When Christina Caruthers came across the for sale listing on Craigslist, she knew flowers and weddings would be her next great adventure. "For my husband and I, starting a new venture is all about the challenge," she said. "We can't sit still. The minute we slow down, we're looking for our next adventure." That adventure became official on June 1st, 2018 when Caruthers acquired all of the assets to Blossom Bokay Florist, a well-established florist providing flowers and plants for every imaginable occasion.
For Caruthers, a Volusia County native, her entrepreneurial journey started well before purchasing Blossom Bokay Florist. "I actually used to own a different florist in 2000," she said. "I always loved flowers. My mom did flowers for weddings and inspired me to do the same. We were only open for a year, but we did well. We'd have three to four weddings per weekend. We also rented out equipment. When my three kids came along, I sold the business to focus on raising them."
Caruthers eventually got back into business and today, she and her husband Wendell, in addition to owning Blossom Bokay Florist, own and operate an auto paint supply store, a welding and fabrication company and actively manage 20-25 commercial and residential rental properties. All three businesses were started from the ground up and are, in large part, fueled by Caruther's perseverance and 'can do' attitude.
"My husband is a paint and body man," she said. "He had a small shop when I first met him, but got into some financial trouble. He shut it down and worked full-time for someone else. At the time, we lived with my mom to save money. I got us some accounts doing paint and auto body work with an aunt and uncle, which led to even more business. Outside of his day-job, Wendell worked as much as possible. He basically worked seven days a week for several years. We eventually got a house, paid off debt and started our other businesses."
In addition to running Blossom Bokay Florist, Caruthers serves as property manager for their rental business. She spent years in the early days shadowing plumbers and repairmen hoping to pick up a few things. It worked. She not only collects rent, fills vacancies and shows the houses to prospective tenants, she's also capable of doing drywall repairs, laying tile and doing minor electrical and plumbing work. According to Caruthers, the only way to make a decent profit in the rental property business is to learn how to do most of the repairs yourself.
When it comes to flowers, Caruthers loves the design piece and the fact that she gets to create something from a blank pallet. She also really enjoys making people smile. "Since I've been the owner, I've had three people call and personally thank me for the flowers," she said. "I've even brought tears to someone's eyes. It's very rewarding." What she doesn't enjoy is the slow season and offers up some great advice for weathering the lulls. "You absolutely have to be prepared for that. You need plenty of working capital. Your business can be successful if you do it the right way."
We asked Caruthers about buying an existing business and what takeaways she could share. "Do your research," she said. "That's the biggest piece. Do your research and your homework and make sure you understand the numbers. Know exactly what the business does weekly, monthly and yearly. People think they can buy a business and it's going to be immediately successful. Don't count on it. You need a plan to do a ton of marketing, starting on day one."
Looking ahead, Caruthers would like to focus more on the wedding side of the business. She wants to build out her inventory of wedding supplies such as archways, columns and candelabras. She's even building a separate website geared exclusively towards weddings. She's currently identifying ways to best market that side of the business.
What advice does Caruthers have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "It's exciting, but it's also scary to own a business," she said. "You need to build a nest egg first. It's important to have a cushion. Don't quit your day job and think you're going to open a business and get rich. Work on your own business after you go home from your day job. Don't be afraid to work at night and on the weekends. Once you establish yourself, then you can consider quitting your day job. If you're afraid to work extra hours, then business ownership is not for you. Lastly, never give up!"