Marquette, MI – 11/03/2019 – This week I was able to meet with Sarah Ruuska, the owner of Lutey’s Flower Shop, to discuss small business ownership. In this interview, Sarah offers great tips and insights into what it’s like to own a local business in Marquette. We discuss how she got started, issues with running a small business, and why giving back to the community is important.
What is your background and experience?
I started working at a flower shop in Escanaba when I was in high school. When I came to Northern as a freshman in college I needed a job, so I came to Lutey’s. They hired me on the spot! I worked here for about nine years. Then my husband and I ended up buying it the year after we got married (1996). I didn’t really have schooling for this, I had on the job training. I got a fashion merchandising degree from Northern. It had a lot of business courses and accounting classes, so in the end I guess that did help me.
What percentage of business that you receive is local?
I don’t know the percent off the top of my head. We’re a part of FTD, so we get orders from other flower shops across the country. We also get online orders off of our website, so those can be ordered from people anywhere. We have a lot of walk in traffic as well as local people calling in. A big part of it is local.
What do you feel a small business needs to do to be successful in Marquette?
Customer service is really important. Having the best product that you can find is also important. Price is always an issue, but product can often trump price. You need something that you can stand behind, and that you know the quality is there. But Customer service is the most important. People talk, and if they’re treated poorly people are going to talk. Also, in whatever way you can, giving back to the community or doing something to promote.
With the theme of giving back to the community, do you want to talk about Petal it Forward?
It’s done once a year, and this is our third year doing it. Many florist in all 50 states participated this year. It’s promoted by the Society of American Florists, and it’s a day to spread friendship and goodwill in communities. This year we did three hundred bouquets. We went out in the community and gave 150 random people two bouquets. One to keep, one to petal forward to somebody that they knew or don’t know. It’s one of my most favorite days just because people don’t expect it.
How has technological advances helped or hurt your business?
Well there’s both. With Facebook, it’s made marketing super easy and super reasonable. I like doing all different types of advertising, but TV is so expensive you can’t as a small business. Maybe occasionally, but it’s hard. I do some print, I do some radio, but it’s just hard to do that as often as we used to because of cost. So I like Facebook for that, but you have to do the other ones as well because not everybody is on social media. So you have to find the balance. As far as technology goes, a con would be that there are so many online flower ordering businesses, where you can have flowers dropped at your door. Usually the quality isn’t the best.
What are the biggest issues with running your business?
Just trying to keep cost low. Labor is something you have to really watch. It’s nice to have extra employees on, but you have to stop and think, do I need this extra help. Some days you do, and some days you don’t. I have employees that work extra when I need them. I just have two employees right now, besides myself. I have a lot of people that have worked here in the past, and some family, that will come and help around the holidays. During the holidays we employ about 15 people. So labor is one of the key things, and then product. I don’t shop around two much because I like consistency and I don’t like to get a product that I don’t know the grower. I need to rely on what I know. So just kind of keep an eye on cost. There are some things that you can’t control like rent, heat, and things like that. But there are some things you can, and you just have to watch for them.
Why do customers choose you over competitors?
I have a lot of people that say we have a great selection of flowers. Our shop is tiny, but it’s full. We have good customer service. We stand by our product. We’re nice, and helpful to people. We’ll do a lot of last minute deliveries. I’ve done deliveries at 7 in the morning, or at midnight. Do I want to do that all the time? No, but if that’s the only time that works for them I will. We try to just really work with our customers.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
I always hope to be busier. More business means I could employ somebody else, so I hope to grow. We definitely have room for growth.
Do you have any advice for future business owners?
Don’t get too big too fast. Make sure you think about cost before going into a business. Look at what competitors you have in the area you’re wanting to own a business, and make sure there’s a need for what you’re doing or wanting to do.
Sarah’s passion for her business really stood out to me during this interview. She offered great advice that could benefit anyone that might be thinking about starting their own business. If you’re interested in getting in touch with Sarah for any floral needs you can check out their website luteysflowershop.co or their Facebook Page.
For more interviews with people in the Marquette area, visit my blog The Weekly Talk.