IAM763- Business Owner Helps with Artisanal Flower Arrangements

Podcast Interview with BWS Johnson

BWS Johnson is a purveyor of terrible puns and artisanal flower arrangements. Brooke's work has appeared in local galleries as juried impermanent art.

She is a proud member of Alexandria, Virginia's West End Business Association.

Addicted to sowing and tending the seeds that bind communities, Blooms of Paradise has been giving away the store since 2018. In 2020, the Commonwealth certified it as a woman-owned micro-business.

  • CEO Hack: Debriefing
  • CEO Nugget: Rise above, struggle to do something great, find people who will help you accomplish your goals and give it a 100%
  • CEO Defined: Freedom to create – manifesting your own dream



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Intro 0:02
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:31
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast I have a very special guest on the show today. I have BWS Johnson of blooms of Paradise. BWS, It's awesome to have you on the show.

BWS Johnson 0:41
Thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 0:42
No problem. Super excited to have you on and before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about BWS so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing. And BWS Johnson is a purveyor of terrible puns and artisanal flower arrangements. Brooke’s work has appeared in local galleries as juried impermanent art. She is a proud member of Alexandria, Virginia’s West End Business Association. Addicted to sowing and tending the seeds that bind communities, Blooms of Paradise has been giving away the store since 2018. In 2020, the Commonwealth certified it as a woman-owned micro-business. Brooke, you ready speak to the imcl community?

BWS Johnson 1:20
I am as nervous as they make me.

Gresham Harkless 1:23
Absolutely. Well, I always say it's like two friends, you know, talking at a coffee shop and having been to the West End Business Association. I know we've had some of those conversations. So what I wanted to do to kind of kick everything off was just kind of rewind the clock a little bit, can you take us through what I call your CEO story and let us know about what led you to get started?

BWS Johnson 1:40
Sure thing. Basically, I was sick of working for people who were neck-deep in franchise rules and fees. They didn't care about their customers, they kind of just clung to that recipe book with both ends. If designers used one more flour than the recipe listed or had to adjust the color of the arrangement, just a smidge, there was a fit. Things were more important than people. So when you have a chain that forces you to try to recreate something that they've pictured on their side, it just doesn't work. Flowers are at their best different times of the year. Storms blow in Wipeout crops. So when you try to recreate it in paint by numbers situation, everybody is disappointed. I knew when I started out if I broke away from a franchise, it catered to people that loved our they would reward beat with their business, you'll land high-end clients that trust you with their business time. And again, they'll do it again. Again, if you still here clear of average.

Gresham Harkless 2:47
Absolutely, no, I absolutely love that. And I think that the creative in me is definitely as crazy when I hear all that because i i think that there's always room to kind of try different things and kind of, you know, go against what has always been done. And I feel like so many times you get chained to kind of do things as they've always been done. That's when you kind of seep into that average kind of level that you kind of spoke to as well.

BWS Johnson 3:12

Gresham Harkless 3:14
Exactly, exactly. And so, now I wanted to ask you for exactly how you serve your clients, can you take us through exactly what you do with your clients and how exactly that process works?

BWS Johnson 3:26
Sure, I connect people through the art of floristry. So you might come to me for a birthday or another event, and I have to listen to you to get my head around what your needs are. So I'm happy to do any sort of arrangement. But I needed you to direct me as to what it is. So I'd be delighted to do statement pieces for office lobbies. I do one time direct deliveries for special clients. I do large scale events. Every sort of consultation is different. Obviously the direct the single time arrangements are very short, I'd usually ask what their favorite colors are, what their personality is like. There are all sorts of things that can go into my art that you don't need an art vocabulary for that will connect you with the person that's getting your arrangement.

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Gresham Harkless 4:18
Nice, absolutely love that. And it takes so much time to kind of sometimes be able to it sounds like and definitely correct me if I'm wrong translating exactly sometimes what people are saying and what they're interested in, what they want the specific arrange, but for to make sure it comes to light in the way that they would have hoped.

BWS Johnson 4:37
I always feel like they give me some sort of clue that I wouldn't have had without that email without that comment without that phone conversation. I'll just see a little detail. It'll come through when the recipient gets it. And everybody's happy.

