My name is Caitlyn and I am studying management at the University of Iowa, where I am a member of Women in Business. American Business Women’s Day is the perfect time to have a conversation with our store owner, Tamy Vorhes, about her journey from farmer's daughter to #girlboss .
Before Iowa City
As a college student preparing to enter the job market, I wanted to start by finding out where Tamy was before Flowerama and how she ended up in her “forever job.”
Tamy studied graphic design at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA. After school she focused heavily on retail and management at work, building a solid foundation before taking the job that became her career. Tamy started working at the Flowerama on 1st Avenue in Cedar Rapids as an assistant manager in 1992.
Path to Owner
I asked Tamy if owning a store was always her goal and how she finally ended up buying the Iowa City Flowerama.
“I just focused on embracing my role to its fullest”
Owning her own store wasn’t Tamy’s goal from day one. Instead she focused on embracing each position she was in to its fullest. Her path from assistant manager to store owner was pretty straightforward- She was assistant manager for 7 years before moving up to manager, a position she held for 5 years. The next step was district manager, which is how she first started interacting with the Iowa City Flowerama.
“Yes, I literally got a phone call asking if I wanted to buy the store!”
With five kids, Tamy spent most of her career as a working mom. The birth of her youngest son is the exception; instead of her usual 2 week maternity leave, Tamy spent 2 years as a stay-at-home mom with children aged 1 to 17. It was at the end of these 2 years that Tamy got a phone call asking if she wanted to buy the Iowa City Flowerama.
One month is all the time Tamy was given to decide if she was going to buy the store. She asked every question she could think of off the top of her head in that first phone call and came up with plenty more over the next few weeks. Many long talks with her dad yielded advice she follows to this day, but the final choice was hers to make.
“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right”
Tamy drove out to the store in the middle of the night one day after getting the offer. She got out of her car and walked around the building and looked at it through a lens that was totally new to her. She wasn’t assessing its value in straightforward terms like what color to paint the walls or which pieces of hardware would need to be replaced- she was having a heart-to-heart conversation with the store she was preparing to dedicate her life to. Getting a feel for the store on this level was extremely important to Tamy, who has always taken advice to heart so she could give the big decisions to her intuition.
Finding time to manage a home is one of the biggest challenges facing working women today. It is undeniable that there is still more pressure put on women to “choose between starting a family or starting a career.” I asked Tamy how she has handled this particular challenge.
“A sacrifice today is an accomplishment tomorrow”
For Tamy, there has been a lot more pushback from peers when it comes to working and raising kids than from coworkers. In the workplace it was understood that she would get the job done, but if her son called sick from school she was going to go get him.
Holidays are hardest, Tamy notes, because it is they are the busiest times of year at a flower shop. Family celebrations have to take place a little bit off the traditional schedule.
Managing vs Owning
Finally I asked Tamy what the biggest differences are between managing a store and owning a store.
“The biggest difference between managing a store and owning a store is that as an owner everything comes right back to you”
Tamy looks at her store and all the product in it in a totally different light now that it is all undeniably hers. Any arrangement that doesn’t sell or any plant that gets broken in a rainstorm comes straight out of her pocket. The result? We meticulously care for our plants and cut flowers so that each and every one is in the best possible condition for its new home.
One of the most exciting differences between managing and owning a store is being able to choose exactly what product is kept in stock. This means she can use her connections to get things like Iowa-grown pumpkins (out front now!) and exclusive cuts from premium growers.
"Find the opportunities in hardship"
The biggest lesson Tamy has learned as an owner is how to turn set-backs into the next big thing. Being able to persevere and learn from every new challenge that pops up keeps her one step ahead of the game!
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