Growing up in a family of gardeners and “crafty” women, Colby Midgett knew early on she wanted to own a flower shop, but she didn’t always see herself as an entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of Memphis, she entered corporate America, working her full-time job by day and designing flower arrangements by night. Over time, her floral business began to grow, along with her obligations at her corporate gig. During this time, she also became a new mother and longed to spend more time with her daughter. She knew it was time to pivot, so in 2015, this Memphis native left her full-time corporate job and opened Premier Flowers, a boutique flower shop located in downtown Memphis.
Despite numerous accomplishments and accolades for her work, Colby, a mother of two, says she’s just getting started. Here’s what our Memphis FACE had to say about her entrepreneurial journey, motherhood and the importance of giving back to her community.
When did your love of flowers develop?
As I got older — in my early 30s — I really began to love designing flowers, but it was always there. I grew up in a crafty family. My mother and grandmother always did gardening, and my grandmother did flower arranging on the side. So, I picked it up at an early age. It’s always been therapeutic for me, and I knew I wanted to find my way in the flower business. I already had the skills but took classes to perfect my craft.
Since opening your shop and becoming an entrepreneur, what have you learned about yourself?
I learned I am more resilient than I thought I was because entrepreneurship is hard and will eat you alive. What keeps me going is that I have a strong desire to not give up and not quit. I think about all I’ve accomplished, and I know there is more I have to do. I also have huge support around the community and from my friends and family. I’ve realized the importance of having supportive people in your life and having a good team to lean on.
As a first-time business owner, what business or entrepreneurship lessons have you learned along the way?
Branding is important. Not only for your business but for yourself. People want to know the person behind the brand just as much as they want to see the product. I learned that quickly. Initially, I tried to stay behind the scenes, but as the business grew, I had to step out in the forefront.
I also learned you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You can’t be afraid to challenge yourself more than what you are accustomed to. You have to be okay taking chances and risks. I wasn’t always entirely comfortable going to large group meetings but learned very quickly that in order to be successful, you have to be versatile in management and have an open mind. You have to explore all options, ideas and try different things to make your business grow. Some people aren’t comfortable with change, but as a business owner, you have to be.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a lot of small businesses. How, if at all, has it affected yours?
Oh, man. We lost about 80% in revenue during the first month or two of COVID. I had to lay off everybody I had working — my four employees and even myself. But to shut down completely was mind-blowing. Many times, you can see things like that coming, but with COVID, it was so sudden. It affected my business badly, and it was a tough time.
Eventually, I had to come up with a plan because I knew we had to get back to business. And sadly, because of funerals and other things, the need for our services was still there. Now business is great. With the help of the small business organizations in the city, we are now actually thriving more than we were last year at this time. It’s a blessing.
You’re also very big in working with charity organizations and giving back, including serving as an ambassador of Dress for Success Memphis and volunteering with St. Jude. Why is giving back important to you?
This is my community and where I live, so it’s important to help those in need, and in Memphis, there is a great need. If you’re in a position to help others out, then why not help? I get more from helping and extending a hand than sitting back and watching and doing nothing. When we give as a team at Premier Flowers, we give back not because we’re looking for others to do the same, but because it’s really fulfilling.
You’re a business owner and a mom of two. How do you balance it all?
It takes a village. I have a good family that helps me, including my children’s father. It’s tough sometimes, but I think I’m pretty good with time management, and that helps me a lot. I keep myself and my kids on a schedule so I can find time for myself. I take the weekends for myself because I’m able to get out of the shop. Honestly, for entrepreneurs, we never really stop working, but there are parts of the work that are therapeutic for me.
You’re originally from Memphis. What do you love most about the city?
Memphis has soul and grit. There are a lot of hardworking people here. And I love the fact that we have differences here but still come together. I love my city.
If someone was visiting Memphis for the first time, what places would you say they must visit?
Definitely the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s a must-go! Stax Museum also. My daughter and I love going to Bass Pro Shops. I would also recommend a trip to Memphis Botanic Garden because it’s beautiful and serene. And Overton Square because there’s a lot of action over there — restaurants, good food, and good music.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“You show no mercy; none will be shown upon you.” I believe that and live by that. Another good piece as far as business is concerned is, “You have to let go of some things; you have to delegate some things.”
Besides faith, family and friends, what three things can you not live without?
Flowers, my skincare products, and sparkling water.
All images courtesy of Tammy Zurak Photography.