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Key Idea: Leverage Your Cash

When the city needed the land of her original location, Lorraine took their cash payment to buy land and build a greenhouse of her dreams.

Key Question:


Yes.  Bankers and investors can help and will help if you have a great idea or a track record but you have to demonstrate your commitment by putting up your own cash.

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Think about it

Do you need money to grow?  Do you have a banker?  Do you have friends or family who might invest in your growth?

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

Leverage Your Cash

LORRAINE: After I had been there three years and I was kind of--I was moving along, I was struggling, I wasn't gonna make it rich, the school board took the property that I was leasing through eminent domain, and I was devastated. I thought that was the end of--of my business career and didn't know what to do. But it was one of those things in business, if you--turning a catastrophe into an opportunity. I took the $10,000 that they gave me for breaking my leasehold and bought my first piece of property and borrowed $15,000 from my parents, used that for the down payment and then used $10,000 to build my first greenhouse. I wanted a greenhouse. Three years of having my plant shop and visiting real greenhouses to buy from, that dream...

HATTIE: That--that was the driving force, that you wanted your own greenhouse. You wanted to grow your own plants or you wanted to have a place for the clients to be happy.

LORRAINE: I wanted to be in a greenhouse, but I'll--everything--they're magic. I mean, you're sitting with me in my greenhouse right now. Doesn't it feel wonderful? Doesn't it feel tropical? I mean, we're in Salt Lake City, it's 30 degrees outside, it's snowing, and I feel like I'm in Hawaii. So it's a wonderful place to work. It just feels great. And then if you do have plants for a long period of time, they love it, too, and they do great. And as my accountant told me, rather than lowering the price of something that sits on the shelf, it's grown a foot so you can raise the price. I have always asked everybody I knew for advice. In fact, I used to say that my customers are my board of directors, because I have always listened very carefully to what they told me they wanted.

HATTIE: When did you add a gift shop?

LORRAINE: Well, the idea of enhancing plants with bringing the garden into the home or your home into the garden just seemed like a natural evolution or a flow. What goes with plants? So we started out with the concept of buying things for the garden--wind chimes and birdhouses and--and things that seem very directly related. But again, listening to our customers and yielding to what they wanted, we now sell more picture frames and candles than anything.

HATTIE: You're kidding? So people come for a plant, then they come out over there and buy a picture frame or a candle.

LORRAINE: Right. Well, of course, a natural item for us--and it's really bread and butter--is pottery, all kinds of pottery--concrete, aluminum and ceramic, terra cotta, this is...

HATTIE: Tin--this tin?

LORRAINE: ...and this is tin.

HATTIE: So what percentage of the total sales comes from the gift shop?

LORRAINE: About 15 percent.

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