18th Birthday Competition: Winner Announced!
We are delighted to announce the winner of our 18th Birthday competition.
We asked both individuals and small business owners alike to tell us about their business, and/or business dream, and what they would use the $1,000 prize money for if they won.
We had an overwhelming response to the competition, with hundreds of entries flooding in from all corners of the globe. It was extremely tough to judge and we loved reading all the inspiring entries, but there could only be one winner . . .
Huge congratulations go to Jill Anne Miller from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She wowed us with her business, Hattie’s Fleurs, a small online flower design enterprise helping single widows in nursing homes and care facilities, as well as donating profits to refugees in Iraq. It’s a local business with global dreams, and with social good at its very core.
Here’s what Jill had to say about what inspired her business, and how the prize money will be used.
The beginning of Hattie’s Fleurs
I started the business about one year ago and it all started with a dream and a Namecheap domain! Namecheap was having a domain sale and it was just the push I needed to get started.
Hattie’s Fleurs began out of my need to earn a living, but also to find a purpose greater than myself. I had a college professor friend who said to me once, “Jill Anne, if you can’t find a seat at the table, then make the table.”
That made a lot of sense! I started to think about what I was good at doing and where my natural gifts were. That is always a great place to start. Creativity and artistic talent was a big one.
Also, in my free time, I was always working in the garden. I love being up to my eyeballs in flowers and covered in dirt! So, when I heard about a party going on or a wedding anniversary, I just stepped out and said, ‘I can do the flowers for it, and they will be the best you have ever seen!’ So the idea came to me to start a flower business and I named it Hattie’s Fleurs after my town, Hattiesburg.
Being different enough to succeed
I have worked for many different employers over the years and each time you see things that they do well and you see things that you would do differently.
It is so important to go back to dreaming again like you did when you were a child. Dream as big as you can and think about how your business will end up when it is fully grown. I have never been a part of the ‘cool crowd’, and my eye has always gone to people who were on the outside of the crowd.
Developing Hattie’s Fleurs
In my town, I noticed that the elderly (especially) were on the outside. I befriended some of them and started to think about what I could to help them out. There is so much you can do, even if you don’t have much money or time. You just look for a need and then do your very best to fill it.
As I started to get to know the elderly ladies (and a few gentlemen) at the nursing homes, I saw a common thread. They felt like their lives were over and that there wasn’t a purpose for them anymore. I didn’t completely understand it because when you talk with them, they are such wonderful and interesting people! They felt like they had just been cast out of society.
One day an idea came to me to start making things to sell in a physical, bricks-and-mortar flower shop. But when the time came, I saw these people were on a fixed income, and sometimes they’d open up their wallet and show me they had only ten dollars left for the whole month! I realized it just couldn’t wait until I could afford a retail storefront. I needed to get these people working now!
Helping out is built into the ethos of Hattie’s Fleurs
The whole business is shaped from the understanding that I am not the only one who needs an income. It’s not all about me—it’s about all of us. It not only provides income but also the opportunity to feel needed in the world and feel like you have a purpose and can do something bigger than yourself, even if you are confined to a wheelchair.
There is more than one traditional way of doing just about anything. I love making beautiful things, and getting to be creative is wonderful but it is not as nearly as fun as seeing people’s lives change for good. That’s what matters most to me.
Changing our approach to work
Whenever you meet people, they always ask you what you do for a living, instead of who you are. After having a long and successful career in the commercial arts, I was left with an emptiness at always just making things “look cool”. I thought that finding ways to help others was something that was meant to come after you’d “found yourself”.
This just isn’t true. You can start any day, right where you are. It is so much better to give than to receive. I can even see that in the people that I work with. If I give them new clothes or food (or whatever they need), it never brings as much happiness and purpose as it does when they get a chance to give to others for themselves.
My former career in design and graphics for film and television helped me so much in my new career, despite seeming so different from the outside.
Being an Art Director in these different fields has given me that ability to create and define new brands. I see this business fully finished in my creative mind. I can see the interior and exterior of the store, I can see the online store and I can see even international sales and a recognizable brand.
Donating to charity
We give a big percentage of all of our profits (10% from both the flower and ornaments businesses) into helping the refugees in Iraq. The world we live in now is an increasingly hostile place.
The voices are angry and about division and groups. I don’t like to think about groups. I like to think about one group, all of us, on the planet. So, when there is a need in Iraq and it is something that I can get behind and help with, I am there. It is no different than helping fill the needs in my town or state or country.
It’s so thrilling to all of us to think that we can be in our town doing what we do, and affect people’s lives all way over there!
How the money is used in Iraq
The money we have sent has helped to keep the bread project going. They bake over 33,000 loaves of bread each month, buy shoes for people of all ages (they often have to flee ISIS without having the time to put shoes on).
We also help to pay the teachers of a kindergarten a fair wage and provide a hot lunch for the children every day—the only hot meal of the day for many. We provide kerosene heaters for the refugee camp tents in winter which they need because it snows in Northern Iraq. The list goes on and on. There is so much to do there, and the money is not getting filtered through big NGOs—it’s getting right directly to the people who need it! Sometimes smaller is better.
Sometimes I still wonder if the business will make it through to the finished vision I have for it. It is a lot of pressure to pay the bills! It is also very hard to not always know if you have enough to live on because you keep giving so much away and putting more into growing the business.
That is one of the hardest parts, but I think you have to push through all of the doubts and the worry. Every part of a business is a challenge when you are starting from nothing, but with so many others counting on you, you have no choice but to keep going.
Planning for the future
My next major goal is to buy a flower cooler so we can land more regular clients. It has been hard designing flowers the same day and running them around in my Corolla. A flower cooler lets me keep flowers on hand and also stores them longer than just one day. I can start to reach out to bigger clients like restaurants and do special events and funerals.
I want to do more in Iraq and more here in Hattiesburg and to do that, this business has to be a success! It is hard to establish and land clients and wear the many hats of an entrepreneur when you have such limited funds and you are paying as you go. It can be done but when you win a wonderful gift like this, it makes it so encouraging to keep moving forward and maybe get a little closer to checking some needs off of your list!
Eventually, I’d love to open a bricks-and-mortar store. The store would allow me to employ more people both in the store and in production. One major goal that I have is to create gift hampers with very fine items that are made by other small businesses in the area and beyond! I always have my eye out for new and exciting things that could work.
How Namecheap helped with starting the current business
Namecheap has been a major part of my getting started. I have really enjoyed the reading the posts about other business owners on the blog. I have learned a lot. Last year at about this time, all I had was the name of a domain that I wanted and I found your business. It was so exciting to get my chosen business name.
The customer support has been awesome because so many times I can just check in and have a chat to help get the email set up or the website connected and it has taken a lot of technical fear and worry out of the process. I know someone will always be there to help with these important issues. Support is so important to find when you are starting a business. I consider Namecheap to be a part of my team.
Take Part in Other Competitions
We aim to create more competitions like this one in the near future. Keep an eye on our blog, social media channels, and newsletter to find out more as and when they occur.
In the meantime, to save on with our current deals, don’t forget to check out our promos page.