COVID Creativity - Studley's Flower Gardens
Business Name: Studley's Flower Gardens
Client Name: Molly Meulenbroek
Location: Rochester, NH
SBDC Advisor: Warren Daniel
Like the flowers and plants they sell, Studley Flower Gardens, located in downtown Rochester, has been growing and flourishing since 1928.
Founded by Joshua Studley, Studley’s roots began as a traditional florist shop, but when Molly Meulenbroek’s in-laws purchased Studley’s in the ’70s, they had a bigger vision; one that would provide year-round revenue.
That’s when they expanded the beloved local florist shop to include a garden center and landscape services, offering personalized service and customized solutions for every flower and garden lover’s needs and interests.
A business that’s been around for over 90 years takes love, care, dedication, and vision, and clearly, the owners of Studley’s have done just that. But, as any business owner can attest, a little support can go a long way.
That’s what co-owners, Molly, Jeffrey (her husband), and David (Jeffrey’s brother) found when they took over the family business in 2008. After years of working at Studley’s, the three felt confident in their ability to take this thing and run with it.
With the recession of 2008 though, they quickly discovered where their challenges were. Operations? Piece of cake! Finances? Not so much.
With the recession pressures placed on a retail business, the co-owners needed help and in 2010, they found it in Warren Daniel, Seacoast Regional Director at NH SBDC.
“Warren was really great to work with,” states Molly. “I learned a lot about finance management from him. He has so much knowledge and really helped us better understand cash flow, balance sheets, and all of that.”
And a few years later, when Studley’s was ready to renovate their retail space, they turned to Warren again for guidance in securing financing for the project.
Molly adds, “It’s always nice to know SBDC is available.”
Now when COVID emerged last year, it was uncharted territory for everyone, let alone the folks who have small businesses to run.
Luckily, both retail florists and garden centers were considered essential per the state department of agriculture, so Studley’s did not have to close.
Molly shares, “In the first few weeks, we did experience a sharp drop in sales, but as we approached April, we began to see a steady climb in sales, exceeding our expectations.”
All good news for Studley’s, but they were still faced with the challenge of cash flow at a time of year when they are generally the most strapped for cash.
See…they had already invested for the spring season, so there was so much uncertainty around whether they’d be able to actually get the products into customers’ hands.
With guidance from Warren, Studley’s was thankful to receive relief from funds available in the PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) and the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan), which helped with the cash flow needed to get over that hump.
“The PPP loan helped us maintain our staffing levels during our crucial spring season in the garden center,” says Molly. “Without the PPP loan, we would have been challenged to maintain the level of staffing needed to produce and sell through our garden center season. As a result, we experienced one of our busiest spring seasons.”
Molly credits SBDC for helping early in the pandemic to navigate the various funding sources available to small businesses.
In addition to funding relief, Studley’s got creative.
They switched to curbside pickup only, offered no contact delivery, and given that their garden center was full of outdoor products, they offered safe shopping and checkout outside.
Because the bulk of their sales from April to June were from the garden center, Studley’s did not feel the pressure to reopen the interior of their retail store until the end of June, giving them time to make sure it was safe to have customers inside.
Additionally, with an already established strong online presence and a well-developed eCommerce site, Studley’s simply added a few features to make the online shopping process easier. Connecting with customers through their website and social media, Studley’s rose to the COVID challenge and grew revenue.
So, what does the future look like for Studley’s? According to Molly, “The future is looking pretty good.”
They are excited to see the renewed interest in plants with so many new people starting to garden. Molly is proud to also share that they are the featured NH business in Google’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, which just launched this spring. Take a look at the report HERE.
She looks forward to working with Warren again this fall, along with Ed Miles, Business Advisor, on projections for the next three years.
Molly concludes as she reflects on the depth of knowledge at SBDC, “SBDC has so many resources available at no cost. You’re provided the tools; you just have to be willing to do the work.”
Learn more about Studley Flower Gardens by visiting studleys.com.
This client story is part of NH SBDC's ongoing collection of COVID Creativity stories about businesses surviving and thriving during COVID-19.