Nicole Pelayo, flower shop owner

Client of Accion San Diego in San Diego, California

A flower shop brightens a neighborhood and brings smiles to all. The cars zip down Friars Road as Nicole Pelayo, owner of Nikkibana flower shop, sets out her flowers for the day. Nicole greets passersby with her signature wide smile, most of them returning the gesture with familiarity. Though Nikkibana had been open only a few months when we visited in the summer of 2012, already business was thriving.

“What color is attracting you right now?” Nicole asks a customer, who is trying to decide on a few single stemmed daisies for a friend. With little to go by, she sweeps up an arrangement that is at once beautiful and simple – just what the customer was hoping for.

Eleven years ago, Nicole discovered her love for arranging flowers when she walked in to a florist shop and offered her services. Although she had no experience, Nicole assured the shop owner that she was a hard worker and wouldn’t disappoint. “After three days, she gave me the keys,” Nicole says with a smile that is both sly and proud. “And I worked for her for eight years.”

Driven by her enterprising spirit, Nicole eventually launched her own website to sell arrangements inspired by the Japanese floral design known as Ikebana. Though she dreamed of opening a shop, she was hindered by the start-up costs of a physical location. It wasn’t until years later, while balancing her online business with a corporate job, that the idea finally clicked. “I looked at the numbers and I saw that I had made the company $1.1 million with increased monthly revenue of $13,000. I thought, “If I could do that for them, what could I do for myself?’”

When a business affiliate at a major bank referred her to Accion, Nicole felt as though her dream was meant to be. Already prepared with the location, experience, and connections necessary to open her shop, Nicole needed only the capital to buy her products. “This was a flower shop years ago, so the people in the area already knew it. I already had everything ready to go. Accion helped me start going.”

Nicole used her $2,000 loan from Accion to purchase flowers and open just in time for Valentine’s Day. The day was a huge success, and business continues to grow. But Accion’s dedication to the business went beyond providing a loan – constantly working to champion her business, Accion secured an interview for Nicole on the local television station leading up to Mother’s Day. The interview resulted in her best sales day of the year.

Today, Nicole is a shining example of how rewarding owning a small business can be, and her energy is contagious as she expresses her gratitude to Accion for helping to bring her dream to fruition. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”