Broad Street’s newest enterprise, Southern Seasons & Co., is going to be much more than it looks like from the facade.
Aida Brockwell and Kate Spencer partnered in the business as a result of the Boots to Business program. It’s an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program.
Since 2013 — the first full year of Boots to Business — over 20,000 transitioning service members, including many spouses, have participated in the basic Introduction to Entrepreneurship class.
Brockwell and Spencer met because their husbands are in the Army National Guard. Spencer is originally from Rome while Brockwell grew up in the former country of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
“We’ve been trying to open this business since last year,” Brockwell said.
The women met Mark Floyd, owner of the buildings at 116-118 Broad St., around the time Farrell’s Frame and Design was leaving that space for another site on Broad. They jumped on the opportunity to get into the side-by-side buildings.
“I think it will be a great addition to the Cotton Block,” said Downtown Development Director Amanda Carter.
She had spoken with both Brockwell and Spencer about their interest in finding a property downtown some time ago.
Brockwell got certified to run a Boots to Business program through the SBA. She said it was a really proactive and motivational program to go through.
While she’s been a businesswoman all of her life, she was having a challenge finding the right job in Rome after her husband, David, was transferred to the area from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He also was certified for the program after returning from a deployment to Afghanistan.
“We take veterans and active military service family members and take them from A to Z on how to run a business,” Brockwell said. “We capitalize on getting to know a military family member and their creativity and what they’re good at.”
The military lifestyle is so transient for many families, to the point where it can be hard to get jobs locally, she said.
“Not only are we trying to hire veterans or family members who are local, but we’re trying to get veterans that have come home wounded,” Brockwell said.
That’s where the connection with Spencer really came into play. Her husband came back with an injury from a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait.
“We felt like putting her into a full-fledged business, teaching her how to run the business — from ordering inventory and managing the inventory — is what we’ve been teaching her,” Brockwell said. “I am basically her mentor and investor in the business.”
Brockwell said they decided to open not only a floral market, but a marketplace with a little bit of everything.
“We’re also going to open a tea house right next to it eventually,” she said.
The floral side of the business is slated to open near the end of the first week of June, while the tea house is expected to open within another 30 to 45 days, according to Brockwell.
Spencer’s mother was a longtime florist with several of the shops in Rome though the years, and she got involved in the industry herself as a teenager.
Like her mother, Kate Spencer has worked at several stores in Rome through the years. Recently she worked with Rudy Childs at Traditions of Rome and helped decorate homes in the area during the holidays.
“This has been an adventure and we love the fact that it’s going to be able to help veterans and their families in the long run,” Spencer said.
She said that starting a business during the pandemic has been a challenge at times.
“We’ve ordered things and suppliers would say it was shipped when it wasn’t shipped,” Spencer said. “Getting our inventory has been interesting and it’s been a slow process.”
Getting flowers has been a little less of a challenge. Spencer said most of the floral wholesalers have reopened within the last couple of weeks and the silk floral supplier was able to stay in business throughout.
Brockwell will be running the retail market and tea room portion of the store, while Spencer focuses on the floral side.
The marketplace will offer a selection of local and Georgia made goods as well as Georgia-grown items.
“We’re trying to get everything that is U.S. made and locally produced,” Brockwell said.
Honey that is made in Georgia, jams made in Georgia and Harney & Sons tea will also be features.
“We’ve got a lot of local artisans, people that do woodwork and ironwork — things that we’re going to put in the store,” Brockwell said. “Most of them are actually veterans as well.”
DDA Director Carter said she was particularly happy with Spencer’s involvement since she had previous experience with Ransom Floral Co., which used to be located on Fourth Avenue downtown.
“It will be great to have someone who has worked downtown and has that experience,” Carter said.