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Growing Forward with the Owners’ Dividend: Anna Nicole Prouty

Q&A with Anna Nicole Prouty, ESL personal and business banking member

Anna Nicole Prouty hadn’t planned on becoming a small business owner. After earning a degree in accounting—a field she loved—Prouty worked in the industry for several years before making the switch from finance to floral arrangements. She’d always considered herself to be crafty, but it wasn’t until she made a floral bouquet out of wood flowers for her wedding that the idea for a potential business opportunity began to take root. At the urging of her husband, Zach, she started making small home décor pieces, incorporating the same method and use of alternative and recyclable materials that she used for her wedding bouquet.

As interest steadily grew, she branched out into weddings, offering bouquets, floral arrangements, and other wedding decorations, cementing her full-time small business venture, Geek Chic Floral Boutique in Avon. Three years after opening the business, Geek Chic Floral Boutique expanded into a gift shop, which has showcased unique gifts and goods from more than 150 local makers since opening its doors in 2018. Now, five years later, her small business and banking relationship with ESL is still going strong.

ESL Owners' Dividend. 'To me, it means community, and I think ESL is very community based.' Anna Nicole Prouty, ESL Member

What was your reaction to your first Owners’ Dividend payout?

The first time I received my Owners’ Dividend, I said to myself, “What is this? Why did I just get this money in my account?” I’d never had that before. When I first got it, I was a broke college student, so I used that money to kind of survive. It was extra grocery money for me.

Since receiving your first payout, how have you utilized those funds year over year?

Through the years, it became something I could put toward savings, which has been really helpful as you never know when you’re going to have to tap into savings.

During the pandemic and even now, as we’re still coming out of the pandemic, it was great to have. My husband lost his job, which was tough, and as a small business owner I was closed down for a long time. All of the negative cash flow plus inflation created payments that we’re still catching up on. This year, I was blown away by my Owners’ Dividend, even just through my personal account, so when we received our last payout, we were able to put it toward our credit cards, which was definitely very helpful.

It's a really great benefit for being a part of ESL. One of my friends posted on Facebook when they received their Owners’ Dividend this year and I swear around 100 people commented saying that it was the “best day!”

As a business banking member, has there been any noticeable impact to your business, Geek Chic Floral Boutique?

The great thing about being a member is that ESL gives me the capital to be able to continue to grow my business, even during the slow season. As a gift shop and a wedding vendor, the beginning of the year—January through April—is really tough. It’s cold, nobody wants to go out shopping, and weddings at that time of year aren’t very popular. But with ESL, I know that if I need to do anything or make any large purchases during those months, I’ll be covered. Last year, we did a huge renovation on the store, but I was able to access money and finish the renovation before wedding season started, which was super helpful.

What does “belong to something bigger” mean to you?

To me, it means community, and I think ESL is very community based. They care about their members and have built a community to support each of their customers, and that’s really important. You walk into the branch and they know who you are—they know my name before I even walk up.

I usually go to the Geneseo branch. They’re all amazing there and have been so helpful. My husband and I are actually in the process of applying for a home equity line of credit and when he went into the branch without me recently everyone told him to say “Hi” to me. My name wasn’t even on the application, but they still knew that he was my husband. I just really appreciate that.

It’s nice being able to walk into a branch and not have to worry about whether they’re going to be nice to you. For a lot of other banks, it’s not like that. I’ve tried almost every single one and I’ve always stuck with ESL. They’re definitely there for you. They’re there for their customers.

Learn how an annual dividend payout has grown to become so much more >

The individual Owners’ Dividend payout amounts ESL members receive are based on established Owners’ Dividend criteria. For more information about the criteria, please visit Qualification for the Owners’ Dividend is subject to eligibility requirements and payment of the Owners’ Dividend is not guaranteed.