Amy McKinley has run businesses before and even has a degree in business. But she knows enough about business to know she doesn’t know enough. When she was looking for financing so she could own her own business, she was excited to learn about the services that came with her Northern Initiatives loan. (Amy McKinley photo by DJ Krum)
And she came with a list of things she wanted help with: Quickbooks training. Marketing resources. A grant to refurbish a greenhouse.
Mary Bickel, a Northern Initiatives Business Coach, got to work on McKinley’s list, also helping with federal tax schedules, cash flow planning, and time management resources. And McKinley got to work owning her own business, A | M Floral and Gifts in Newaygo. “It’s nice to be able to make your own decisions,” she smiled.
“I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid I can’t pay my bills and I’m not afraid I can’t make payroll. Working with Northern Initiatives allowed us to be able to feel that.” – Amy McKinley, owner, A | M Floral and Gifts
McKinley had been running a successful soap and candle business out of her home. When the opportunity to buy the flower shop came up, she realized she could take her first business to a new level while owning a store. Plus, it gave her a way to give back to the community she’s called home for more than 30 years.
One recent day, she got a call from a staff member at an assisted living center. One of the residents, a retired floral designer, was feeling down. McKinley and Barb Barry, the former owner and current florist, quickly scrambled to gather greens and blooms. The staff member drove the resident over to pick them up, amid smiles of delight. McKinley is sponsoring an event at the facility, plus she gives another local senior living facility 20 flowers a week for its church services. (At left, Amy McKinley prepares bouquets while her son Trevor waits to deliver them.)
“It’s really cool to be able to support and give back,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing about being a business owner. I’m making the community smile.” She’s become more “plugged into” the River Country Chamber of Commerce of Newaygo County, specifically to be aware of upcoming fundraisers and other ways to support her community.
And she’s growing her business. After buying the store, in a house built in the 1940s, McKinley and her husband Mike “worked like elves in the night” to renovate the interior while still staying open for the busy holiday season. They added shelves, poured countertops and redesigned the layout to open up the floral design area and make displays for the gifts.
Former owner Barb Barry is now an employee, mentoring McKinley in floral design. “The goal,” said McKinley, “is to make Barb part-time and for me to take a vacation.”
And then there’s the community service that comes as part of being a local florist. “She makes such beautiful – and large – arrangements,” said Megan Greenfield, a funeral director at Fields-McKinley Funeral Home. “They brighten a sad day.” (At right, Amy McKinley works on a new batch of candles, testing wicks and burn time.)
McKinley is also excited about her gift boxes, curated monthly, each with its own theme. Boxes include a natural wax candle, all-natural wax melts, handmade soap, bath bombs, a writing and a surprise gift. March’s box, with a theme of spring and St. Patrick’s Day, included a clover pin, handmade in Detroit. McKinley hopes to make the gift boxes into a subscription service and is launching a monthly flower subscription service, which will also include a hand—poured candle.