By SANDRA BRETTING For The Chronicle
After 15 years running a golf course with a business-to-business model, B.J. and Harry Yewens planted seeds for new careers
When B.J. and Harry Yewens, two of the founders behind the former Old Orchard Golf Course in Sugar Land, talk about “greens” now, most likely they’re discussing flower arrangements.
Since selling the golf course to developers in 2005, the couple has gone on to launch the Fulshear Flower and Garden Shoppe. It’s the only florist in a city that demographers predict will grow from 700 to 20,000 residents within five years.
Major housing developments near Fulshear include Weston Lakes, Fulbrook and Firethorne.
“We knew there was a need out here,” B.J. Yewens said. “There’s so much development, but our nearest competitors are way out in Katy.”
For the couple, who spent years dealing in a business-to-business environment, the move to a retail business took a leap of faith.
“The first thing I tell all small business owners to do is conduct a feasibility study, to really analyze their competition,” said Michael Newman, director of the accounting program at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. “The second thing I tell them is to have a two- to five-year financial cushion in place, because you never know what unexpected expenses you’ll run into.”
The Fulshear Flower and Garden Shoppe sells everything from individual flower arrangements to landscaping services for homes and businesses. As an agronomist who also oversees the Weston Lakes Golf Course, Harry Yewens provides advice on turf and fertilizers, while B.J. oversees the retail operations.
Base for the business is a 1926 home in the heart of downtown Fulshear. According to B.J. Yewens, renovating a century-old property for a commercial business posed its own challenges.
“Everything from the wiring to the plumbing had to be overhauled,” Yewens said. “The upside is that people see how we’ve improved the grounds here and that’s been great advertising for us.”
According to B.J. Yewens, the reality of running a floral business is very different from most people’s perceptions.
“I think people picture themselves running through fields of daisies if they owned a flower shop, but the reality is that only 10 percent of this business involves floral designing,” Yewens said. “The majority is washing buckets and hauling plants – hard, manual labor.”
Estimating Is Vital
Another challenge is dealing with a product that’s so perishable. According to B.J. Yewens, most flowers last only a week or so, and overordering or underordering can devastate a flower business. “If anyone has the desire to go into this industry, I’d recommend they work for a flower wholesaler first,” Yewens said. “You need to learn how to estimate, because that can make or break your business.”
While the business has no competitors locally, the Yewens maintain the Internet is their greatest rival. “The problem with the Internet is that flowers are very regional, and people are starting to recognize that,” said Jack Cross, a San Antonio florist who previously served as president of the Texas State Florists’ Association. “People see a picture on the Internet and say, ‘I want that,’ but those flowers may not be available in their area, or if they are, they may carry an astronomical price.”
In the future, the Yewens hope to expand the shop to include an additional acre of land to grow greenery, as well as expand the landscaping business.
They declined to provide revenue for the shop because the enterprise is so new. “This is really B.J.’s dream,” Harry Yewens said. “I got to follow my dream for 15 years with the Old Orchard Golf Course, and now it’s her turn.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Bauer College of Business
The C.T. Bauer College of Business has been in operation for more than 60 years at the University of Houston main campus. Through its five academic departments, the college offers a full-range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in business. The Bauer College is fully accredited by the AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In August 2000, Houston business leader and philanthropist Charles T. (Ted) Bauer endowed the College of Business with a $40 million gift. In recognition of his generosity, the college was renamed the C.T. Bauer College of Business.