This success story started with a mistake. Caisa Littorin was studying to become a photographer at upper secondary school, and one day she was given a photo assignment that she didn’t know how to deal with. She became angry and decided to leave the course. Caisa’s mentor told her that she should take a different course instead and Caisa ended up on the florist programme. After three years at upper secondary school, Caisa chose to continue her studies on the florist programme at the Munkeröd Educational Centre.
When Caisa had completed her training as a florist, the idea of starting her own business felt completely natural. She started to reflect on the lack of environmentally friendly flowers and was surprised when she discovered how difficult it was to fine ecological, fair-trade and locally produced flowers in Stockholm.
It was this discovery that led Caisa to decide to open her own business, and in 2011 she started Flowers by Grow. The idea was to be the first entirely environmentally friendly florist. Caisa worked extremely hard to find suppliers, products and flowers that were completely ecological, locally produced and fair-trade certified.
– I studied the entire market and over the course of the year I found a couple of companies that supply environmentally friendly flowers. I can see, however, that people’s interest in the environment and sustainability has increased, and that more suppliers are selling ecologically produced flowers now than when I started in 2011, says Caisa.
Caisa worked full time for a year to prepare for the opening of her shop. The most difficult part was finding a shop. All of the good premises were in poor locations, or vice versa. In the end she found a place on Sveavägen in Stockholm. She renovated the premises together with friends and family and put the shop together entirely on her own, without any help from professional craftsmen.
Today there are other environmentally certified florists. There are few that go the whole way, however, and allow environmental considerations to govern their entire concept the way that Caisa does, from the way the plants are grown to the paper used to wrap them in the shop. In order to be environmentally certified, you may have to do no more than deal with the shop’s waste in an environmentally friendly way. But in many cases it the flowers themselves that cause the greatest environmental harm. The flowers are often imported from countries such as Kenya, Colombia and Costa Rica, where growers use pesticides that can cause cancer. These growers’ nurseries are often devastating for the surrounding environment. This means that as a consumer, you always have to ask questions and look for certificates.
– What is most important for me is that the environment and the people living around the nurseries are healthy and that the flowers are of high quality. When you come into my shop, you don’t have to think about which flowers are good for the environment, because all my flowers are, says Caisa.
When Caisa decided to start her own business, she had never done anything like this before. She had no prior experience of opening a shop. What gave her the courage to do so was a bit of bloody-mindedness and a strong belief in her idea and in the business concept. She has learned a great deal and has coped with problems as they have arisen. Along the way, Caisa has learned everything from budgeting and buying from suppliers to dealing with staff issues.
– I’ve spent hours on the phone with the Tax Agency. The Almi organisation has helped me with so many different things, and I am so very grateful to them, and to Magnus Källström in particular. They are a fantastic resource for all small businesses. Almi also have start-your-own-business courses, which are completely free of charge!
When I ask Caisa why she chose to start her own business instead of looking for a job at a florist, she answers that she quite simply couldn’t cope with working for someone else.
– I became bored very quickly and I had too many good ideas that were difficult to put into action as someone else’s employee, while at the same time I saw a chance to succeed by doing something that nobody else had done – by working in an environmentally friendly way. Quite simply, I was forced to start my own business.
What have you learned from starting your own firm?
– I’ve learned that I am very good at things that I had absolutely no idea about. I’ve learned to deal with staff, to be a good boss, accounts and a whole load of other things. I’ve also learned that everything is not about money, that if you have fun at work, it gets you a long way, but that running a business is not charity work, so make sure that you pay yourself a reasonable salary relatively quickly so that your future doesn’t suffer.
What advice would you give to others who want to start their own business?
– My first piece of advice would be to always multiply everything by three – time, money, energy. Whatever you may think you know, if you multiply by three it will give you a more realistic estimate of the actual amount of time/money involved. It is difficult to say this, but you can count on the fact that family and friends will not get to see as much of you as before. Think about whether you are ready to be more alone. You will be sacrificing a lot of time and money. But above all, I would advise you to give it everything you’ve got. If you have a dream, then go for it! Sweden needs businesses and if you have a dream that you can turn into a reality, then you’re a really lucky person.
There has been a lot of interest in Caisa’s environmentally friendly concept, and in 2015 she decided it was time to expand. So Flowers by Grow is now being run from both a shop on Norr Mälarstrand and the original address at Sveavägen 49.
Read more about Caisa’s florist shop by clicking the link below!
Text: Lucella Bergström