No to Progressive Tax Story #7: Amy Morgan of Le Fleur Floral Design

Amy Morgan, owner of Le Fleur Floral Design & Events in Washington, Illinois, says buying the business seven years ago was a “selfish decision” to pursue a childhood dream.

But her dream wasn’t easy to pursue in Illinois. It provided a few challenges she didn’t expect.

“I was fed up with the corporate world,” said Amy, a former insurance risk analyst. “But I didn’t realize how many years I’d have to go without a paycheck owning a business.”

Only recently Amy started paying herself with what was leftover after paying her employees’ salaries, mandatory taxes and fees, as well as Le Fleur’s shop costs. But that’s part of building a business.

In the beginning, it’s fun, she said, then fear of failing emerges and pressure to keep going can become almost unbearable.

“You ask yourself, ‘How do I make this work? How do I remember to focus to make all this less work and more fun again?’” Amy said in an interview.

Amy Morgan’s thoughtful words spell out what most small business owners and entrepreneurs experience. The business success trail is filled with creativity, courage, pressure and fear. It’s not just whether the product or service at the heart of a business is viable, doable or sellable. It’s about whether the business owner can make it work.

“I have made a lot of mistakes over the years,” she said. “I wish we were more profitable. We’ve changed what we offer at times, and that’s been hard for customers to understand, but it was for survival.”

Amy’s interest stems back to her childhood days in the 4-H Club, where she first was introduced to designing floral arrangements. She won several county prizes for her work, and in high school, her friends asked her to design flowers for proms and homecoming galas. During college, she took on three or four wedding projects a year.

She joked about owning a flower shop someday, but never fully familiarized herself with all the business demands she would face if she pursued that dream.

Now with a team of 15 employees, Amy is focused on meeting new business requirements the state of Illinois deems necessary.

Still she feels good about buying the shop from the couple that started it.

“After seven years, I’m happy I made this choice. Sometimes I’d like to just collect a paycheck and be told what to do, but the only way I’m in control is if I make the decisions,” she said.

Over the past few years, new state laws have made it harder and harder to keep the Le Fleur Floral shop in the black. This year, the COVID pandemic presented yet more challenges.

“Many years we’ve been worried about things, but this year in particular, it’s been one hit after the next,” she said. “2020 started out looking like it would be a great year. Then we were immediately hit with this pandemic. Were we going to stay open or are we going to close?

“We were told it was just to ‘flatten the curve,’ so we sent our at-risk employees home. We then had to decide who would operate the business, what the business would look like. Much of it fell on me and two others for a while until gradually others felt safe to come back to work.”

After such a difficult year, the news of the state hiking the income tax rates was yet another thorn in their plans.

“As a small business, we’ve gone through years of losses. This work is labor intensive. We’ve doubled our business, but it has also changed. It is different from the business that I bought,” she said.

When big industry area employers like the Caterpillars layoff or close their doors, it dramatically affects the morale of the community and what things local area customers are interested in buying and selling.

So the Progressive Tax proposal on the November 3rd ballot has aggravated the uncertainty an Illinois small business owner already feels, she said.

“One thing, as a small business owner, you can’t control the political climate,” she said. “I know I’m only one voice. I try to be involved locally and keep an eye on things in my backyard. I do my best to stay in touch with local legislators and tell them how what they are doing impacts my business. That’s why we’re so much more impactful when we work with associations like the National Federation of Independent Businesses – one of a large coalition working to stop the proposal.”

And that’s why she’s speaking out about the Progressive Tax plan. It will set back Le Fleur Floral Design again – and make things much more complicated and difficult.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though, Amy says. She’s trying to stay optimistic that the Progressive Tax amendment will not pass on November 3rd, and Illinois redirects its outreach to small businesses like hers.

“We hope that Illinois starts to support small business, stays focused on legislation that will bring businesses to Illinois, keep businesses in Illinois and let all of us continue to serve our customers for many, many years ahead,” she said.

More stories about small business people in Illinois HERE: