Alexes Haggins’ father, Bernard, worked as a delivery driver for Colony Florist, a flower shop founded around 1912 on Georgia Avenue in Northwest DC, in the early 1960’s. Soon after his employment began, he moved into the shop, learning the business and managing the day-to-day interactions. The floral shop, a central point of the community, sat directly across the street from the Industrial Bank of Washington and became a big part of his life.
“It was the place he met my mom, because she was a teller there, there were other businesses on that block, like Colony Liquor store, that was the name of that neighborhood,” Alexes Haggins said.
Her father continued managing the store for several years, developing relationships with funeral homes and churches – he was so well known that people would stop by just to talk. After the original owner retired in the late 1960’s, Haggins took over the business. He moved the floral shop to Upshur Street and changed the name to Flowers by Alexes, in honor of the birth of his youngest daughter. At his new location, he embraced the community in the same way.
From a young age, Haggins worked in the store with her father, assisting with sales and daily deliveries to churches. She remembers the big holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, where she learned about wholesale, floral supplies and how roses needed to be cleaned and prepped for sale.
When her father got sick, Haggins was only around 20 years old but she tried to take over the business. She worked at the store while her father stayed home. At the time, Haggins was unaware of the resources available to help her business stay open and unfortunately she had to close the doors in 2003.
After becoming a single mom of four, Haggins wasn’t able to juggle a typical 9 to 5 job and fully care for the needs of her children, one of whom has special needs. Alexes’s brother told her that real estate would allow her the flexibility to create her own schedule. She took the class and obtained her realtor’s license and soon after started shadowing a close friend, who became her mentor and business partner.
“It opened my eyes to the concept of generational wealth and real estate changed my life entirely…it gave me financial freedom, to be able to take care of my children and my family in a way that I struggled so much before.”
But Haggins never gave up on her dream and next year, she will be reopening Flowers by Alexes.
“I was able to pay fees and lock down my retail space. If I wasn’t a realtor, I wouldn’t have been able to do this, honestly.”
She will also continue her father’s legacy.
“He’s paying it forward because some growers and wholesalers that are still living in the industry remember my dad and are really excited to continue to work with me now.”
Haggins will open her modern floral shop with two soft openings during the holiday season before her grand opening in 2022. Her soft launch will feature a pop-up fresh flower stand outside her storefront on 851 Upshur Street NW, Washington, DC. Haggins also plans to participate in Small Business Saturdays offering retail space for local small businesses, participating in community day festivities and having an open store front, the same experience her father embraced.
“I’ll have my music playing…I can’t wait,” she said. Her floral shop will feature traditional fresh cut flowers and modern house plants, plants that you won’t be able to find at Home Depot or Safeway – large, beautiful and rare plants.
DC Women Business Center Resource Coordinator Monti Taylor interviewed Alexes Haggins about her experience before deciding to launch her new business and the resources that supported her in the process.
What does being a small business owner mean to you?
Being a business owner is very important to me because it gives me a sense of freedom and independence, in terms of not working for anyone else. It allows me to pour back into the community that I grew up in. It makes me feel good that everything my father taught me made it easy for me to successfully open Flowers by Alexes.
Tell us more about your business (target audience and product):
Flowers By Alexes’s target audience will be individuals who live in the community who may be getting coffee, walking their dogs, or on their way to or from work and want to stop and pick up fresh flowers or a plant. We will service those who will need flowers for funeral arrangements, special occasions and corporate businesses who will require fresh flowers in their reception area.
What if any challenges did you face that led to you starting your business?
There were not many challenges that I faced because I did a lot of research before taking the first step towards opening our doors. The COVID-19 pandemic made it very difficult to get important things done in a timely manner. I am fortunate to open my business at a time where things have opened back up and people are able to come out, enjoy the floral shop, and feel the beautiful emotions that the fresh flowers and plants make you feel.
Did you have any mentors/resources that helped you during the startup stage?
Yes, outside of my business partner Eboneese Thompson, and support from my family and friends, I worked closely with my marketing manager Rebecca Gunther who referred me to the DC Women’s Business Center, the center gave me resources that assisted me with grants, workshops and weekly trainings that would help me run my business successfully. LaToria Brent, the Small Business Specialist and counselor helped me get my business on KIVA, which I am using to help raise funds for my soft launch.
What advice would you give to the woman who wants to start her own business?
I would say you have to start within first, that’s what helped me to focus on my goal and avoid distractions. I looked within to love myself and knew exactly what I wanted to do and once I did that, I started doing research and surrounding myself with like-minded people-those that could teach me and mentor me to do the things that I wanted to do. When I made the decision that I wanted to move forward and open a flower shop, the amount of resources that I found that DC has, for small businesses, blew my mind, I had no idea that DC offers so much. You have to be a social person; you have to be able to talk to people and build networking relationships.
When you are not running and managing your business, what do you do to relax?
I am a mother of 4, my youngest son is Autistic, and requires a lot of attention from me. My goal is to raise them in and around the floral business just like my father did with me. When we are away from school or work, we love movie night, skating, and swimming. When I take mommy time, I go to a spa, somewhere quiet, or travel.
The DC Women’s Business Center is a small business development organization whose mission is to empower women entrepreneurs to build resilient and successful businesses in the DMV region. The DC Women’s Business Center is funded in part by the Small Business Administration and is a program of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The DCWBC provides mentoring, training, counseling and access to capital.
Monti Taylor was DCWBC’s resource coordinator.
Photo of Alexes Haggins in front of her new storefront at 851 Upshur St NW in Washington, DC.