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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Take Time to Teach

Employees learn how to give plants everything they need to thrive and in turn they can educate their customers to care for and enjoy their purchases.

Key Question:


Lorraine keeps employees by taking time to teach them so they can increase their value to the company and therefore increase their pay.  Good people stay where they are learning and leave when they feel stuck.

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Think about it

Who on your team needs to learn something new?  Will you teach them or send them to training? 

Clip from: Cactus & Tropicals

Salt Lake City: Meet Lorraine Miller;  in 1976 she invested $2,000 to start the business of her dreams. Initially she just sold house plants.  Today Cactus & Tropicals  provides indoor and outdoor landscaping for over 500 customers and her retail store and greenhouse are full of exotic plants and gifts.  

It is a place people just like to go to hang out!

In 1994 she was named Utah's Small Business Person of the Year then went on to become the first woman to win the national award from the US Small Business Administration. In 1997 Lorraine was named by Ernst & Young as one of Salt Lake's outstanding entrepreneurs.  

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Cactus and Tropicals

Lorraine Miller, founder,
Scott and Karin Pynes, owners

2735 South 2000 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84109
801 485 2542

Visit our web site:

Office: 801 485 2542

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1975

Take Time to Teach

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant, and thanks for joining us. Your time is valuable, and we're glad to have you spend 30 minutes with us. You'll learn about how to start, run and grow a business from people who've already done it. We call the founders of businesses the new American heroes. These are men and women who create work and wealth. Heroes are brave and willing to give up the comfort of the known to venture into the unknown.

Lorraine gave up a job, the comfort of a paycheck because her boss was not interested in cultivating the human spirit. What she started off doing for herself, creating interesting work, she has over 20 years done for dozens of others. A new American hero, Lorraine Miller.

LORRAINE MILLER (Cactus & Tropicals): Our main goal is to create beauty in the world.

Hattie: We saw the mission of this company with our own eyes. We were surrounded, even on a cold January day in Salt Lake, where the garden center Cactus & Tropicals, is located. We saw what 45 people do day in and day out, and they don't seem to get tired. Their mission is to create beauty.

Unidentified Man #1: OK, thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: You're welcome. Thank you.

Unidentified Woman #1: You want to get them when they're in buds so that you'll have it for the longest amount of time.

LORRAINE: People have plants because they want to enhance their space.

Hattie: With this purpose for being in business, Lorraine Miller, the founder and owner of Cactus & Tropicals, has attracted creative people who love what they do.

LORRAINE: This is Claire Patterson.

Hattie: Hi.

CLAIRE PATTERSON (Cactus & Tropicals): How you doing?

LORRAINE: He's our buyer. This guy has to spend over $1 million a year on product. Semis are coming three times a week. He's gotta mix orchids with palms. He knew nothing about it, and he just does an incredible job.

Hattie: Well, wait a minute, Claire.

LORRAINE: Ask this guy a question.

Hattie: Well, how did you learn what you know today?

PATTERSON: I've gotta attribute the majority to Lorraine Miller. I think she's really -- she's really taught not only myself, but I think the majority of the people here a tremendous amount.

LORRAINE: Very good people, caring about what they do, who have a million ideas on their own. `Move over, Lorraine. We're gonna tell you how to do this.'

Hattie: Get out of the way.

LORRAINE: Yeah. And, in fact, our new customer service counter one of my employees designed.

Unidentified Man #3: We used to have probably about six foot of space. And really busy times, we were treading all over each other so we decided that we needed something where we could service the customers a lot better and...

HATTIE: So Lorraine never came to you and said, `Think of a way to take care of the customers better.' You just dreamed it up.

Man #3: Actually, right. I--we were sitting in the office one day and I kinda mentioned that we'd like to spend the money to do a big counter, and she just kinda gave me this blank stare. She didn't say `no,' but she just kinda gave me a blank stare.

HATTIE: She was bracing herself...

Man #3: Bracing...

HATTIE: find out how much this was gonna cost.

Man #3: Right. So I knew it was a no--not a `no,' but possibility

sh--let her mull it over.


Man #3: And she did.

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