Why This Business Owner Values “Community Over Competition”
NEW ORLEANS – Although Diane Mouton attracts new clients with her creativity alone, the florist and owner of Fat Cat Flowers attributes much of her success to doing something she loves – collaborating with others … including fellow florists that some would perceive as competition.
Mouton networks and hosts interactive, community workshops throughout the year, including a Mardi Gras-themed workshop that takes place on Thursday evening. And early next week, the entrepreneur will run a two-day business class and share her strategies (and a few secrets), with a small group of local and visiting business owners within the floral industry.
During a recent interview, she explained why.
“We have a really friendly flower community here in New Orleans, so we value community over competition,” said Mouton. “Because we're all small business owners, it can be really hard to find people who are doing the same thing and understand what we're going through – where we have to be the marketing people, the business people, and the creative people.”
Besides, she believes that within New Orleans, “there's lots of work” to go around.
Mouton’s fifth annual business class will include one-on-one expense reviews, where business owners can examine their profits, along with the cost of employee salaries, marketing, consulting, and overhead. Mouton will also offer advice on how to attract and hold on to promising employees.
“I find it really fulfilling to share, and the people that come to these meetings really feel the same way,” she said. “The class is a nice opportunity for us to come together and make sure we're running a tight ship, because we can't be the creatives we want to be if we're not running a good business.”
In both New Orleans and around the country, florists can find resources for improving their floral designs, but not for boosting their business and management skills, Mouton explained.
“People are hungry for that kind of information,” she said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in management from Tulane University’s AB Freeman School of Business, Mouton worked in public accounting. She later served as the director of finance for a local architecture firm.
“I knew that having a good business background would serve me well,” she said, adding that her father was also an entrepreneur.
In early 2005, Mouton launched Fat Cat Flowers – a mid-sized company on Howard Avenue in Gert Town, with an annual gross revenue of about $500,000. Her team currently includes two full-time employees and one part-time employee, but she has plans to expand her staff.
Mouton creates flower arrangements for local weddings, elopements, conventions, and corporate events, and offers same-day delivery. Her designs range from $50 to $150.
Her business has grown partially from positive reviews shared via word of mouth – not just from the bride, but from the wedding caterer, the photographer, and anyone else who participates in the celebration, she said.
“It’s a small wedding community in New Orleans, so if you're reliable, creative, and enthusiastic about what you're doing, people will recognize that,” said Mouton. “You will establish a good reputation as being somebody that other people want to work with.”
Mouton’s collaborative spirit shines during her community workshops.
The classes, which are open to the public, welcome florists of all skill levels. For a couple of hours, participants get a chance to “have fun with flowers” and sip wine.
“It's a nice way to get to know people in the community; and it's a nice way to keep in touch with brides, and mothers of the brides, after we've done their weddings and have really connected with them,” Mouton said.
During Thursday’s “Mardi Gras Wreath Class”, Mouton will teach her guests the design principles of color blocking, symmetry, and composition, so they can walk away with one-of-kind, Carnival décor.
Mouton said a career with a schedule that varies from day to day, and includes an occasional curve ball, suits her just fine.
“I wouldn't be happy standing at a table just making flowers all day; I wouldn't be happy if I just had to be a sales person and sell things to people all week,” said Mouton. “The combination of all the pieces and parts is really stimulating.”
By Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur, Biz New Orleans associate news editor