One woman's dream flourishes into a colorful reality.
As it turns out, dream jobs don’t always land in your lap the moment you graduate from college. Sarah Donjuan is one of the millions who experienced this disappointing reality. After graduating from Kennesaw State in Georgia with a degree in marketing and sales, Sarah spent six years gaining some diverse work experience. She worked for a small business and a nonprofit, and at the age of 23 she was running a $40 million sales floor at Target. But she realized that was not her passion.
Like many millennials, she decided to develop a side hustle—a second job that would be fun, feed her need for creativity, and maybe even make a little money. Sarah didn’t have any professional experience, but she was drawn to the idea of owning a flower shop. Deciding against a brick-and-mortar store because of the overhead, she googled “mobile flower shop.” In July of 2018 she turned her research into a business plan, got a mentor, and started pitching her idea for JJ’s Flower Truck to anyone who would listen. Buying her 1968 Volkswagen truck in August and setting an opening date for September, Sarah planned to open her truck in Avalon, an open-air shopping and entertainment center in Alpharetta, Georgia.
The day before the opening, she received a call from the city informing her that a reinterpretation of city code meant she wouldn’t be allowed to operate there after all. Showing up at the city office and demanding an explanation, she was told that only food trucks would be allowed. Sarah immediately began offering solutions, but every idea she offered was shot down. Then, suddenly and without explanation, the papers were signed and she was in business. She still doesn’t know what caused city officials to change their minds, but what she does know is that if she had given up, she never would have opened her flower truck.
Avalon and its surrounding community offered her amazing engagement and support—support that increased her determination to grow. That fall she partnered with several Atlanta-area businesses, helping her flower shop dreams to really take root.
The next spring, Sarah went down to part-time at her day job, allowing her to put more time into her flower truck. She had identified several places she wanted to sell flowers—Avalon, Ponce City Market, Krog Street Market—and had been pursuing potential opportunities through the winter. For eight months Ponce City told her “no.” And for eight months she refused to give up her dream.
Later that spring, Sarah received a surprising phone call. Ponce City wanted to offer her a brick-and-mortar space. It was more than she had hoped! Hiring four floral assistants and a shop manager, Sarah opened the doors of her brick-and-mortar shop.
After three months, JJ’s Flower Shop met its sales goals, and Sarah began brainstorming new offerings. In addition to pre-built and made-to-order bouquets, flower lovers can build their own bouquets, attend weekly workshops, and send same-day deliveries in the Atlanta area. The truck is available for events and pop-ups, and JJ’s, of course, offers wedding options. The bride can take the stress out of wedding flowers and let JJ’s do the work with its beautiful “pick-up wedding” offerings, or she can work with JJ’s to create something completely custom. With three color choices, and with options all named for characters from the show, Friends, a few quick, fun minutes is all it takes to check “flowers” off the wedding to-do list!
Sarah never dreamed that her idea for a flower truck would grow to where it is now, especially as quickly as it did. When asked, she had some words of wisdom and encouragement for other young female entrepreneurs:
Go for it!
Don’t let others’ reservations hold you back. Be persistent and keep reaching out. Don’t let a “no” discourage you.
Use your resources!
Don’t let “I don’t know” stop you. Check Google and YouTube. Reach out to local experts and past professors. See if your university has a small-business development center. Find out what other resources are out there and reach out!
It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re trying to accomplish and isolate yourself. Make networking a priority! Join local groups to meet new friends, future clients, and potential mentors.