A "ONE-OF-A-KIND" IN VICTOR, IOWA
Linda Jack feels a sense of accomplishment each day when she opens the doors of Flower Connections in Victor, Iowa. Linda’s store is a one-of-a-kind shop that has done well for twenty years despite a "new economy" that has been rather unkind to the small towns of America. Towns like the picturesque Victor.
In fact, Linda beams with pride knowing she has bucked the trend. "Loving what I do and the people I do it for," says Linda, "is the reason I continue in spite of uncertainty." This is her story of success.
Linda knows no other home than Victor. She was born and raised on a farm just three miles south of town. Her childhood dreams of being a teacher or a beautician required more schooling, and that was out of reach for this small town girl. After high school, she held various jobs and experienced miles of driving to work in Grinnell and Brooklyn. Linda married and started her family. Wanting to drive less and be near her growing family, she started her own cleaning business.
In a not-so-nice garage in downtown Victor, there was a flower shop, the only flower shop in town. More than twenty years ago, prior to Mother's Day, one of the busiest holidays for the flower business, Linda got a call for temporary help from the owner. The woman owner agreed to let Linda work during the hours that did not conflict with her cleaning business. Linda's talent for creativity, making things that are neat and clean, came to the surface. She fell in love with the flower business.
Linda drove home in tears on her last day of work after six weeks in the flower garage. There was a brief ray of sunshine when she discovered that the owners of the Victor flower store were opening another store in Brooklyn. She hoped this would be an opportunity to continue her newfound vocation, but the owners hired someone else to manage the store.
Opportunity presents itself
She continued her own business of professional cleaning, which included cleaning men's toilets. One night, in a particularly dirty toilet, Linda backed up to the wall, tears streaming down her cheeks; she called out "God, there has to be something more for me to do than this." Less than twenty four hours later, the phone rang. It was the husband of the Victor Flower Shop owner; he asked Linda if she wanted to buy the business. He wanted her decision within a few hours; she begged for more time and they agreed. This time allowed Linda to spend six weeks in training at the Chicago Flower Design Studio.
In February 1988, Linda bought the business including inventory, a cooler, and a cash register—only the cooler remains. Linda had no money, but loads of ambition and excitement as she began to look for a location that would be better than a garage. She wanted to rent space, not buy, but the owners of the building she chose only wanted to sell and they gave her a good price.
Adapting to Change
The building at 219 Washington Street was big and empty. Funerals, school activities, and holidays did not bring in enough income to keep the flower business alive. Linda knew she must expand into other areas to make her business survive and to keep the citizens of Victor and surrounding towns as customers. Gradually, Linda added home décor, pictures, Christmas decorations, candles, and gift items to accent a home during the holidays and changing seasons.
Over the past twenty years, Flower Connections evolved with the wants and needs of the buyers. Linda did whatever it would take to make her business successful.
She had open houses, half price sales when necessary, and continued to vary the inventory. Now, she offers personal items, such as lotion, jewelry, purses and some clothing. She has created a children's area (pictured to left) that delights the little ones and of course, the grandmas.
Have there been problems? Of course. The local grocery store closed causing the Victor residents to shop in near by towns. Walmart opened in close vicinity selling similar merchandise at cheaper prices. It has not been easy and each day she asks herself, "What should, and can, I do next?"
If you ask Linda what she would tell a stranger about her business, she would say, "I sell happiness, either something you wear on your body or enjoy in your home.” When you enter Flower Connections, you feel the warmth, the beauty, the excitement—all that represents happiness. Linda and her staff enthusiastically greet you as you enter; their smiles let you know this is where you want to be. It is very likely they will call you by name.
Calling SCORE – Friendly help
In 2005, Linda (left, in picture to left) called SCORE after reading about the organization in a magazine. She wanted to bounce her ideas off an unbiased counselor and ask for recommendations as to how to continue her business. Linda says, “I was able to ask for a counselor I could relate to.
SCORE responded with the right one. As a woman client I was able to work with a woman counselor and that worked well for me.” Kathy McArtor was that counselor (above, right). It was obvious to Kathy that Linda ran her business with her heart and she made suggestions as to how she might continue to do so. Kathy keeps in touch with Linda by an annual phone call. For Linda, this is proof that SCORE counselors will listen and they really care about your success.
Twenty years of selling happiness to Victor residents gives Linda the right to share some tips about running a small business. “You need to love what you are doing and give 110% at all times. The desire must come from the heart. Treat your customers as if they are guests in your home. A small business is like a family and you need to treat your employees as if they are part of your family.”
There is no question that Linda's talents of creativity, drive, optimism, boundless determination and an ability to adapt have helped this natural businesswoman. She will tell you that building a business is exciting and that her biggest surprise is that she is still in business after twenty years.
To us at SCORE, however, Linda's past 20 years come as no surprise. Linda is simply one of the people that “have it.” They work hard, they grow and they ask for help when it is needed. That's what it takes to be a business success story.
VISIT LINDA'S SHOP IN VICTOR, IOWA !
If you ever find yourself in the area or nearby in the outlet mall at Williamsburg, why not take an easy, interesting jaunt over to Victor. It is one of Iowa's wonderful small towns. In the middle of the city you will find Linda Jack's warm and unique Flower Connections. Find out how welcoming she can be and learn how a small business succeeds from someone that has.
VICTOR IS LOCATED 1 MILE OFF INTERSTATE 80, AT EXIT 205 (WEST OF THE I-380 AND WILLIAMSBURG EXITS.) ROAD IS "V38", THEN 1 MILE NORTH. EASY.