Superior has a new full-service retail florist thanks to Leslie Hietala, proprietor of Artistic Florals by Leslie, where she offers fresh flowers, plants, and gifts for life’s events large and small. Since opening in 2016, Leslie has attained a unique niche based on her local reputation for knowledge, quality products, and reasonable prices.
Leslie has worked with flowers her whole life, starting at a Superior florist shop in 1972. Then came a position with a Duluth florist, a marriage, and a move to Minneapolis where she worked as a floral designer. Over the years Leslie gained experience in every aspect of the business. She discovered her talent for working with wedding customers. “Some people don’t like that intricate type of work, but I do,” she said.
Her store includes a showroom where a cooler displays floral arrangements. She also carries locally-made products on consignment. “It’s important to support our local small businesses. We’re entrepreneurs helping each other,” Leslie said.
Born for the business
Leslie’s parents, grandparents, and an uncle owned businesses. “Around the dinner table we’d talk about what makes customers happy, what we could do to give better service, better pricing.” Leslie always wanted to open her own shop, but with family responsibilities, the time wasn’t right until 2016. A friend referred Leslie to the Small Business Development Center at the UW-Superior, where director Andy Donahue encouraged her to take an entrepreneurial training class. As a result, “I decided to take the leap,” Leslie said.
It took Leslie a challenging two years to find the right space for her shop, but she never considered giving up. “Whenever I needed them, the SBDC was there for me,” she recalled. “Andy was always talking to me about what was my next step. He catapulted me.”
To market her business, Leslie displays at bridal showcases, advertises in local media, and maintains an online presence. Andy helped Leslie learn to use digital marketing. “Her market uses social media, so she and I set up guidelines for her use of that,” Andy said.
Accomplishments with the SBDC of UW-Superior
- Entrepreneurial training
- Business planning
- Marketing assistance
Strategic advice on key decisions
Working with the SBDC at UW-Superior, Leslie wrote a business plan complete with financial projections. Andy helped Leslie weigh key decisions. Together they evaluated possible locations, and whether to join a florist wire service. “At first I didn’t want to, because it is extremely expensive. But Andy helped me see it would be a good investment,” Leslie said.
Andy observed, “The decision was based on her target market and how she wanted to grow—stay just an event-oriented floral designer, or go into being a full-service flower retailer? She wanted to capture a unique market position based on her years of experience and her network of people who knew her creativity.” Andy drew out Leslie’s vision for her business. “It’s never about what I or the SBDC wants—it’s about what will make her business successful, what will allow her to express her creativity,” he said.
Leslie has achieved a great first year, learning what went well and what to improve through successful Christmas, Valentines Day, and Mother’s Day holidays. “I set a goal of one wedding every weekend, and I have achieved that—and more,” she said with pride.
Leslie is passing on the family legacy of entrepreneurship. Her sister, also a floral designer, works for Leslie, who also recently hired her granddaughter to “do everything—just like I did when I started,” she said. “Leslie is a great example of an encore entrepreneur,” Andy said.