Gresham Harkless 4:57
Yeah, absolutely. That's what all matter About at the end of the day, as you talked about kind of that human aspect that I think so many times we forget about in business, but even on a deeper level in life, and understanding, as you said, at the end of the day, making sure that everybody's happy. A lot of times that happens, because we're paying attention, because we're kind of elevating those small details, which end up being big details and make a huge impact and take it to the next level.

BWS Johnson 5:21
You got it. And in the manifestation of everything is important, too. Because when you send flowers, you're not just saying Gresham, I care about you. You're showing it, there's something tangible now. And it makes that relationship even stronger.

Gresham Harkless 5:36
Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know when you are taking that time out, as you said, to send the files, but also know those small kinds of things that make such a big impact, it goes beyond just, you know, saying that you care, it shows it on a really deeper level. And now, I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for yourself, or your business, or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

BWS Johnson 6:05
I have to go back and touch on that I avoid sacrificing quality or creativity. A couple of my first arrangements that I did alone, after stepping out of the shops after stepping out from somebody else's shadow. I was wrestling with myself as an artist because I thought I'm out there on the east coast on interested in tropicals is anybody going to buy this. And I'm glad that I went with what I love to do instead of what would have made business sense to stick with because people loved what I created. And so I get to do what I love, instead of what was paying the bills in it, and they end up being the same thing in the end. So why not have both?

Gresham Harkless 6:52
Absolutely love that. And it definitely seems to be like kind of a common theme and what we what we've been talking about, because I think so many times when there's a quote-unquote, model to generating revenue or clinical being successful and whatever that might be. So many times when people start businesses, even, you know, more generally, they'll see what somebody does to be successful. And then they'll emulate that. And ignoring the things that they're passionate about ignoring the things that they feel like might be a little bit different, but be true to themselves. And so many times we forget that those models often will become stale. And by the time and if we don't pay attention to those things that are pulling at us, maybe your passions are things that we're really excited about us and kind of double down on those. A lot of times we create new models, largely based off of those interests. And following through with that.

BWS Johnson 7:44
Absolutely. I resisted getting a physical store for a long time. So when COVID hit, I did not have the debt of somebody that would have a brick and mortar storefront to worry about. And it puts me in whole different police have a really hard spot in everybody's lives. And I'm just grateful for that.

Gresham Harkless 8:08
Yeah, absolutely. And having that foresight to be able to do that. And I think so many times, especially during times like this with COVID and all the transition, the changes and the disruption, being able to be nimble and to make pivots and not have like you said that overhead and the dead a lot of times that comes with that allows you to be more nimble, to be more creative, and of course make really phenomenal products. And I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

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BWS Johnson 8:45
This is going to sound like the most boring thing in my life. But I debrief I Debrief. And I'd debrief. When people get caught up in a big order or big event, they live moment to moment in this frenzied state because you got it you got to make sure that you're satisfying your contracts that you're delivering on your deliverables that you're being responsive that you're being responsible in your head's really in the game. But when it's complete when the paperwork sign when the check is cleared, when everything's great, a lot of people just move immediately to the next thing. And they don't bother to review what they did before. So going back looking back at that big water and figuring out what you could have done quicker or more efficiently or more efficiently is key. For me, it gets pretty granular. It gets into stuff like hey did I need 10 packs of Hyperkin would five have done the same giving me the same selection looked as uniform as it would have. That tended because if it did, then I wasted five packs. The better side of that is asking your staff what they would have done On differently, right then while it's fresh in their minds, to make things go quicker, or to make things run smoother, what would give them a better state of mind because nobody likes that crunch time feeling of being in the weeds of stressing out. And you'll keep the people that you have on hand longer, and they'll produce better work for you, if they feel like they're really invested if they're really part of the team. And their opinion matters.

Gresham Harkless 10:31
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice, it could be something you would say if you were to happen to a time machine to tell your younger self.

BWS Johnson 10:44
I think it's corny, but most of the corny stuff you were taught in school, and that your parents gave you as wisdom is true. So rise above struggled to do something great. If you fall a little shorter, great. It's better to end up good than average, find people that will help you accomplish your goals. When you're giving 100% somebody can see that and the rush to help you. If you're frustrated all the time, and you snap at your employees, you won't have them around too long.

