We want to wish a Happy Boss’s Day to all the fearless and devoted leaders out there, but especially to our own, John and Sally Kobylinski!
A lot of people know John and Sally as the leaders and owners of In Bloom Florist, but not a lot of people know the story behind In Bloom’s beginnings, and John and Sally’s years of sacrifice, perseverance, and dedication to their community and their business that have led to their successes today. In honor of Boss’s Day, we’d like to share that story with you.
The Backstory: John
An Orlando native, John loved working on the yard with his dad and finding out about different floral and plant species. His dad, ever pragmatic, was focused on plants and trees that provided food and shade, but John was intrigued by the wide variety of all growing things.
This initial hobby grew into a desire for John to educate himself, so he began working on a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. One of his early instructors encouraged all the students to obtain a job in a field related to plants and flowers. So, at the age of 20, John began a seemingly uneventful role as a delivery person for a flower shop in Orlando.
Although it wasn’t planned, within three years he was promoted to be the manager of this flower shop. It was at this time that John and Sally met at a mutual friend’s Valentine’s Day wedding in 1983. Two years later in 1985, they were married at First Presbyterian Church in the chapel.
With his hard work and gift at building relationships, he grew the revenue of the flower shop by 500% within six years. At that point, John opened five other locations for this corporation and was managing the day-to-day operations for two flower shops in Orlando, while working as a Regional Manager for shops in Tallahassee, Melbourne and Altamonte Springs.
Within a decade of getting that first job as a delivery person, John was approached by an angel investor who helped him to pursue his dream to open his own flower shop. This mentor and businessman said to John, “I don’t invest in businesses– I invest in people. Could I help you start your own shop?” Of course, John said yes, but as with most new businesses, this was such a leap of faith for John and Sally’s marriage and family. They had only been married five years and already started a small family. Their daughter Corissa was getting ready to turn 3 at this time and their son Tyler was just 1 years old.
In 1990, John opened his new store, Orlando Flower Mart. Situated in southwest Orlando, it was based near area hotels, yet easily accessible to I-4 and the East-West Expressway. This location allowed him the opportunity to serve both the residences and businesses in most of Central Florida. Although he was initially the salesperson, the designer, the delivery person and the manager, he slowly added employees to support his growing business.
Toward the end of 1998, John started looking for a way to better serve Seminole county residents and businesses. He found an opportunity to open a second shop in The Shoppes at Oakmonte in Heathrow. Due to the fact that this new location was about 20 miles north of Orlando, the store couldn’t be called Orlando Flower Mart. He wanted to find a name that would work for both locations to help build a consistent brand name and image. He decided to name the shop In Bloom Florist at Heathrow and he would rename the original location, Orlando Flower Mart, In Bloom Florist.
The Backstory: Sally
Although Sally didn’t dream of being a florist, her family had a rich history steeped in flowers and plants, along with a bit of creativity and a lot of hard work. Sally’s paternal grandparents opened a greenhouse and flower shop in Upstate New York in the 1930’s. During World War II, her grandmother came up with the great idea to care for their customers, while making their business memorable. They included a small plant with each arrangement, so each recipient could add to or begin their victory garden.
Following in her family’s history, Sally’s parents started a flower shop in the early 1960’s and actually competed against her grandparents in Ballston Spa, NY. Her dad loved the greenhouse and delivery portion of the business, while her mom focused on building customer relationships and using her creativity to design beautiful bouquets. Together, they complemented one another’s gifts.
Sally never worked in her parent’s flower shop because she was too young to help when they owned it. During the early years of In Bloom Florist, she was working in the multifamily industry and growing a strong background in operational management. Some of her leadership responsibilities included marketing, training, computer operations and auditing programs. In addition to this experience, like John, she loves to exceed customers’ expectations.
In 2001, Sally joined In Bloom and was struck by the loyal customer relationships that John cultivated. She remembers answering the phone during her initial involvement with the shops and was speaking to a man who lived out of state who was sending flowers to his wife, also out of state. Sally asked the man, “Why do you call In Bloom Florist, when there are other shops closer to your home?” He answered, “John and I have worked together for almost twenty years. It doesn’t matter what I need– he takes care of it. If he is sending the order to a florist out of town, I know that he will personally guarantee that the product and service will be uncompromised.”
Rising Above Challenges
By 2008, John and Sally’s children were both in college and their business growth pushed beyond the walls of their original Orlando facilities. They found a more desirable location that also provided enough space to put the entire Orlando operation under one roof. When they first moved into the vacant space, the family took an opportunity for a little flower fun.
And then the bottom fell out.
It was the beginning of 2009 during the Great Recession. Their business declined 40% virtually overnight, forcing them to let go of some of their staff. John and Sally ended up selling their home in order to employ as many as they could and cut the costs for their living expenses. At this time, they even had an employee who was sleeping in his car. They brought in a mattress from their soon-to-be-empty home and invited him to use part of their empty business.
But this, of course, wasn’t the end of their story. They needed each member of the team and each employee leaned in. They got inventive and started reaching into the community and inviting people to their shop in the middle of their quietness. They became a stronger couple and their business became a neighbor, a friend, a refuge.
This time period impacted John and Sally greatly and it redefined how they decided to run their business. They still wanted to offer the best product and service to their customers, but they also wanted to ensure that they were mindfully committed to their employees and their community.
In Bloom Today
Since that time, their business has grown well beyond the losses they incurred that year and they have added new roles to the company. There have been many challenges and successes over the years and John and Sally look forward to continuing to find solutions and time to celebrate.
With their employees, their community, their family and each other, they can accomplish anything.