An interview with Ralph Kaushagen, co-owner of Silkworx by Lori. He also serves as warehouse, shipping manager.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
A: We design and build and sell all types of artificial plants, trees and custom made arrangements for both commercial and residential projects. We offer items that our customers can't find anywhere else as we have unique arrangements and custom products for any occasion. Silk trees, garlands, flowers and topiaries can also be rented from us for weddings, office parties or any event. Finding just the right selection of merchandise is an ongoing process for us, as we are constantly updating the website with the latest trends and state of the art product as they become available in the industry.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: The business started as floral design, then expanded to a storefront gift/floral shop. In 1998 we opted for the Web and had a website designed and promoted. Because of the success of the website and increased need for space, we settled in Palatine with our current showroom/warehouse. While in the gift shop storefront, we received many calls requesting large plants and trees, various greenery and foliage. We realized there was quite a market for that and went in that direction when designing the website.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: Packaging our product and getting the customer to realize the top quality products and services we provide through local advertising and our website.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: There is never a dull moment. We enjoy some of the challenges that come with the variety of custom work that we can do for our customers. We recently made a full size couch in our carpentry shop, covered it with boxwood foliage and sent it to Texas.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Not specifically this business, but I've always envisioned myself as a successful independent business owner, which I have now accomplished.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Not too much. Probably what to do about day-to-day challenges, inventory overstock and daily "what-ifs."
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: Watch your wholesale suppliers discounts and build your inventory gradually and only at a minimum. Explore all the shipping and handling avenues -- don't rely on one source. Smart advertising -- as much as you can afford. And, of course, don't give up!
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Silkworx by Lori Inc.Address: 409 W. Colfax, Palatine, IL 60067
Web Address: www.silkworxbylori.com
Owners: Ralph & Lori Kaushagen
Year started: 1994