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SBA Programs Help Syracuse Entrepreneur Turn Passion Into Blooming Business

Onondaga SBDC Regional Director Joan Powers, Best in Bloom, Inc. owner Steve Jocz, and SBA Syracuse District Director Bernard J. Paprocki

Right before Valentine’s Day, you’ll find floral wholesaler Stephen Jocz busy at work in his 46 degree warehouse on Thompson Road. Getting thousands of roses and other flowers prepped for the most romantic day of the year gives Steve an extra twinkle in his eye. “When you love what you do, it’s not work!” he laughs.

Flowers have been the focus for Steve’s life: giving Steve a meaningful career in an industry he fell in love with, meeting his wife while on a delivery, and even taking a chance to start his own business. Steve started selling flowers out of a delivery truck in 1993 for a wholesaler, and found great success in providing superior customer service to the retail florists on his route. He was promoted to sales manager and then again to store manager when his sales numbers kept outperforming other branches. Selling flowers just came naturally to him, and interacting with customers made his job not a job at all.

After nearly 20 years in the industry, Steve decided to go out on his own as a wholesaler. In 2012, he attended a small business workshop series offered by the Onondaga Small Business Development Center, a program supported by the SBA and Onondaga Community College. The course helped Steve develop a solid startup plan, and network with bankers, lawyers and insurance agents familiar with the challenges facing many startup companies. Onondaga SBDC Regional Director Joan Powers encouraged Steve along the way, giving him the confidence to pursue his dream.

In five short years, Steve built Best in Bloom, Inc. into the leading locally-owned wholesaler in Central New York, serving 100 florist clients from Massena to Auburn and all points in between. His seven employees make the deliveries now, but Steve often hops into one of his six delivery trucks to stay connected to his loyal customers. Meeting and exceeding their expectations is what sets Steve’s company apart from his competition: “I always look for a way to find what my customers need, and the highest quality flowers are what they have grown to rely on from Best in Bloom. To this day, I still check every incoming shipment to make sure the quality is what I expect.”

About 70 percent of his inventory is imported mainly from South America through the port of Miami, though Steve receives shipments from Canada as well. Best in Bloom features an award-winning variety of rose from Ecuador called the Royal Rose, renowned for its beauty and long-lasting bloom.

When Onondaga SBDC Regional Director Joan Powers recommended the SBA Emerging Leaders program to Steve in the spring of 2017, it was the right time for his growing company to add strategic planning. Steve found working with Emerging Leaders instructor John Liddy and learning from other business owners in different industries a powerful experience. As a result of the intensive training program, Steve put new business processes into place such as 24-hour customer service, added a new company website, and increased his revenues by 25 percent.

“Without the SBDC, I wouldn’t have started my business, and without the SBA Emerging Leaders program, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” recounts Steve. “My goal for the future is to continue to develop sustained growth and keep my customers happy.”

“Business owners like Steve Jocz can find the tools and resources they need from SBA, whether they are just starting out or taking their company to the next level. SBA programs like the Small Business Development Center and Emerging Leaders can meet entrepreneurs where they are and take them as far as they want to go,” says SBA Syracuse District Director Bernard J. Paprocki.

 

Company Name: 
Best in Bloom, Inc.
Location: 
Syracuse, NY