Dennille Austin moved to Rhode Island as a young adult to pursue her education in ophthalmology, but her heart was always with Vermont and with the floral business. That’s why she decided to purchase the Village Green Florist, a unique shop in Essex that caters to the needs of both everyday shoppers and couples preparing for their weddings. Her incredible skill in floral design and passion for her field are evident in every design she crafts.
Austin’s goal when working with her clients is simple. In her own words, “I try to have exactly what they want.” Her ability to cater to the exact design needs of her clients sets Dennille apart from other florists in the local area.
Located at 60A Pearl Street in Essex Junction, Village Green Florist caters to the needs of both everyday shoppers and those who are planning for special occasions. “We do everyday floral designs, deliveries, and walk-ins, but I specialize in weddings. I love wedding work,” says Dennille. During the wedding season, she takes on a handful of large weddings and an array of smaller projects. She also has several part-time employees and a freelance designer working with her as well.
Though she bought the floral shop just a few years ago, Denille’s history with the Village Green Florist goes back much farther.
They were the most helpful. They had the best rate, and also–I worked with Greg there, and he was just always really helpful. He was always there.
“Oddly enough, I used to work at this shop when I went to high school. It was my first job, my high school job,” she shares. Unsure of what she wanted to do after graduation, Austin found mentors in the shop’s previous owner and manager. They taught her the fundamentals of floral design, and she credits them with playing an important role in her professional life.
Talking about her floral design process today, Dennille shares that she lets her imagination run wild with the day-to-day arrangements she carries in the shop. When it comes to weddings, though, the process is a little different.
“For weddings it’s a lot of time because I have to come up with floral recipes for each bouquet, centerpiece, what the guys are going to wear, that kind of stuff. So a lot of times I draw inspiration of what the bride and groom want and then kind of run with it,” she says. Dennille’s ability to turn a couple’s floral dreams into reality has earned her a solid reputation in the local community.
In addition to specializing in weddings, Dennille also runs regular flower specials to keep her clients coming back. She shares that “I always have a rose special. I feel like It’s been going on at the store for a million years. $19.99 for a dozen roses. I feel like that was the price when I worked here, so I still keep that going.” Providing fair pricing is one of her top priorities, and she credits good relationships with wholesalers for allowing her to do so. Austin is dedicated to floral design, but it’s apparent to her clients that she’s a savvy businesswoman too.
Dennille does more than just sell flowers. She also carries cards, candles and other small gift items. Austin loves supporting the local community as well and is proud to put local artists on display. “I have a rotating art gallery for local artists. And I put up a lot of the kids at the school’s artwork too,” she says. The art gallery component of her shop makes it unique while allowing her to highlight the creative achievements of others in the community.
Of course, part of Austin’s success lies in the fact that she understands how to set herself apart from other florists. “I was really focused on having a great website and a great portfolio. And I think that makes me different, for sure. Just I knew that in the world that we’re in people just want to hop online. They want to see what I’ve done and they want to see what people say about me.” Austin also uses Facebook, Instagram and other social networking sites to reach out to her clients and promote her floral designs.
Dennille is also a big supporter of local businesses, and she enjoys seeing the designs that other florists in the area offer. She shares that “we jive in the area. You know, it’s friendly competition. I like to see them around, so when somebody closes, like somebody in Colchester did not too long ago, it’s sad to see them go because that means the grocery stores and, 1-800-FLOWERS, and other online services are taking over, which is sad.” Strong local competition provides an important spark for Austin as a floral designer, and it helps her keep her business skills sharp too.
Like many first-time business owners, though, Dennille found the initial process of financing and opening her business challenging. “It was nerve-wracking. You know, I had no idea that you had to put together a business plan and projections for your business, include how much money you think you’re going to make, and describe why you think you’re going to make it. So the business plan was a little intimidating.” Intimidated but not afraid, Austin took business classes designed for entrepreneurs and learned how to write a business plan.
With her business plan in hand and a location for her shop chosen, it was time for Dennille to find a financing partner. She shares that she had to decide between Opportunities Credit Union and several other financial institutions. She found a match in Opportunities, where she was able to work with Senior Business Development Manager, Greg Huysman. “I had the choice between Opportunities and two other institutions, and I went with Opportunities. They were the most helpful. They had the best rate, and also–I worked with Greg there, and he was just always really helpful. He was always there.”
Like Dennille, Opportunities is dedicated to the local business community. It was something that stood out to her. Austin is confident that she’ll return to Opportunities if she has financing needs in the future, and she says she’s proud to recommend the local credit union to other entrepreneurs too.
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