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Last Update: Friday December 15, 2017

Key Idea: Jump on a Trend

Today more than 50% of the profits come from a service the founder never would have dreamed of when she opened for business.  Here employees tend to indoor landscaping at a large hospital.

Key Question:


Pay attention and be open to new ideas.

What is outsourcing and why is it good for Lorraine?

  When a large company looks for ways to increase profits, it will often downsize its workforce with the big goal being to get work done efficiently. Lorraine's company can do a better job for less cost to the hospital than could full time hospital employees. There are many business owners here at Small Business School who make big bucks supplying big customers with products or services they could do internally but they choose to outsource. For example, Jane Theberge only sews the uppers of shoes for customers like Cole Hahn, Vicki Bondoc creates software for the Air Force, Monica Morgan does photography for Anheuser-Busch.

Products and services must change with the times.
Today, one third of Lorraine's business comes from a new service.

Q: Describe the business Lorriane started and how it has changed through the years?

She started by selling houseplants from a small retail shop. When she was bought out of lease, she had the money to buy the location she has today. Over the years she has added land and made improvements. Now she has a gift shop which does best with picture frames and candles. She also has her own greenhouse. The biggest positive addition has been the indoor landscaping services she offers as we saw at the Shriners Hospital.

Why is having a greenhouse so profitable for Lorraine?

A plant sitting on a shelf in a shop will deteriorate and loose value with time. Plants in a greenhouse improve over time. They get larger and stronger in the perfect atmosphere and under the care of experts such as the employees at Cactus & Tropicals. The plants in a plant shop are the inventory. A retailer must turn the inventory to make profits. Inventory that doesn't sell is usually marked down, which means that the retailer's profits margin shrinks. After sitting in a greenhouse, a plant can be marked up rather than marked down.

Think about it

When was the last time you jumped on a trend?  How do you keep yourself informed?  Do you have employees under 30?  If you don't, would hiring young people help you keep up with what's going on with customers or potential customers?

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

Jump on a Trend

Unidentified Woman #4: Well, this is what we do, horticultural technicians. We come in here once a week and take care of these plants.

HATTIE: Ten years ago, Lorraine saw the trend begin for indoor landscaping. Now 30 percent of her $2.3 million in sales comes from indoor installation and maintenance.

Woman #4: You know, you want to make sure that people are happy and that they understand what you're doing and that you care about what you're doing, you care about your plants.

HATTIE: We met one of her customers at the Shriner's Hospital. This is Wesley Brady.

Mr. WESLEY BRADY (Shriner's Hospital): To hire somebody to be dedicated to take care of your plants, it's really not as economical as hiring it done for you, because they take care of the dead ones and they replace them automatically for you. If some are overgrown, they trim all the trees. We have trees upstairs that are quite nice. They water them regularly, and it's just something you don't--one less thing to worry about in the scheme of things.

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