Blooming business: Shirmika Brown said she got the inspiration for the name of El Shaddai Florists from the Bible. *Photo by  Nicola Muirhead
Blooming business: Shirmika Brown said she got the inspiration for the name of El Shaddai Florists from the Bible. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead

Shirmika Brown knows how to run a successful business. The El Shaddai Florist owner has received numerous awards over the years, including the Bermudian magazine’s Best Florist award three years-in-a-row. Counting Ms Brown, the shop employees three people.

Don Burgess spoke to her.

What was your first job?

I worked at Radio Cabs as a dispatcher and answering the phones.

How much did that pay?

(Laughs) Not much! I can’t remember but it was probably around $6 an hour. 

What did you learn from your first job that you have been able to use for the rest of your life?

I learned a lot about Bermuda. I learned a lot about addresses and where to find them. Once I got into this business, I had a heads-up on a lot of areas because I worked at Radio Cabs. I knew where south shore Devonshire East, north shore Devonshire West weere. I learned a lot about the history of Bermuda and its streets.

What made you decide to go into business for yourself?

I really, really enjoyed what I was doing. I had a passion and a Love for it. When I was working for the other flower shops, I was an asset for the company. I did arrangements, I did deliveries and I was a good customer service person, but I really wasn’t making any money from it. I decided I would go away to school and take it up as a career. Once I did that…I decided this was something I wanted to do for myself?

How long have you been in business?

14 years in June.

Why did you choose the name El Shaddai?

I was in Bible study one evening and we were learning the redemptive names of Christ and that happened to be one of them. It didn’t come on me right then and there in Bible study, but when I was thinking about starting my own business I was thinking of different names like Flowers by Design. But for some reason that rang out to me. 

Why did you choose Somerset for the current location rather than somewhere else in Bermuda?

I have a vested interest in this property. It’s more feasible to go somewhere that you have a vested interest in. 

What has been the key to success for El Shaddai?

When you go into business for yourself, you have to have a passion and love for it. When you have a love for the business that you’re in, you put your all into it. Once you love something, it’s going to show through the creativity and other people are going to see it. 

When you win an award how does it feel? Does it ever get old?

It never gets old! When I was winning it every year, the lady asked me ‘Shirmika, do you ever get tired of winning?’ I never get tired because this job is a lot of work, it takes up a lot of my energy and my time so when I get an award, it’s gratififying. All the work is not in vain. It makes me feel like ‘Okay, people appreciate what we’re doing.’ When people get flowers, they get appreciated because flowers are something that brightens peoples’ day and we’re making everybody else happy. When we win an award, that makes us happy.

How has the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and being located in an Economic Empowerment Zone been a help?

They’ve been a great help — especially William Spriggs (Somerseet EEZ officer). He’s always contacting me, coming up with new ideas and trying to find out what I need help in. If we need some help with the computer system or with signage or with trucks, he’s there. Even before I moved into this area, they had contacted me so I’ve been dealing with them for a long time. William is always ready to be available to help with ideas.

If Government could change one law which would help your business, what would that be?

They have already helped with payroll tax by giving retailers tax relief, but some sort of duty relief. That’s an added expense we incur every time we go to the airport to pick up flowers. By the time we pay for the air flight to get it here and we pay duty, we’re pretty much paying what we’ve already paid for the product. A lot of people say ‘Bermuda is so expensive’ but we can’t make a profit if we can’t mark up our product. They don’t understand that when we’re paying for our flowers, we’re paying the same amount to get it here. 

What made you decide to move from Warwick to Somerset?

I was trying to cut down on overhead. Sometimes you have to make decisions that may not seem to be a good idea, but to my pockets it did. With the economic situation in Bermuda, I had to think of ways to cut back and to continue operating.

What’s just one piece of invaluable advice you’ve received from the EEZ?

They have given me a lot of advice, but one that stands out is William encouraging me to keep on top of my product and always continue to come up with new ideas to stay one step ahead of my competitors.

What’s the best business decision you’ve made?

When I opened my shop in Warwick. That’s been the best location I’ve had since I’ve been open. It was right next to Lindo’s. It was right on the roadside so people nipped in bought flowers.

And the worst decision?

I’m don’t think there’s any decision that I’ve made that’s been the worst. I’m just trying to cope with the situation. Whatever life throws at me, I’m trying to catch it. 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone else thinking about going into business?

Make sure it’s a demand in this economy. Make sure it’s a viable business and it’ something you love. When you own a business, it consumes you. It’s not nine-to-five, going home and leaving the burdens and the worries with someone else. Everything is on you. You have to have tough skin with a lot of patience and tolerance. You have to be able to preserve and be strong because it’s not easy. You have to make sure it is a necessity. Even with my flower shop, certain parts are necessary like weddings and funerals, but even then people are cutting back. It’s a miracle that flower shops are continuing to exist because we are not a necessity, we are a luxury.