04 Nov Blossoming Future for Legacy Small Business, Little Tokyo Florist
Blossoming Future for Legacy Small Business, Little Tokyo Florist
Carrying on the legacy of a longstanding Little Tokyo small business has not come without its challenges for Yuka Mizusawa and Malina Huang who acquired Little Tokyo Florist in spring of 2021. Originally founded as Kuragami Florist in 1983 by husband and wife duo, Mary and Masami Onoue, Yuka and Malina were tasked with preserving the past while also looking towards a future, reimagined to fit their vision.
Once regular customers of the shop located in the Little Tokyo Galleria, Yuka and Malina signed on for an apprenticeship with the former owners in the fall of 2020 with the end goal of transitioning to full-time ownership. The impact of COVID-19 non-essential business closures briefly threatened the handover as Mary and Masami accrued debt, but due to the intervention of LTSC’s small business counselor, Mariko Lochridge, the couple gained access to necessary resources.
“Little Tokyo Service Center has been a great help throughout this COVID pandemic. Their knowledge of the government assistance and local programs were a great help to our store. Their kindness in helping me navigate the Internet in applying for funding and social networking were greatly appreciated!” said Mary.
With loose ends tied up, Yuka and Malina stepped into their new roles, however, they quickly found themselves struggling to find their footing amid overwhelming business logistics. With Mariko’s guidance, Yuka and Malina crafted a business plan for Little Tokyo Florist to stay afloat through grant and loan application assistance.
“Creating the business plan was such a long process for us, we never had a business before so we were starting from scratch and everything was new for us. We didn’t apply for grants before this; I think we needed the right person looking into everything that we needed to do because we didn’t know how to do it ourselves,” Malina said.
Mariko’s help in applying for the CA Dream Fund, in particular, means that Yuka and Malina can look toward the future by making long-term investments in their business. With an eye toward growth and expansion, Mariko also facilitated a collaboration with fellow Little Tokyo small business, CRFT by Maki.
“When you’re a small business owner, you’re working all day and you’re also the accountant and the marketing department and everything, so collaborating lets us all help each other. And that’s for us what community really is, we’re teaching each other and keeping our Little Tokyo community going together,” Yuka said.
Through its small business program, LTSC helps local small businesses like LT Florist preserve their legacy and cultural roots while growing to meet current trends.
Little Tokyo Florist specializes in the traditional Japanese art of ikebana, as well as modern Urban styles of floral arrangements, exotic plants, and bonsai. Those interested in trying their own hand at the trade can take part in the Sake Stem Bar, a pop-up experience hosted by Yuka and Malina which provides beginner ikebana instruction over Japanese sake and snacks.