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Succession Planning for Real

January 31, 2019

Many clients need succession planning but neglect it until it is too late. Recently I met a young lady that had succeeded to her family’s business that was established in 1935. She is the fourth generation and I would like to share her story.

Kimberly Denis grew up in her family’s business and started working there when she was 8 years old. They owned a floral and liquor store called Wine & Roses. She would come in and sweep floors, fill the water tubes for roses, file orders and even fill up the beer fridge. She always enjoyed the aspect of helping customers and getting to know them. The customers were like family and she always loved being a part of all the important moments in their lives, both happy and sad.

Here is the rest of the story in her own words:

“I started helping customers as soon as I was allowed on the sales floor. It probably wasn’t the best idea in some instances, I mean who wants a 12 year old recommending a smooth flavorful Pinot Noir to them. But, I have to say I sold a lot. Also flowers were easy to sell; our designers were amazing.

Fast forward some years, I went to college at Penn State and in 2014 graduated with my degree in Marketing/International Business. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do career wise but I had interned with Kohl’s the previous summers and they made me a good offer so I took it. While in college, I noticed the tension building back home and within the family business. When I returned home I started working at Kohls and in between my shifts helping out at Wine & Roses. Although I had no clue how to fix the mess we were in with huge debt and the business in steep decline, I knew I needed to try. Something in my heart was keeping me there and told me to keep pushing. I firmly believe things happen for a reason and that God has a plan for us. That same fall Kohl’s transferred me to open up a new store in Long Island. No offense to any Long Islanders but, I had no desire to live there. Plus, I had just met Will and we were newly dating [they were married last September]. It just did not feel like the right fit or career move. So after working my 22 hour shift for Black Friday, I told them I was leaving the company. I then went home to my family and told them I was going to take over part of the business. I was met with very mixed reactions and multiple family members actually thought I was insane. But my immediate family, my brother Stephen, dad and mom banded together and we decided to forge ahead.

With a lot of blood, sweat, tears and drama (It was owned by my Dad and his brother and the split was not as pretty as we would have liked) Denis Flowers LLC was re-born. I say re-born, because my great grandparents started the flower shop in NYC in 1935 and that is where our story began. We sold off the liquor license to pay back debt and returned to our roots and the original name. In the spring of 2015, My brother and I found a little location in the back of a building down the block from where Wine & Roses was. As soon as I opened the door to the space, I envisioned the shop. Although it was completely gutted and nobody had ever had ever had a store there, I knew this was our space and it also had ample parking so that was huge. We had no money for the build out, but thankfully my brother is an electrician and with a lot of great friends you learn to be resourceful when you need to be. Together we built the store. Again, many people doubted us, I was 22 at the time with no real life business experience and we were renting a store in the back of a building, but I honestly think that was they best motivation. The majority of our business was over the phone, online and everyone uses Google Maps to find you so we weren’t scared of the location. It was also the best way to keep overhead low. We could not afford a prime location.

So that was 2015, and we are entering our 4th year in this location. The business has grown tremendously, we do floral parties and we are adding new designs, products and special services. I am still working out some kinks, this industry is tough with low profit margins and very high competition. But I still have that gut feeling in me that I am doing the right thing and to continue to push through. I have a wonderful team with me, which includes my Dad, two amazingly talented designers who took this journey with us from Wine & Roses even when I could not pay them what they deserved. We have added a few other key team members along the way and without them, we would not be here. There have been a lot of obstacles, tears and doubts, but I think that if we keep pushing we are going to find our sweet spot.”

This is a great story and thanks, Kim, for sharing it. It just goes to show that the entrepreneurial spirit still shines. BTW, if you are in Bergen County NJ, check it out at 185D Madison Avenue, New Milford, NJ, 07646, (201) 262-9463 and their great website www.denisflowers.com. They accept orders on line and by telephone, and deliver everywhere.

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