Today, March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, a day set aside to recognize the importance of independent entrepreneurs, small businesses, and family owned companies to our national economy. In today’s business parlance, “mom and pop shops” are often called “microbusinesses” (if they have 5 or fewer employees). This inspires me to share our stories as micro business owners.
My world revolves around the life of our small businesses as my husband, Richard Florack and I both own and operate our sole proprietorships. We personify the term “microbusinesses”. My husband owns and operates Lakeside Optical in Katy, Texas with one part-time employee (his sister), and I operate my full time art business on my own from a rural studio near Brookshire, Texas.
I started my own jewelry design business in 1980 when I took the leap of faith to quit my job (in a mom and pop jewelry store) and trust that I could make it on my own. I worked from a small apartment in 1980 with a work space, (complete with casting equipment and torches) set up in a tiny closet size 3rd room of a 1 bedroom apartment. When I decided to take this step, I called my parents and asked them if they would feed me if I had some poor times and I called my then boyfriend Rick (husband to be) and asked him the same thing. Both parents and boyfriend offered their pledge of support, even though my parents had some concerns about me quitting my job. My boyfriend, already in business for himself with his dad in their own “Mom and Pop” or “Son and Pop” business encouraged me to go for it! The good news is that I never needed to ask anyone for grocery money or loans but I certainly knew how to stretch my dollars in those early lean times. I’ve come a long way baby from my tiny apartment studio beginnings.
Four years later in 1984, my boyfriend became my husband. I think much of our common ground is our entrepreneurial spirits and is a strong base for our marriage. Trust is a huge part of starting and running small businesses as it is of utmost importance in a marriage. Success in a mom and pop business requires trust between the proprietor and the customer. We build our businesses one relationship at a time, earning trust and forming loyal lifelong customers. That is a hard to find shopping experience in today’s shopping culture of big box stores. Building such trust requires forming a relationship with each customer and personalizing their shopping experience with us. Only happy customers come back and the micro business relies on repeat customers.
As my own website business is growing, I find myself forming good relationships with customers across the country. I purposely do not have a shopping cart on my website as I need to have contact with each customer. Since so many of my art products are one-of-a-kind I can’t risk selling the product at a show while someone is trying to buy it from the website at the same time. I need to have some kind of conversation with the buyer by email, facebook message, or phone to discern if I can meet their expectations for delivery of the product. While I’m sure I lose some impulse website sales by not having a shopping cart, I think I am building a stronger clientele by having the interactions with the long distance customers. Many are amazed that the person on the other end of the phone is the artist. It always will be as I don’t have, or plan to have, any employees to answer the phone, (or scrub a floor or toilet for that matter). As I state many places… “I am the company, and the company is me!” I am humbled and grounded by wearing so many hats as an artist and business owner.
So today being “National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day” seems like a good day to share our personal micro business stories and say thank you to all those folks who have kept us in business all these years! Here’s to building many more relationships, one customer at a time! YOU are worth our time as we can’t make it without you. We thank YOU, for putting food on our table, a roof over our head, and for the blessings of experience that come with small business ownership.
Nancy & Rick
(click each photo to visit our websites for more information about our businesses)