The owners of Achara Florist and Fine Gifts, located in Stafford, VA, have never liked resting on their laurels. Tom and Teresa Reed decided that if they weren't pushing their business forward, what was the point? Below is an interview about Achara Florist and their decision to partner with a larger company.
Why Did You Start Your Initial Business and What Prompted Your Change?
We had always wanted to have our own business. We were raising our children and sometimes I spoke about how neat it would be to have our own business one day. Our daughter was entering her senior year in college, so all three of them were almost out the door and independent people, and the opportunity came up. We knew the prior owners of Achara Florist for years and they said they were selling their business. So Tom talked to me and we decided that we could jump in. We purchased the business in January of 2006. For years I had a great interest in doing silk floral arrangements and made wreaths for everyone in the neighborhood. During the Gulf War I was a yellow bow maker and loved being creative that way. When the opportunity came up, we purchased it and haven’t looked back since. It’s interesting that we were customers first and then we became owners. It was such a great shop with a great line of gifts. Stafford never had anything else like what our shop provides.
What Sets Your Line of Gifts Apart from Bigger Stores?
We carry a unique line of gifts. A lot of the gift lines aren’t sold at big places like Wal-Mart. Instead of going for the big name brands we have found that people are intrigued by local products, like the jewelry line made by people right here in Stafford. They like that the items are unique. Instead of having huge displays in the store of a gigantic number of things, we like to have a lot of smaller displays with a smaller amount of items. We also have a funny corner of unique men’s gifts. My husband’s tag when he was in the Marine Corps was Bubba since nobody could understand his southern accent. For example, coasters which look like the top of a bullet. We also have a nice line of gift sets that are of higher quality.
What Skills Have Helped With the Daily Operation of Your Business?
I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years and when I finally got all the kids in high school I went to work for a financial planner, but when we moved to Stafford, Tom was actually working for American Military University and it was sort of a startup in a basement. Tom and I both worked there and I became the director of financial aid and I was with them for 10 years. As director of financial aid I managed about 30 people and I managed around a million dollars, so I learned a lot of financial aspects of running a business. When you work in a situation where you manage people you begin to develop skills that are necessary where you’re running a business. As for Tom, after 20 years in the Marine Corps you always seem to be a manager. In my last post I was a manager of various people and learned how to manage people, demote and promote, and when I retired we moved back to Stafford. I went into real estate and I was only there for about three years. I found myself working seven days a week and I wanted to see my family more. So I decided to take some time off and that’s when I ran into my friend who started the American Military University. Eventually I worked a few jobs and learned a number of different traits from each.
How Do You Give Back to Local Businesses?
It’s a win-win really. Everything you do has to be a win-win. For the craftspeople who make the jewelry it gives them a chance to display it. And it gives me an opportunity to have a unique line in my shop and I know they won’t be going anywhere else. Financially it draws in a unique line of people and offers customers something they can’t find anywhere else. You have to think about your business, as well as other people. Word of mouth spreads and everything you do should be beneficial to both parties. Never enter into a partnership which hurts one side. It seems like the right avenue to go through. We also help the academic community and we always support people who come in asking for donations. It definitely helps community. We’re always here and we like to help and be a part of the community. Tom and I think it’s very important that, if you’re going to be a member of the community, you need to be in it 100%. You can’t expect to take from your community and give noting back.
How Did You Decide to Partner with 1-800-FLOWERS?
It’s one of those things where we have owned the business for a long time and we have built a good reputation and we get to the point where we want to see just how far we can take things. We look forward to a challenge and always want to grow your business. If you get to a point where you’re comfortable and there’s nothing new then all the fun goes out of it. You want to always feel motivated. That was one of our big things. We wanted to grow the business and see how far we could take things. There are a lot of moving parts to the deal so we will be doing some expansions and training. Hopefully by September we will be ready for action.
What Was the Process of Changing to a Franchise and What Advice Would You Offer Other Businesses?
It is a process. Tom researched a lot and we had to meet and talk with the 1-800-FLOWER representatives. They had to look around the shop to see if they wanted to partner with us. There was a lot of talking back and forth. Sometimes when you’re asking questions you learn that you have a lot more questions coming up. It was about a six or seven month process overall. It doesn’t happen overnight. Neither party jumps in without asking questions and learning about each other. We felt honored to be chosen from the group. We were impressed by how they do business and how they supported their people.
What About the Stafford/DMV Area is Unique and Why Is It a Good Place to Open a Business?
Tom was transferred here around 20 years ago. When we moved here it was a pretty sleepy community. Since that time the area has grown in leaps and bounds. People move out of D.C. and try to move a little farther from the city and settle here. There are a lot of office complexes which have popped up and a lot of government contractors are here, so families buy homes and move here. The county has grown a lot and is very aware of the needs of families. When we moved here there was one high school and now there are five. All of this is what drives our income here. The opportunities here are endless in my opinion and the government seems to know it and is trying to help support new businesses. It’s a great place to be. We still have enough country where you don’t feel like you’re being stifled by the big city. This area just had everything we wanted here. The community has formed around us so to speak. Stafford is a great place to look if you’re trying to open a business. People around here are almost starving for new shops and restaurants. People aren’t interested in getting out on the busy I-95. If a business is done right, it probably won’t fail here to be honest.