenea: Oh, talking about flowers is so nice on a day like today, that’s all I have to…
Rhoda: crosstalk 00:06:13 .
JoyGenea: …like, I’m just visualizing all this and I’m like, “Why are we not just taking a tour of her shop?” Like this is so fabulous.
Rhoda: So ready.
Michelle: Yeah. Next time we should do this at the shop. That would be great.
JoyGenea: We can take our show on the road.
Rhoda: That is Catch and sniff.
Michelle: Absolutely. Catch and sniff.
JoyGenea: There’s an ’80s moment.
JoyGenea: Us ’80s ladies. A real question…a more serious question. What is your vision for the future of your business? Like things are changing, trends are changing.
JoyGenea: Where do you kind of see yourself taking things?
00:06:49 Trends must be always in the forefront of your mind
Rhoda: You know, trends are always in the forefront of our mind because even though our shop has been here since…in St. Cloud since 1912, staying on trend and what’s happening and not falling behind is something we work really hard at. You know, we can still do traditional designs and traditional pieces when people ask for them, but we also want to be able to show people what’s going on. You know, if they’re seeing that in California, or if they’re seeing that in Europe, we wanna be able to offer that here too. And so that’s kind of… The shop that we have been to is…we would call it a traditional mom-and-pop flower shop. You know, it’s not one of the trendier. We’re always going to be here to send birthday flowers, or anniversary flowers, or occasion flowers.
Probably one of the things that means the most to me in my profession is when people have funerals and they need sympathy flowers, for me to be able to work with them and create something memorable for their loved one, that’s probably the biggest… I get the most satisfaction from being able to help people plan a funeral, a tribute for their loved one. So that’s a big part of our business too. And that’s kind of where I continue to see us go, you know, we can add different things and do different things within our shop and within our business, but at the end of the day, we’re still going to be there for that person that needs to send birthday flowers across town. So…
JoyGenea: Do you ever feel a pull to be that flashy, glitzy, just in the moment, kind of…
Rhoda: Even now.
JoyGenea: Like early on, were you ever just like, “Let’s do that?”
Rhoda: Yeah. Yeah. We did. We do.
JoyGenea: Because I know you’re very trendy and stuff too, but like you said, you’re not that shop that’s just…like, that’s its only exclusive thing. Like you’re very well-rounded.
00:09:24 Stay flexible and adaptive
Rhoda: Yeah. Well-rounded. Yep. And that’s I guess how I would describe it too, is that we try to stay well-rounded. But yeah, when I get that urge to do those really cool designs that you see on Pinterest and stuff.
Rhoda: But as everybody knows, I can make that Pinterest bouquet for you, but are you going to wanna pay for that Pinterest bouquet? So…
Michelle: We don’t think everybody knows that. Can you describe that a little bit more for me, Rhoda?
Rhoda: We might make a smaller version to put in the cooler or…because that’s kind of what it comes down to. We can do it for them but, you know, it’s a matter of figuring out what it’s gonna cost in the end.
Michelle: What makes them so expensive? The cool bouquets on Pinterest.
Rhoda: I think you don’t realize all of the flowers that are in that bouquet.
Rhoda: You know, because they’ve done it artistically rather than me making a bouquet that I need to make look like a $50 value, you know, if I were to use the higher end flowers that are in the Pinterest bouquet, I wouldn’t be able to make that $50 bouquet. I have to use a few of the more common flowers to be able to get that perceived value there. And it’s usually the choice of flowers that they’re using in the Pinterest bouquets.
Michelle: Yeah. Pinterest bouquets don’t seem to have a whole lot of carnations, a whole lot of ferns, a whole lot of the stuff that’s, I would say, more common.
JoyGenea: Good point.
00:11:14 As a consumer, do you prefer to buy common or not common items?
Rhoda: Yeah. And, you know, I can get the peonies in, but, you know, do you really wanna pay $15 a stem right now? You know, that’s where I maybe would suggest something that’s in between common and not as common.
Rhoda: Finding balance.
JoyGenea: This is what it’s like though, to have a conversation with a florist and a professional, and like have the conversation over… And I just know this having known Rhoda for a while, over just like ordering something online and being like, “Sure.” And that for special occasions, like you were talking about the funeral and so forth.
JoyGenea: And those are moments when that conversation is really nice and a real bonus.
Michelle: And, you know, like, there are peonies in my yard, there’s like eight peony bushes in my yard, and they bloom for like a minute and a half.
Michelle: So, I mean, it makes sense to me that they would be…and they’re huge, and they always have bugs on ’em. So I’m sure that, you know, to get them commercially so that they don’t have bugs on them and they actually hold and last, is a huge challenge and a huge process. And I’m trying to think like, if I can’t keep the ones that are on bushes in my yard blooming for more than a minute, literally a minute, and then they start shedding everywhere, then how is it that a cut flower is gonna last long enough to not only be shipped, not only be…but then to be put in a bouquet that somebody wants to use it at an event for like six hours. Right?
