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When 19-year-old Peaches Brown’s mother sent her to Spanish Town, St Catherine to work with her cousin, a florist, she never imagined that years later, she would own her own blooming flower shop in the old capital.

Located at Shop #2, 23 Wellington Street in the old capital, Tropical Flowers and Things has been providing wreaths, bridal bouquets, fruit baskets and floral decorations for weddings and other special events, as well as gifts for commemorative events such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, for more than 20 years.

“After I left school, my mother didn’t really have it [money] to send me to college so she had a niece that used to do floral arrangements and she asked her if I could come and learn the trade with her. So that’s how I really started,” the Freedom, St Catherine-native explained.

Her cousin, Maureen Brown, who has since migrated, operated her business at the same address that Mrs Brown is now located, except she occupied the previous building that was there, which was later taken over by a new owner and demolished.

Recounting her experience as her cousin’s protégé, Mrs Brown said she learnt the skill quickly and became very good at it. Her cousin also taught her the skill of good customer service, so her customers would also appreciate her and return for the service.

She worked with her cousin for several years and even continued to run the business on her behalf when she migrated, until the building was demolished.

“When the building was destroyed, I decided to start my own floral business from home until the new building was [constructed] and I came and got a shop for myself,” the woman from the hills above the community of Bog Walk pointed out.

However, when she got the shop, she realised that she now had a much bigger space and she needed raw materials such as artificial flowers and other décor to add her own signature to the space and to make it attractive to customers.

“I decided on taking a loan because Christmas was coming, and I needed to stock up for the season, so I went to JN Small Business Loans. This was over ten years ago. I have taken several loans from them since then and I have a good relationship with my loans officer, Miss Johnson. She will call me from time to time, sometimes to remind me that I have almost finished paying for the loan. The loan officers and the managers are also very encouraging and helpful,” she said.

Talcian Johnson, Client Relations Officer at JN Bank Small Business Loans, who has been Mrs Brown’s loan officer for the past two years, says she enjoys working with her.

“Her personality is very warm and she takes financial advice and instructions well. She is also easily accessible by phone, as well as in person. Working with her has been an awesome journey,” she said.

Ms Johnson advised that financial assistance is available for entrepreneurs at different levels, including start-ups, along with financial education and recommendations for clients.

“So, for example, someone has a shop. They buy their stock, they sell their stock and no form of recording is done. They don’t know what it is that they spend, they don’t know what it is that they make, so we give recommendations as it relates to record keeping,” she pointed out.

She added that entrepreneurs are implored to maintain some form of financial statements as this will assist them in developing a financial footprint and obtaining a loan.

Beyond assistance with her business, Mrs Brown, informed that she has also benefitted from JN Bank’s personal loan for small business owners and says the facility has been monumental in assisting her to pay for her daughter’s secondary and tertiary education.

“My daughter is attending Caribbean Maritime University and she is in her third year now doing Logistics and Chain Supply Management. So you know when the school fee time comes around, it helps out a lot with that,” the mother of two said.

Millicent White who owns and operates a wholesale in Point Hill, St Catherine and facilitates the provision of floral arrangements from Mrs Brown to other persons, says she has had a long and fruitful relationship with her for many years.

“Whenever I need anything, I just call her, tell her what I want and she fixes it for me and delivers it. I deal with people from overseas who are having funerals here; they order wreaths from me and I order them from Mrs Brown. I also get floral arrangements from her for funerals, weddings and other church functions. She is a very loving and kind person and she always tries to do the best for us,” Mrs White said.

Mrs Brown says the business is doing well, and she employs a part-time worker during peak seasons, such as graduation and Mother’s Day, to assist her with the influx of orders.

“The hardest part about operating the business is the delay in getting the flowers from overseas sometimes. A lot of the customers think that all the flowers are sourced here, but some of them such as Carnations, Baby’s Breath and Chrysanthemums are sourced overseas, and I keep them fresh in the refrigerators,” Mrs Brown said.

She would like to open another floral business in another parish one day.

Tropical Flowers and Things is opened from Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and the contact numbers are 876 984-5546 and 876 414-8216.

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