A long and winding road in Marietta takes you to the farm that has been in the family for four generations, and to the home of Marla Bixler’s thriving floral business – The Sunflower Lady. On any given weekend she is up to her elbows in plumosa, snapdragons, roses, and stock. All to fill orders for brides and their families on days they have been dreaming about all their lives. She handles all of it with her trademark smile and a joy that comes from doing something that she loves.
Marla turned to SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon for help with all the things that she does not love.
“Being a floral artist, I am constantly surrounded by opportunities to enjoy natural beauty. What I don’t necessarily enjoy is the business part of my business. Numbers have always confused and frustrated me. Profit/loss sheets, record keeping, and financials are not my strength. I sought a mentor to direct and encourage me in this area. Fred has been a great encourager and I trust him to guide me toward success. He is humble and has never made me feel like my very small business isn’t important or filled with potential. Knowing that Fred and the rest of SCORE is behind me is motivation to be successful in every part of my design business, even the parts which are not my favorite.”
SCORE mentor Fred Engle has been working with Marla Bixler since November of 2012. In that time, he has seen enormous growth and success for The Sunflower Lady.
“Marla is successful because she is so passionate about what she does, and she truly cares about her brides and their families. Her personality is her biggest selling point. But she has also worked hard to learn SCORE’s financial template and P&L statements. It is not always easy to take on subjects that are not a strength, but Marla made the effort and it paid off.”
The client-mentor relationship continues, and Marla has new goals in mind for the future of The Sunflower Lady.
“I want to start working smarter, not harder. I’d really like to start attracting more full-service wedding clients with healthy budgets. While I do truly appreciate each budget, many small weddings tend to use more of my time and thus taking me from weekends with my family. Fewer but larger events are what pay the best and make the best use of my valuable time. My mentor team has already given me ideas to achieve this goal and I’d like to explore further possibilities. I’d also like to further expand my knowledge in the marketing aspect of my business. Being a niche company without a storefront has its drawbacks, but I wouldn’t trade it for the alternative. I know my team will be able to help in this area as well.”
We asked Marla what advice she might offer other startups, or established businesses considering reaching out for a SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon mentor.
“I refer people constantly to SCORE for mentors, and more. The help is invaluable and best of all, free. My 18-year-old son is graduating from high school this year and starting a lawn care business. He will be taking the Simple Steps to Starting a Business classes and asking for a mentor because he has watched me for several years and realizes the amazing opportunity in SCORE. I have referred new businesses and established ones and will continue to pay forward the help I’ve received from my mentor, the retail roundtable and more. There is a reason this Chapter has been recognized nationally for its success. It’s great to know there exists a group of professionals who truly care for the little guys. I feel privileged to be associated with SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon and Fred Engle.”