00:12:42 Controlled climate is a big factor in keeping the flowers fresh
Rhoda: You know, and some of that is, it’s the same…it’s the difference between buying flowers from our shop and a street vendor, we’ll say. People don’t realize that climate control is a huge part of it. You know, Michelle, those flowers that are shipped are kept at one temperature through their plane ride, through their truck ride till they get here. So climate control is a big part of it. The other thing is the amount of money that we invest in some of the solutions that we use in our water. The reason you have bugs on your peonies, the ants, is because when they’re tight on the bush, those ants are what help open it. Not only the water coming up from there, but the ants do help in opening up that peony.
Michelle: Oh, wow.
Rhoda: Where we don’t have the bugs on ’em here because once they get here, we have the solutions that help hydrate them so that they will open up. And…
Michelle: Without the ants.
Rhoda: …there’s another solution we use that feeds the flower, but will help hold it at that stage so it doesn’t progress any further too.
Michelle: Sure. So it doesn’t just shed everywhere instantly.
Rhoda: Correct. Yeah.
Michelle: Okay. Well, maybe you have to come over and like pump some of that underground, under the bushes, so they can look…because they’re gorgeous. It’s just that they’re gorgeous in a day. And if it rains, oh my gosh, they’re just on the ground.
Rhoda: I know. And they’re so pretty.
Michelle: So we’re gonna… Okay, it’s the real world. It’s like 1995 and we’re gonna talk real. So real question, shifting away from the flowers.
Michelle: If there was one thing that you have learned in life in your business that you wish you knew earlier, what would that be?
Rhoda: Wow. There’s a lot of things that…
Michelle: Top 10.
Rhoda: There’s a lot of things.
Michelle: We’re very embracing of the failed forward concept here at…
JoyGenea: If you didn’t notice.
00:14:56 It is important for a business owner to be well-equipped and a well-rounded person
Rhoda: I think…and I can’t say that I would’ve done it any differently had I known or understood it, but I think as many people will agree, as a business owner, they should have some hands…no, I can’t say hands-on. They should have some training on how difficult it is to have employees. I mean, it’s a Catch-22 because you need employees. But yet, you wanna be a friend to your employee, but yet you’re still their boss. And you know, to be, to always…sometimes after a long day, I might describe it as always being the positive cheerleader in the group for those around you, that sometimes you just wanna be that one to say, “You know what? I give up, I’m going in the corner for the day.” But…
Michelle: Yeah. It’s like when you’re the owner, you don’t get to do that.
Michelle: You don’t get the cheerleader, you have to be the cheerleader.
JoyGenea: Well, and that’s that multiple hats thing. You aren’t just…you don’t get to put on the employee… Like nowhere in my closet anymore is the employee hat.
Michelle: Right. It doesn’t exist.
JoyGenea: It doesn’t exist anywhere. There’s no more whining because somebody else made me do something like…
Rhoda: Yeah. Yeah. Some days I do… You know, I’ll see a job posting somewhere and think, say, now that sounds interesting.
Michelle: I do the same thing.
JoyGenea: I do it too.
Rhoda: Just to be able to walk away for a while and let someone else make the decisions and…
Michelle: You’re like, “Yeah, I could work with crosstalk 00:16:40 .”
Michelle: If I could stock shelves overnight, that would be so awesome, all alone.
JoyGenea: I’ll admit Christmas time I do think about it. I’m like, “Oh man, those people have a life.”
00:16:59 Having and working with employees are one of the biggest challenge as a business owner
Rhoda: Yes. So, I would say that that’s probably…like, I don’t know that I could have done or would’ve done anything different, but we maybe should mentor beginning…people in the beginning, that that’s gonna be one of your biggest challenges, is having employees and working with employees.
00:17:26 As a business owner, you tend to be an all around staff
Michelle: And working side-by-side with them. You know, like, because there’s… A lot of times when people think of a business owner, they think of somebody who’s very removed from the daily operations of a business. But when you own a small business, especially like yours, I mean, you’re the head designer. You’re the chief customer service representative. You’re the person who… You know, you struggle to get your friends to stop texting you the flower orders and call them into the shop. Guilty as charged.
Rhoda: Oh, come on.
Michelle: But you’re the…like, you’re the person that ends up having to literally catch all of the things…
Michelle: …and be the one that is making the decisions and the one that is responsible for the decisions. Right?
00:18:12 As a leader, it is difficult to make decisions
Michelle: Like the thing we were kind of talking a little bit before the podcast started about gas. So one of the challenges that we were talking about was gas prices, you deliver flowers. Can you talk to me a little bit about your thought process there? Because as a leader, it must have been really difficult to think to yourself, “Well, this is cutting into my profit margin and yet I don’t wanna raise prices for our customers.”
00:18:34 Is it always fair to look at a consumer’s vantage point?
Rhoda: Yep. Yeah. That’s definitely the fine line because I sometimes have a hard time separating myself as the decision-maker, business owner, and the consumer, because I look at it probably too much from the consumer’s vantage point of, “Boy, are they gonna wanna pay that price?” But we hadn’t raised our prices in a couple of years, and so it was time to do that and we just have to make the decision and stand behind it and go with it. And then hopefully at some point, we’ll be able to drop it back down the dollar that we had to raise it.
