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Sunshine Flowers International

Sunshine Flowers International, Patricia Valencia

Title / Role: President
Location: San Francisco, California
My successes.

Our company has existed since 1986 and has been at the San Francisco Flower Mart since 2008. We are a mother-and-daughter-owned business servicing many loyal customers over the past 30 years.

I am a native of Bogota, Columbia, and founded Sunshine Flowers International. In the mid-1980s, I moved to California and completed my degree in Business Administration from San Francisco State University, with an emphasis in importing and marketing. After that, I embarked on importing cut flowers from Colombia. 

I was the first female business owner and flower importer at the San Francisco Flower Mart. 

My daughter, Patricia Araujo Clay, studied Architecture and received a B.F.A in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, and she has been exhibiting her works annually in San Francisco since the late 1990s.  

Patricia has been running Sunshine's flower company alongside me for over a decade. She specializes in handling the distribution and sales of cut flowers, working directly with the growers and assisting customers with their orders. 

We work together and hold contacts with the elite flower growers in South America, visiting there annually to evaluate new products in person. 

Sunshine Flowers International’s legacy has been offering fresh cut flowers imported from Colombia and Ecuador, primarily specializing in roses and hydrangeas to distribute at the San Francisco Flower Mart and servicing flower shops, event planners, online ordering and walk-in customers.

What do you do?

We are a flower importer at the San Francisco Flower Market.  We import high-quality flowers from Colombia and Ecuador and sell them to Florists, Vendors, and Event planners. We offer premium fresh, beautiful roses and hydrangeas.

We are customer detail-oriented and cater to each visitor. We love to hear what customers want and try to fulfill their orders as best as possible. I think what sets up apart from other vendors is our personalized service. We maintain a very clean stall, have fun re-arranging products, and love sharing the excitement of new arrivals of cut flowers with our customers.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was a student of International Business at San Francisco State University in 1987. In one of the classes on Import/Export, I was asked to do a project on importing from my country Colombia.  Since I knew the flowers were in demand, I started the business by implementing the project selling to the San Francisco Flower Market Wholesalers.  I started the business in 1986, and my daughter Patricia Araujo Clay joined the business full-time in 2015.  I now handle the administrative tasks, and Patricia Araujo Clay handles sales and operations.  We both meet regularly with our SCORE Mentor.

What's special about your business?

Our business is unique because of our large variety of high-quality flowers, especially roses; their colors are perfect for weddings. We give every customer a personalized service; we are detail-oriented and reliable. We love roses and hydrangeas!

What influenced you to seek help from SCORE?

We met our wonderful SCORE Mentors in 2020 when the pandemic hit. We were so fortunate to have them help us navigate all the challenges, and we came ahead better than before due to their constant, reliable advice and care.  We began working with Susan Lundy and then Mitchell Grunat.  We continue to work with Mitchell, who helped us make 2022 a great success.

How SCORE helped.

What has been the high of our business is customer loyalty.  We have had customers for more than 30 years and now continuing with second-generation customers.  We are like family.  

The lows, of course, when the pandemic hit it was very precarious for us because we had to throw away a lot of products worth thousands of dollars, and we had very high accounts receivable and customers who could not pay their bills. Our SCORE mentor helped us work out payment plans with suppliers and customers.  We were also impacted by the recession in 2008, which was difficult. But we overcame it.

What's great about my mentor?

We cannot express our appreciation for Mitchell’s help during all these three years.  Our sales have grown immensely, and our relationship with our customers is getting better and better. Our outlook for the future is very optimistic.

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE?

We would encourage them to plan carefully with the help of SCORE in every business area. Each aspect is equally important: sales, buying, customer relations, accounting, goal setting and tracking, taxes and cash flow projection, profit margins, and online presence.

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner?

Owning a business is a great investment if you manage it responsibly.  It gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment and is there with you for as long as you want it.  We feel it has given us a sense of continuity and security.

455 Market St Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94105 US
(415) 764-4964

Copyright © 2024 SCORE Association,

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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