Shelley Widrig has been an entrepreneur with her husband since 2008. It began with produce, expanded to flower preservation, fresh flowers and jewelry created from flowers. Shelley has business management training to support what she does. You can reach Shelley at her website (www.Forever-Floral.com), by phone at (607) 483-5776 or by email at ForeverFloral@rocketmail.com.
How did you get to this place?
Shelley Widrig worked a full time job in Traffic Control, Scheduling in the sales department and then in credit at a major manufacturing company when she opened a business with her spouse distributing fruits and vegetables from local farmers. They began working from their home and delivering to people’s homes. In 2012, they opened a produce stand in Nichols, NY. Produce is a seasonal business and they needed something to extend their business to year round. Shelley was searching the internet and discovered flower preservation. The only competition would have been in Binghamton, but that business had closed. She had always loved flowers and thought this could be a good niche for her. It was a ‘whimsical idea’ that Shelly had. Most of the preservation work is done in the winter months anyway. The equipment required to preserve the fresh flowers can only run during the winter months because of how much it heats up.
Fresh flowers were added to expand the income revenue. It also supports the idea of flower preservation. Another opportunity opened up to add another produce location in Waverly and eventually the jewelry made from flowers rounded out the offering.
What have been your greatest achievements in your business?
Being able to expand my business and keep it going all these years has been a big achievement. I ran the produce business alone this past summer since my husband had another job doing landscaping and building maintainance.
What have been your greatest stumbling blocks in your business?
My business is marketing and that is a big downfall for me. It was a downfall in college too. It was my most difficult class. Especially in this area, word of mouth is very important. You have to be willing to talk about your business and what you do.
I am on social media, but I find I don’t have time to do it. I’m not as computer literate as I should be, too.
Tell us more about your Brick & Mortar experience over the past summer.
I wanted a building location in order to expand my business into a different area with foot traffic. I found a place 10 minutes away in Owego. We renovated to make it look like a flower shop – paint inside & outside, carpeting throughout, tongue & groove flooring half way up the walls – things like that. We did a banner as a temporary sign because Owego requires a permit for anything permanent. We added a lot of character to the place and invested quite a bit.
However, it did not give me enough of the street traffic I was looking for and we were not able to sustain enough business to cover our expenses. So rather than struggle through the winter eating up the money we had, we decided to break the lease and close up. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.
Do people have any misconceptions about you or your business?
I don’t think people realize how much time it takes to preserve the flowers or the investment I have in the equipment to preserve the flowers. You have to pre-treat the flowers to hold the colors. Electric costs are huge in this area and that powers the machine I use. The cost of the machine alone if I were to purchase it now would be over $50,000. People think this is just drying flowers.
I also have to disassemble the bouquets in order to process them for preservation. Also, each flower type has to be treated differently. Some you pre-treat, some you don’t. Different colors require different treatments, especially the reds and oranges and yellows. Flower preservation is expensive.
I make sure to talk about the cost of an average piece before we do anything so that people have an idea what they are looking at. Out of every four people I talk with, one will decide to have it done.
Another misconception people have is they do not have to be local in order for me to preserve their bouquet. They can overnight them to me. I have preserved flowers and sent them all over the country.
If you could have a Do-Over, what would you do differently?
I would begin my business more organized and with more knowledge about the business. However, there never was anyone locally I could go to and get advice about a flower preservation business. I did have a business plan when I began. I veered off that plan getting distracted with other things. It would have been better to make the plan the ‘law’ in running my business.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully, with a brick and mortar with foot traffic that we can call our own and do things we want to do with the business. We have a produce stand now, but that’s a tent. We would want to be autonomous.