Gresham Harkless 11:21
Absolutely, no, I love those nuggets. And I think so many times, as you said, we forget, like as leaders, especially that we want to be the person that we would even want to work for. And if you're that person that's always snapping extra employees or snapping at the team members and saying this isn't done, right, that isn't done, right. You're not putting yourself in each other in their shoes, then it quickly becomes not a team issue. And I think when we kind of understand that and put that at the forefront, but continually understand that we will take step after step to get better and improve and go you know, from average, to Good to Great. And know that that's a process. And I think that gives us a lot of peace and understanding that we can that is a journey and not necessarily a one day or overnight think.

BWS Johnson 12:05
Right? Long Haul, not a short sprint.

Gresham Harkless 12:09
Exactly. It's all a marathon. And now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quick quote CEOs on the show. So Brooke, what does being a CEO mean to you?

BWS Johnson 12:21
Freedom to create you're manifesting your own dream, versus executing someone else's vision. There's also a responsibility inherent and leadership that you just talked about, that falls on you as a CEO. And even as a store manager, you don't feel that we as heavily you don't feel the need to come up with employee salaries, with rent with the cost of the goods. But you take all of that worry. And you come up with a hard way of dealing with those problems. And you do the math and you come up with the formula. When you stand behind your goods and services, and your shelter your staff success is on the way.

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Gresham Harkless 13:19
Absolutely, I definitely you know, love that perspective. And I think as you said so well, as, from that leadership vantage point, we sometimes forget the impact that we have. But as you mentioned, and the more responsibility we take on a lot of the impact that we can have is even greater. So it makes every kind of move and decision and things that we do a lot more with a lot more weight, I guess you can say. And I think when we understand that when we know take on that role and take on that challenge, and allows us to be really great and make a phenomenal impact as well.

BWS Johnson 13:52
An impact goes beyond your business when people see you helping. They want to help even more. So even though I don't have to, I get in the car ahead to Purcellville. I buy my flowers locally during the summer when I could afford to when I can't afford that when it's wintertime. I look to Kiva. And I try to get those loans out to people in South America because that's where my flowers are coming from. Everybody gets stronger. It's that collective responsibility. That really is addicting.

Gresham Harkless 14:26
Absolutely. And as infectious as well, too. So I'm glad you broke that down. Because I think so many times we forget the platform and the opportunity that we have that's at our forefront. And I think sometimes those things that we do, as you mentioned, you know, driving, you know, to get the flowers are impacting the other places around the world. We don't we sometimes forget the impact that we can have. And I think that's true leadership and understanding that and taking it at a forefront to be able to take those actions to make that happen.

BWS Johnson 14:53
We all have a piece of it. So do your thing.

Gresham Harkless 14:58
Exactly, exactly. Well, I truly appreciate that definition, that perspective, and the reminder. And what I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional, you can let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

BWS Johnson 15:14
For more information about my business is it's as simple as visiting my website, which is, feel free to get in touch with me. It's not necessarily tied to buying something. If you have a flower and you can't figure out what flower it is, send me a picture. I'll figure it out, or I'll try to pass it along to somebody that will.

Gresham Harkless 15:38
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. And we will have the links and information in the show notes and you're serving the DC Maryland, Virginia area, is that correct?

BWS Johnson 15:45
I serve Northern Virginia. So I'm not qualified in Maryland. If I got a wedding or an event, then I do the paperwork and go over there.

Gresham Harkless 15:54
Okay, perfect. Well, thank you for letting us know that as well, too. So serve in the Northern Virginia area. So we will definitely have your links and information in the show notes as well so that everybody can follow up with you hear about all the awesome things that you're doing and you're able to recreate from our mind's eye and I truly appreciate that and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

BWS Johnson 16:12
Well, thanks very much and I really appreciate being on your program. I really loved the opportunity he gave me.

Gresham Harkless 16:19
Absolutely. And I'll cut it off here.

Outro 16:22
Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IAMCEO.CO. I am CEO is not just a phrase, it’s a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. Grab CEO gear a This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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