Happy Friday, boss! A day of lazily closing out the week, chatting with your co-workers (aka your pets) about your weekend plans, and hopefully closing up shop juuuust a little early. Each Friday, we'll be doing a feature on an amazing creative business owner in the Big Sky State, so that we can all learn a little bit more about the struggle and the awesomeness of being a business owner. Click here to read other interviews with amazing women from around the state!
Hey girl hey! Introduce yourself and tell us about your biz!
I'm Leslie Lukas of Lukas Trudeau Event Co. I own, with my business partner, Lukas Trudeau Event Co--a full service design and event planning firm catering to destination weddings and events and corporate experience events. We provide full service design, decorating and fresh flowers along with concept to completion planning--creating a seamless experience for our clients and their guests.
How did you start your boss lady journey?
Ultimately, floral design is my passion.
I moved to Montana in 1998 after training with some magnificent shops in Washington state for 6 years. When I first arrived in our area, I worked in 2 different flower shops between Bozeman and Livingston--making the commute each day (editor's note: That's a hefty commute!).
Having a strong background in design, the shops just weren't progressive enough for me (imagine FTD style bouquets on a daily basis) so I made the decision to start my own flower shop out of my house.
So, yeah, I was THAT girl that started out of my garage (living only 6 miles from Chico Hot Springs) didn't hurt either, as I had a built in clientele base for my work and made fast friends there.
Not soon after, I printed the first sheet of business cards on my dot-matrix printer, made a few strategic phone calls to tell the world what I was up to, and then BOOM! People were calling me out of the wood work! I was traveling into the Yellowstone Club weekly, doing flowers at Chico and the Crazy Mountain Ranch, and started with 6 weddings that first year, then doubled each year after that.
About 2 years into my garage floral days, I realized my clients wanted much more than just flowers. My clients were coming from all over the world to be married in Montana and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE was doing wedding planning except a few church organizers and a woman from NY named Anita Pagliaro (I envied her style so much)! I wanted to be her because she was so organized and creative.
Anita had me do flowers for some of her events, which I was delighted to do. There was an opportunity and need for event planners and stylish florists right then because at the time, there was a small boom happening in Bozeman....and I took advantage of the timing.
Martha Stewart Weddings had become all the craze, so I dove into every book and magazine she had ever published, I aligned myself with incredible vendors, seeking the best, and made a ton of mistakes and celebrated successes along the way! Never in my wildest dreams did I think my work would end up in the pages of BRIDES magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot, and so many more.
You could say I was a pioneer of custom floral and planning companies in Montana. I quickly grew out of my garage, and decided Bozeman would be my hub, and had a swanky space downtown called the Floral Gallery.
Lots has happened between now and then, including 2 kids, 18 years of marriage, 3 different business names and branding, and making the best decision ever to join forces with Angela Trudeau (formerly of Fresh Designs) in year 17.
It's been a great ride and I can safely say I am still doing what I love.
Have you gone full-time with your business?
I was full-time right off the bat. I knew that to make a living at event planning and floral, you have to do it full-time. Working out of a garage, dabbling in a wedding here and an event there; I just knew I would never make enough money to reach my goals and it would be just a hobby. The demand was also there, so I took advantage of that.
Okay, let's talk about the DNA behind Lukas Trudeau. Were you one of those women with entrepreneurship basically in your blood that we always hear about?
I am one with a passion for entrepreneurship and working for myself. Floral design and planning is something I am good at, and I LOVE working with people! I am a social person through and through, and the path I chose feeds that part of me.
How do you build an income and a life through Lukas Trudeau?
I make my money by making good business decisions, selling our planning services and flowers for top dollar and fair margin (that matches our experience) and providing the products and services that live up to it.
Never being afraid to pull back when something isn't working. For our business, we keep changing it up and watching the market. We find it important to research good sources and watch trends in town, while keeping an eye on our competitors. It's important for us to keep our name out there and stay relevant.
Being authentic helps tremendously....as does trust. Not only trusting my gut but also making sure my clients trust me. It's important for us to do an amazing job for our clients and to build great relationships in the community.
A good example of making a bold business decision is letting our office in the Baxter Hotel go after three years. We currently have two warehouses on top of the office, and while we can afford all of it, we just do not use the office enough to justify it.
So far, the emails and phone calls have not stopped and we seldom have drop-in clients. It's just smart business to save that money!
What was your most expensive mistake?
My most expensive mistake was growing my company too fast in 2002 without a plan. I ended up saying yes to every job. I didn't realize how much my expenses would grow with insurance, added employees, more product, and made an even bigger mistake of not raising my profit margins.
I was being too nice and undervaluing my product and was charging my clients the same as if I was still back in my garage doing flowers instead of someone that now had a brick and mortar shop. An expensive mistake, but I did recover from it the next year. Now with all the reality shows, podcasts and resources (which we did not have then! or boss ladies!) no one should be making those kinds of mistakes!
What's the biggest misconception that women have around business ownership?
That you have to have a business plan. I started my company without one (well, it was jotted on a old notepad), but as primitive as it was, it was enough.
Sometimes, just taking the leap and getting your idea out there before someone else does is more important than the plan. Just don't get caught up on how shiny that plan is or how proper.
While it is nice to have a plan from the start, and some loans and grants require the shiny version and because you will need money to start your business, it just wasn't necessary for the type of business that I wanted to open.
Now I write mini business plans around things I would like to try, such as pop up shops or other products. When the numbers don't crunch out to where I would like to see them, I let the idea go.
Where would you like to be in the next year? The next five years?
I am content in the now. Change can happen rapidly in business, so being in the now and present is so important to my work. In five years, I hope to be passing the torch to another go-getter who wants to take our company into the next decade of existence, hoping to have built a brand that people rely on.
How would you define a Boss Lady?
A Boss Lady is a driven woman who decided to take a leap of faith, wave her magic wand, and follow her dreams and not let anyone or anything get in her way.
What one piece of advice would you give yourself in your first year as a biz owner? How about year 3?
Year one....don't forget to eat...and breath. Year 3....see year one. (but seriously, always take time for yourself no matter what and don't forget those around you who are helping you achieve your dreams--gratitude goes a long way!)
Want to get in touch with Leslie? Check her out on their website. Send her an email and tell her how you found out about her (*cough* The #MontanaBoss feature *cough*)
(P.S. Want to share your story with other Montana business owners? Click here.)