Michelle: Wait a minute. Because there were so many supply problems with gifts, with supplies, with flowers themselves, there were growing problems. I mean, I remember reading things about growing seasons being off because the demand at the beginning of the pandemic was so high. You didn’t raise your prices through all of that? Waited until now.
Rhoda: Just the gas price till now.
Rhoda: The flower price we, you know, in the beginning, we took smaller margins hoping things would level out.
Rhoda: But as time went on, we did, you know, if there were certain flowers that maybe came from a certain place, and then the availability got harder to get, and so we didn’t do things all at once. You know, roses are really hard to get right…
Michelle: Like you stepped it… Yeah. You stepped into it a little bit.
Rhoda: Yeah. So…
JoyGenea: So it sounds like you really listen to the market. Like when the…
00:20:17 When handling a business, you need to weigh pros and cons
JoyGenea: You know, if something was consistently on a rise, you’re like, “Well, this gets passed on.” Like there’s just…you cannot continue. And that’s realistic about business, you cannot continue to absorb it. I am having some conversations with business owners right now, they’re like, “Well, I hate to raise the price.” I’m like, “I hate to look at your expenses. Like you really…” It’s like you’ve gotta get that you’ve let go of your margin and now we’re into the point of you’re going red, like this… Right. This isn’t acceptable. So I can tell you’ve been in business for 10 years and you’ve been through a few… There’s been a few rides in that process and it’s good to remember
00:20:58 Continuous learning
Rhoda: And listening to “Continuing Education,” you know, whether it’s… When you can jump into a conversation that they’re having about what’s going on in the industry right now, you know, one of our suppliers will do something once a month.
Rhoda: To whether it’s just a 20-minute webinar just to gain…you know, if you get one thing out of that 20 minutes, once a month, it’s worth it. And to be able to find out what peers are doing in different states, and maybe in cities my size, or…you know, and to know what’s going on… You know, we talked about the fact yesterday, if we have to help a customer send flowers in California, we have to know that we’ve gotta get a $20 charge for their delivery out in California because their gas is that much higher than ours.
Rhoda: So just staying in tune with what’s going on, not only in our industry but, you know, around the United States because we have flowers that come from all over. So…
Michelle: Okay. I have one final question for you, Rhoda.
Michelle: I don’t know if JoyGenea, do you have any more?
Michelle: But what do you wish every single customer who walked into your shop knew?
00:22:29 Being a florist is a hard job physically
Rhoda: I don’t know if I would say I wish they knew it. I think probably the biggest thing as a florist that is maybe not appreciated is how physically hard our job is. You know, there’s people that come in and it’s pretty and it smells good and it would be so much fun to work here. And it’s like, “You know what? We really do have a lot of fun, but you have to know you’re gonna be on your feet for a minimum of eight hours during this day, and you’re gonna put in a minimum of 10,000 steps and lift, you know, 30-pound buckets in each hand and carry them.” So I think we work in a beautiful industry, but I just don’t think, you know, you guys, knowing me and knowing what goes on in the flower shop know that it’s not just pushing paddles all day. There’s a lot of physical
Michelle: Well, you know, there is something to be said for that. There’s that saying that nobody wants to know how you make two things, laws and sausages. And I would say that flowers would be another one that you don’t wanna know what it took to get that bouquet together.
Michelle: The kind of inventory, the kind of storage, the kind of digging around, the kind of planning and thought. And also the tools, how rough it is on your hands, how much they’re in water. Like that’s gotta just be…
Michelle: And then there’s somebody behind it doing it by hand because there’s no other way to do it. That’s a person making that for you. It’s really cool when you think about it, that, you know, from something that’s maybe a little chaotic or a little messy, or a little challenging, comes these beautiful things. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Rhoda: Yeah. We probably work best when crosstalk 00:24:23
JoyGenea: Rhoda, I’m so glad you… Absolute pressure. Yes. I think you guys do. I just have to say, I could sit and chat with you much longer, but we always try and promise to keep this shorter, but thank you so much for being a guest with us today.
00:24:41 Visit St. Cloud Floral
JoyGenea: This has been wonderful. So St. Cloud Floral, this was Rhoda. If you need flowers, she’s gonna be the person we’re gonna recommend.
Michelle: Yes. So feel free…
Rhoda: Thank you, guys.
JoyGenea: Yes. Follow you on social media…
Michelle: crosstalk 00:24:55 St. Cloud Floral at stcloudfloral.com and on all of the socials and they’ve got a fantastic Instagram feed with gorgeous pictures. So make sure…
Rhoda: Thank you.
Michelle: …that you’re… You do. Make sure that you’re following If These Heels, you can subscribe and follow us as well, but you’ll wanna check out St. Cloud Floral and the amazing things that they’re doing there. Thank you, everybody.
JoyGenea: Thanks, everyone. Bye.
Michelle: Thank you. Bye.