Amanda Wojtas combined her love of fashion with flowers as a way to make people happy. Eternal Fleur arrangements are real flowers that last one year without water or sunlight. Here’s how her business continues to blossom.
Creative and committed entrepreneurs can make their businesses blossom. Case in point: Amanda Wojtas, founder of Eternal Fleur.
Her company specializes in real floral arrangements that (almost magically) last at least one year without water or sunlight. Wojtas launched the business in her New York City apartment in December 2017.
“Before I started Eternal Fleur, I wasn’t happy,” says Wojtas, a graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology. “At the time, I was working for an ‘as seen on TV’ company, and it wasn’t at all fulfilling. So, I decided to start my own business, but I wondered what I could do that was related to fashion. I had seen a trend on Instagram where models from Russia were holding big bunches of flowers, and then I came across a suppler offering preserved roses. The idea hit me; it all came together. I knew flowers made people happy and they’re still fashion-related.”
However, success wasn’t easy or immediate for Wojtas. Even though getting the business off the ground required all of her energy, the first year netted her negative-$250. Year two, however, came with a very positive $840,000.
As her business flourishes, Wojtas makes sure she’s giving back to the community. The majority of her employees are women and she’s made it her mission to amplify female voices.
In response to the pandemic, Eternal Fleur has been donating its Votive Blooms to New York Hospitals. Wojtas also created the black Mini Bloom Four Season Rose to support Black Lives Matter, and she donates 10% of every purchase to ActBlue Charities.
To grow Eternal Fleur, Wojtas needed a tool that would help her fertilize her dreams. A couple of great credit cards did just that.
See related: Smile magic thanks to some credit card savvy
Can you tell me more about that challenging first year?
We were handling everything from customer service to fulfilling the orders. In the beginning, it was quite hard to scale and grow as we were operating off revenue only. We had no access to working capital.
Everything was being done in my apartment. However, after Valentine’s Day, we were able to rent a small storefront where we moved our operations.
There were major expenses we had to cover. One was renovating the storefront. It ended up costing more than expected, which delayed our process of opening up the storefront to the public for about five months. We didn’t have any more funding to purchase fixtures or the furniture we had envisioned!
So, you used credit cards?
Yes, I opened the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card and, in the beginning, we would charge goods if we were still waiting to be paid by our merchant processor. But after opening the Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card, we were able to purchase the fixtures and furniture that we had planned for the store.
What are the kinds of items you charge now?
Eventually, we ended up using the credit cards to pay for advertising, travel and meals. We put a lot on the cards each month. It’s a very arts and crafts type of process, so all the flowers, packaging, vases, outside packaging, shipping boxes, special oils and note cards go on the cards.
The good thing is that both of the credit cards we use for Eternal Fleur have rewards. I usually use the cash and points for business travel.
Do you pay off your cards in full every month?
No, for the credit cards we typically keep a revolving balance. We need the capital because we’re growing. But we always make the payments on time. My credit report is very important to me because I want a term loan soon – you need good credit for that.
To manage everything, including the bills, we use Quickbooks software. I look over the finances occasionally, but the company has a CFO and a CPA. I trust them to handle everything.
What are your future plans for the business?
Our main objective right now is to bring investors on board so we can scale and grow Eternal Fleur. We have a lot of new designs and ventures lined up that we plan to execute in 2021.
My aim is to make Eternal Fleur into the next 1-800-Flowers-type market and have more gifts available on the website. I also want to do more custom bouquets, and design things that are extra special. I’d like to create fragrances, too.
Any advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Be consistent and persistent in everything you do and never give up. There will be days where you feel like the most successful person and then there will be days where you feel like your world is falling apart. This is all a part of the journey.
If you have a vision, make sure you write it down and create a plan before you execute. And always keep an agenda.
Regarding money, make a business plan and budget before executing. You want to ensure you have enough cash for the months to come – or at least have a plan in place.
As a small business owner, what have you learned about charging and borrowing money?
When you borrow money, make sure you read the fine print on the contracts. If you are unsure about what you are signing, then have an attorney review it before you sign.
For credit cards, do anything that’s automatic to help build your credit. There is no point in just using your checking account money because you won’t be building your credit history that way. Pay for things like inventory with a credit card and then use the money in your checking or savings account to make the payment. It’s simple and it makes a big difference!