OGDEN — Business owner Jami Fulmer kicked off her high heels, then advised aspiring Weber State business students not to follow in her footsteps.
“It’s hard for me not to just be myself, and kick off my shoes in the middle of a presentation,” said Fulmer, who owns Cedar Village Floral. “I have to be me.”
Fulmer, 31, of West Weber, spoke Monday at Weber State University’s Center for Diversity and Unity, sharing stories of being a young woman in business with an audience of students who aspire to do the same.
Shoes aside, Fulmer seemed to have the basics down and shared her story of finding a career she loved, putting in the years to learn the trade, finding financing when an opportunity to buy an established business appeared, and making financial and personal sacrifices as her business grew.
“I don’t really regret anything,” she told her listeners. “You learn and grow from mistakes. I do wish I knew more about the actual business side of it, keeping the books and doing the taxes. I was very fluent in floral, and knew all I needed about product and design.”
As a teenager, Fulmer worked at a plant nursery, then set her sights on a job at Cedar Village Floral, which was then owned by a friend’s mother. Fulmer was instantly thrust into almost all aspects of the business: taking orders, ordering flowers, designing flower arrangements, even loading the delivery van.
“It sounds like a lot, and there is a lot to do,” Fulmer said. “But it’s nothing hard. It’s all doable.”
Fulmer worked for owner Pamela Kap off and on for eight years, taking a few classes at Weber State, and leaving for a year when she became too old to be on her parents’ insurance.
“I hated it,” she confessed, with a laugh. “Offices aren’t my atmosphere at all, and the health benefits were so expensive I didn’t get them anyway. I called Pam back. She had hired people to replace me, but before long there was an opening.”
Fulmer was 26 when Kap decided she was ready to sell the business and remain as a part-time employee. Fulmer tried to find financing but could not. Eventually, she took on a silent business partner who knew accounting, and accepted a payment plan offered by Kap.
Fulmer said that, initially, people didn’t seem to take her seriously as a business owner.
“They would walk into the shop looking for the owner, and would head for one of my older employees,” she said. “When they learned I was the owner, they would say, ‘What are you, 12?’ “
Over time and through hard work, Fulmer convinced her clientele and the business community that she knew her stuff. Fulmer estimates she has tripled her bridal business in the past five years.
“Brides want young, hip, fun flower designs,” she said. “That’s a case where I think my age has helped me.”
Fulmer said if she hadn’t found a business she adored, she probably would have quit years ago. She handles everything from changing the oil in the delivery van to cleaning the toilets, along with designing the arrangements from the flower deliveries that come daily. The lack of storage space means she can’t buy flowers in bulk, like larger businesses, but she can boast the freshest flowers as a result of frequent delivery. Fulmer said she loves her small shop, and in the future hopes to add a second location rather than give up her current location and clients.
But a further acquisition could be in the fairly distant future, she said, because it takes years to build up a business. Fulmer lived with her mother for years, putting her money back into the business.
“You have to find something that is your passion, because if you don’t, it won’t be worth the hard work and long hours it takes. You think about your business when you are there and when you go home, and when you go to sleep you dream about it.”