Courtney Smith has a Master of Business Administration, but when she decided to buy Webb City Florist, she realized she didn’t know where to start, so she continued her education with the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“My education has been so helpful in that is has given me a process-oriented view of how I choose to run my business and looking for the inefficiencies we need to improve on,” Smith said. “But I didn’t know where to start as far business plan creation and all of that. It’s not something that is focused on; the small to medium-sized business isn’t something that I studied extensively in my formal education.”
Smith had worked at Webb City Florist in Webb City, Missouri, during her college years.
“I instantly fell in love with how old it was, how great the people were here, how great the work was, you know, just how fun it was to come to work every day,” Smith said.
“When I worked here before I owned it, I always thought, ‘how cool would it be to own a flower shop?’” she said.
When the previous owner, a long-time family friend, decided she was ready to retire, she contacted Smith.
At the time, Smith was working in higher education and thought she was going to stay there and work her way up.
“But then this opportunity came available, and I was, like, it would be crazy if I didn’t at least try,” Smith said.
As soon as she decided she wanted to buy the shop, she contacted the Missouri SBDC at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. There she met business counselors Katie Fields and Ken Surbrugg,
“Katie got me on track as far as the sequence in which all of these things happen,” Smith said. “That’s the most overwhelming part, I think, of buying a business. There’re so many things to do, and you’re like, ‘what order do I even do this in?’”
“Courtney took what we taught her and excelled in all areas,” Fields said.
Under the tutelage of Fields and Surbrugg, Smith learned the steps of writing a business plan and formulating projected cash flow based on the shop’s historical tax documents.
“Ken really came in whenever I started working through my financials and projecting … to secure financing from the bank and also to prepare me in my first few years,” Smith said.
Fields and Surbrugg also provided industry data on floral shops that, in part, helped Smith determine whether she was paying an equitable price.
“Without their help, it wouldn’t have been as stress-free of a transition,” Smith said.
Smith has now been owner of Webb City Florist for two years and says that sales have tripled.
That increase in sales didn’t surprise Surbrugg, who said Smith has lots of energy, ideas and desire and the willingness to do the extra work.
Smith has accomplished what she has with the help of one full-time and seven part-time employees plus additional help around holidays.
She has invested time and money in training her staff and instilling in them the importance of everything they do being intentional.
Smith is passionate about growing Webb City Florist, making her staff feel valued, and doing outreach in the Joplin and Webb City area.
Supporting the community and those that support you, “that’s the epitome of small business,” Smith said, expressing interest in showing her support in such ways as sponsoring a Little League Baseball team or a school basketball tournament.
Her community has already recognized Smith by naming her the 2022 Business Leader of the Year, a community-selected award presented by the Webb City Chamber of Commerce.
But she’s not resting on her laurels.
Smith is planning, with the support of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, to have the shop’s original neon sign restored.
“We’re on the original Route 66 here on our block,” Smith said. “[Webb City Florist] has a legacy, and I just really want it to feel kind of vintage and true to its time.”
Smith has already upgraded the exterior of the shop, which is on a mainly residential block, to make it more visible, and plans to complete some interior upgrades in the near future. She also hopes to eventually restore the greenhouses, which are original to the building.
“I believe [Smith] has found her calling,” Fields said. “With her passion for what she does, I don’t think there is anything she couldn’t accomplish.”
“I’m very thankful for the SBDC continuing to be a lifeline for me when I’m in a pinch,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a great service, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”