Meet Jim Gifford, owner of Gifford’s Flowers. Gifford’s started back during the Great Depression, and has been continuously operated since 1938! Jim Gifford was born in Portland and attended school here. He enjoys world travel, and spending time in the mountains or at the beach with his dogs and family.
Read more to learn about how this successful business has been operating for over sixty years…
What is your company?
How did you come up with the idea?
Well, I didn’t. My Grandmother did. She began selling flowers at the Farmers Market during The Depression in the 1930’s. Of course she also sold handmade neckties and her homemade “elixir” which was “mostly alcohol” she used to say. Hey, it was a time when everyone was trying to get by! She was a great businesswoman and wonderful person who lived to be 97!
After fighting in Europe in World War 2, my Father entered the business. We have been in continuous operation in Downtown Portland since 1938. I expanded on the idea when I took over by carrying a wide selection of fresh, local flowers, and later on by being one of the first local florists to have a website and online ordering capabilities.
How did you determine your target market?
I’ve always felt that flowers should not just be a luxury item. That they should also be affordable so that flowers can be part of everyday life. We are located downtown, so we have quite a few corporate clients. But we can do everything from the Portland State student wanting a single flower, to large corporate functions.
What are you currently doing to reach them?
We have an excellent website that we are constantly updating with fresh new designs. I also believe strongly in word of mouth advertising. That your product is your best advertising. Having an unconditional guarantee and making sure our customers know that we will always do everything to make things right.
How much did you start up with?
Initially, there was very little money.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
We have gotten loans over the years for expansions or moves that we have had to make. A lot of the growing came naturally, and by being frugal.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
Well, it may sound a bit trite, but ” treat every customer the way you would like to be treated.” That, and to really think about location, traffic patterns, foot traffic and parking when selecting a location.
What are your keys to staying productive?
Try to make it fun. Hire good people that you like to be around. That’s important when you work 6 or 7 days a week.
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
How much the cards are stacked in favor of large corporations. It’s extremely hard to succeed as a small business.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. Great book about leadership and sacrifice. I also use Flipboard on my iPad to keep current with news and trends. My wife is a former buyer for a large store, so I rely on her for input as well.
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
We’ve had many close calls over the years. Losing our lease on two occasions and having to move. Snowstorms that wiped out business at Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The recent Recession that really caused corporate spending on flowers to nose dive. Lucky moments would be the fact we were able to purchase our current space so we can’t be forced to move again!
What does success mean to you?
Happiness, paying your employees a living wage, and providing healthcare benefits. Feeling at the end of every day that you’ve tried your best. Looking at the big picture and not getting stressed over small things. Working hard but having time to walk your dog at least twice a day!
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
I’d like to continue growing at a steady pace. I’ve experienced rapid growth at times over the years and it can be almost as hard as no growth.
How can people find you online?