In fifth grade, Tyler Arkens helped out during Green Bay Floral’s busy seasons. Jayme and Sheila Kujava, the owners, were glad to have extra hands as they managed the family-owned business that had been in the Kujava family for more than 80 years.
A few weeks ago, Arkens and his wife, Lauren, became the new owners. It was the culmination of a dream that had been part of Tyler’s life through grade and high school.
“In 2011 when I was downsized from my job, I really took that as an opportunity to sit back and reflect on my life,” Arkens said. “I started to feel like I wasn’t built to work for someone, and that’s when I began to consider entrepreneurship and thought of Green Bay Floral.”
He considered purchasing the business in 2012, but the timing wasn’t right. As he moved on to jobs in recruiting and sales, the possibility of owning Green Bay Floral stayed with him. Last fall, he and his wife got serious. They came to terms with the Kujavas and Arkens started training.
Assistance was provided by SCORE’s partner, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Small Business Development Center. The Kujavas are sticking around for the near future to help with training.
“Jayme and Sheila are there every day," Arkens said. "There’s so much tribal knowledge — this business has been here since 1929. They’ve been great at offering the help we need when we need it, and although we admittedly don’t agree with everything, it’s been a good mix.”
He compliments them for the ability to run a successful, lean operation. While he wants to emulate that, there are also plans to diversify the product mix and grow the business. The amount of competition is a challenge.
“This is a competitive space; we aren’t just competing against people who are local," Arkens said. "There are national players. We need to develop and maintain our unique selling proposition — we are not just in the business of selling people flowers; we are in the business of delivering happiness."
He wants customers to recognize the difference between buying flowers at a grocery store versus those at a florist. In looking forward to Valentine’s Day deliveries and sales, he said that each flower is inspected on arrival and then cleaned, cut once, given a dip of floral life and stored in a cooler separately. Once selected, the flowers are cut again and additional food is put in the vase to ensure they will last for seven to 10 days.
“I am anticipating craziness," Arkens said. "I have a feeling it will be a really good year for us. We are fortunate to have very seasoned designers who have great vision, and we’re letting them run with it and do their thing.”
To provide other items of interest, the retail business space has been redesigned and items such as high-quality chocolates, gifts, jewelry, lotions and consignment art have been added to the mix. The Arkens plan to build on customers’ requests.
“We want to engage in a conversation with everyone who comes in the door,” Arkens said. “If we don’t hit the mark, we need to ask why.”
The conversation will include emails, social media and touch points throughout the delivery process to keep them informed. He says that he and Lauren are both personable and enjoy asking questions and engaging with people. They want the business to be a “win-win” by opening the retail space to other people such as artists so that they can also move forward. This is part of what will make the business stand apart.
“I am trying to carve out our own niche," Arkens said. "When you’re mixing design and making something meant to reflect some intimate experience, we don’t want to miss our mark. There are times when it will be stressful because I want everything to be perfect. That’s the artist in me."
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.