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Flourish Boutique

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Flourish Boutique

Postby Happy Mom » Sun Jun 16, 2013 8:05 am

Flourish boutique defies market odds
Area store that opened just before recession marks five-year milestone.

Heidi Prescott Market Basket
( South Bend Tribune/GREG SWIERCZ / June 12, 2013 )

Flourish Boutique, 16021 Cleveland Road, Granger, is celebrating five years in business this week. The business opened months before the stock market crash of 2008 that led the country into recession.
6:04 a.m. EDT, June 16, 2013
More than 50 percent of new small businesses fail within the first five years of operation, according to the Small Business Association.Some owners run out of cash; others run out of steam doing everything themselves.

Some businesses fail because of a poor location, or the owner loses sight of the competition or falls short in customer service.

Vanessa Cooreman Smith was well aware of the risks associated with starting a business when she opened the doors to her South Bend boutique in July 2008.

The local native and Saint Mary's College graduate was determined to beat the odds.

And she has.

This week, Cooreman Smith is marking five years in business with her staff and customers at Flourish, which is now located at 16021 Cleveland Road. She describes feelings of joy, thankfulness, and also relief.

"This was always a milestone I looked forward to reaching. I am so lucky to still be in business," she says. "Five years ago my goals were mostly about survival."

She did not have it easy.

The stock market crashed just two months after she opened the doors to Flourish Boutique at its original location at 24545 Brick Road, on the northwest side of South Bend.

Not only did the crash send the country into recession, but during the next two years more than 200,000 small businesses closed their doors, according to U.S. Census information.

"It was scary. I had this lifelong vision of starting the store and had saved up and put huge amounts of time and energy into it and that was all on the line. It was do or die," she describes.

Cooreman Smith was determined not to be among the businesses that closed during the recession, no matter the sacrifices it required. So she and her husband, Stephen, who worked in real estate, did what many of us do when money gets tight.

They cut back on vacations and dining out. They downgraded their cable television package and trimmed discretionary shopping. But the toughest decision Cooreman Smith and her husband faced was putting their two-

story South Bend home up for sale and downsizing.

"I was already in the thick of it and wanted to make it work. I didn't want to have to start over again down the road. I was that passionate about it. We were growing and having successes the whole time. Call it insanity if you want, but I didn't consider closing," she admits.

Cooreman Smith adjusted the store's price point, however, dropping some

of her more expensive clothing lines and adding others to keep prices at $100 or less for "recessionistas."

For four years, she reinvested every penny into Flourish, to relocate and expand from South Bend to Granger, to hire staff to manage everything from the storefront to the website, and to nurture customer relationships in person and online.

"Everyone who makes an online order receives a handwritten 'thank you' note wrapped in tissue," she says. "People want to feel valued and special. We're all seeking validation, so we try to make everyone feel special."

Flourish started with two employees and has grown to 17. It currently occupies about 2,000 square feet on two floors, and Cooreman Smith would like to double in floor space in time. She continues to drive traffic to her Facebook page and sales to her website.

"Some of the sacrifice is lessened now," she admits gratefully. "I love to nurture the excellence in people rather than do it all myself. That has helped. I'm glad I took the four years of craziness to do something I love for the rest of my life.

"I can honestly say it was well worth what it took to get here." ... umn?page=2
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