Cheryl Dawn Smith is the founder of HortyGirl Living Decor. Her business creates, produces and distributes potted indoor plants in decorative containers to retailers in Canada and in the US. Supported by a passionate and dedicated team of employees who are committed to building the HortyGirl brand, her business transforms plants into Living Décor.
We interviewed her recently to find out more about her international business and her advice to women who are transitioning to self-employment and want to grow their business globally.
Q. What countries do you export to? What motivated you to look beyond Canadian borders?
A. We currently export to the US. We are actively engaged in a strategy to increase our market share with the large US grocery retailers. I started exporting to US as I wanted to scale my business and found that our products were suitable to current US consumer trends. The volume of sales from US retailers is attractive and it is helping us improve our buying power of raw materials. We feel that our leading product line provides many benefits for US retailers and consumers alike.
Q. How have trade delegations helped you?
A. We have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the efforts of the BWIT team led by Josie Mousseau. WEC has also contributed to these trade delegations and have been incredibly supportive to women entrepreneurs. Our greatest challenge has been making connections with specific US buyers in our industry. We rely on our own internal resources to track down US customer leads and follow through. We have recently joined an Industry specific organization that has a focus on connecting suppliers and buyers within our market. We are very hopeful this will lead us to new US business.
Q. What advice you would give to women entrepreneurs who are thinking of international trade?
A. Be persistent and keep your eye on the goal. Some of the larger accounts could be planning for 2 to 5 years. You will likely need to invest up front and wait out the returns. Use all the resources that are available to you in hopes that one of them pays off. Before you sell in foreign markets, be sure to check out the CanExport grant.
Q. What services has Women’s Enterprise Centre provided you?
A. WEC has helped us on more than one occasion when we needed funds to grow our business. If you are growing quickly, or you plan to do so, it is important to have a lending resource that can help you fund your expansion plans. In addition to providing funds, WEC has advised us on customer presentations, general business practices, and growth strategies. WEC is also very supportive of women who want to attend business events in the US.
Q. What inspired you to take the leap and start your own business?
A. I was inspired by a marketing teacher during my horticulture training at Kwantlen. He told me that I had some really great ideas and the industry needed me. It took me a few years after graduating with my diploma to take the leap from employee to business owner.
I finally jumped in when I found my market niche. I observed there was an opportunity in the Indoor Plant market for attractive containers creatively matched with indoor plants. Consumers were looking for convenience and style to fill their houseplant, office plant and plant gift giving needs.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you learned when starting your business?
A. Be surrounded by like-minded people that have experience in business! Being part of a tight knit, serious, focused, business group (with strict confidentiality) has helped me take that leap from start up to success. As my business has expanded, I have found groups and entrepreneurs who keep me challenged and help me grow as an entrepreneur. I have also learned to invest in my learning as success can only come from being knowledgeable and staying updated with the latest in my industry.
Q. What were your major successes? At what point did you know you had achieved success?
A. One of my biggest successes was the creation of a leading product line. I felt I had achieved success when we began shipping out of our local area and invoicing a major retailer for that product line on a regular basis. A good measure of success for me was when consumers began to purchase our products repeatedly. It has been a challenging and exciting journey so far. My goal is to establish my business as a well-recognised brand both in Canada and abroad.