Location: San Bruno, CA 94066
Hours: Mon - Fri
10am - 6pm
Products: Flower arrangements, creations, balloon decor, etc.
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When I found out about this business, I was excited to tell the story! I live in the Bay Area, and our small business population in the Polynesian community is limited. Perhaps, this story will inspire more Polynesian Business owners in the Bay Area to make their web presence known not just for their own profit, but for more entrepreneurs to come.
Meet Tiare' Blooms. This business is owned by Sofolonia Livai, a young Tongan female, not yet 30 years of age. She's of Tongan descent, and playing her hand well in American business world. The name on her business license is "Tiare' Blooms." Tiare' Blooms sells many products including fresh flower bouquets and arrangements, balloon decor, edible bouquets to flower leis, money leis, and gift baskets. Her product line continues to grow along with her imagination and creativity. And, yes, she makes all of these products.
The idea for her business came to her when she observed her Auntie Folingi arrange flowers for their church in 2009. She'd sit, watch, and learn from her auntie arranging flowers that eventually Sofolonia fell in love with the process. Being a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) person, it was fun for Sofolonia to learn on her own how to make things in particular arts and crafts. But by 2010, she was determined to open a business, and she did. She founded and certified "Tiare' Blooms” that same year. Since she already had a career that occupied a bulk of her time, she opened Tiare’ Blooms as a side business. She works at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Her family pitches in to help as Sofolonia drives her business forward. She plans to develop this small business into a full-time family business.
Sofolonia’s start-up costs were taken care of because she already has a great career. She financed her own business and absorbed the start-up costs. As far as location, she decided to keep it local for now. In the future, she will expand her services. Her greatest inspirations have been Jeff Leatham, Martha Stewart, and Kevin Lee. She started marketing her business by setting up her facebook page, twitter account, and Instagram account for her networks to “like” and comment on her products. In particular, on her facebook page, she set up an online raffle (prize: $60 TBLOOMS’ gift certificate) 4 times a year (per season) to promote Tiare’ Blooms. She also purchased business cards and a toll-free number for her customers to place their orders.
Tiare’ Blooms is off to a great start with a steady customer base. Her consumers return because they’re satisfied with the finished products every time. So, the business owner’s hard work is paying off. She recently made plans to register for classes to collect more ideas and ways to improve sales although many of her lessons are gained while operating her business. Through trial and error, she’s gained marketing knowledge about pricing her products. She now sets her prices at a reasonable level so that her products are affordable and that her business is profitable at the same time. She gives her products a few tries before she makes the tough decision of giving up on a product idea. But giving up on an idea doesn’t happen too often since she’s determined to offer as many products as possible to her consumers. Testing product ideas are healthy to her business because sometimes the experiment leads to another idea on a new project. She puts in additional time to conduct research on the flower business. Since her products are visual, she gets the best ideas from visuals such as photos and pictures. But she remains competitive in the flower market by applying her special twist and experimenting on ideas.
In addition to her day job, Sofolonia puts long hours into Tiare’ Blooms. Her hours range from 1 to 8 hours daily. It can vary with intricacy of the orders and the deadlines from customers and events. She follows a routine for creating products: 1) buy materials, and then 2) design/arrange the final products.
Being an entrepreneur does affect her family life. She’s already decided to prioritize her small business to ensure its growth. When orders pick up, then her free time becomes consumed with the projects. It’s not a sacrifice of time. Rather it’s an investment of time to nurture Tiare’ Blooms. And yet, this business owner keeps her family as motivation for tending to her business. She has the vision that Tiare’ Blooms will continue to succeed and eventually provide for her future and her family.
Sofolonia’s favorite aspect of being a businessperson is that she gets to put her skills and talents to work. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. She visualizes and believes that Tiare’ Blooms will evolve into something even more amazing in the future. She defines success to be the accomplishment of overcoming failure or any downfalls during the journey. Success is getting back up, and moving on. She goes on to say that the best way to achieve long-term success is to remain motivated and determined in whatever you do.
Sofolonia has figured it out! The formula for success in business is to love what you do, and the products will speak for themselves.
Tiare’ Blooms’ business owner recommends these 5 key elements for starting and running a successful business:
1. Seller’s permit
2. Business certificate
3. Business name
4. Business cards
There are 3 pieces of advice she gives to aspiring entrepreneurs:
1. Love and enjoy what you do.
2. Have patience with your business and let it grow.
3. Educate yourself on how to improve your business.
And she shares the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur are:
1. Strong customer service skills – The customers come first. Like Suze Orman says, “People first, then money, then things.” Make the customers trust in what you do, and they’ll be back.
2. Motivation – There has to be a reason or reasons why you’re operating your business. Keep yourself motivated and do not give up even when the orders slow down. Find ways to improve your business. There’s always room for improvement.
3. Patience – “Like planting a seed in the garden, it takes time for it to grow. Have patience with your business.”
By Ruby Fa'agau