As we near our third year anniversary of our studio storefront in downtown Nashville, I wanted to take a few moments to share a little more about why we’re an independent florist and member of the “Independent We Stand” and 3/50 movements.
You may be wondering what it means to be an “independent” florist: When we first opened, I admit that I had no idea what I was doing– I mean, I knew how to make pretty flower arrangements, I knew how to welcome and care for customers, but I had no clue about the intricacies of being the little guy on the block. Within days of opening we were not flooded with customers, but instead, with people that were seeking our business in advertising and promotions. Like any young, inexperienced, and scared new business owner I felt the pressures of the new storefront and the growing insecurity that I’d not have enough customers to pay the bills. Enter the wire service. For those that don’t know, Wire Services were established pre internet, when consumers really needed a way to have a network of florists so they could send flowers out of town. Think FTD, Teleflora, 1800 Flowers. All three of these big wire services approached me about joining within the first few weeks I was open. They promised me the ability to send amazing quality flowers nationwide with their partner florists, and that I’d be getting heaps and tons of business from the florists needing to send downtown. I thought it sounded great.
What they didn’t share with me was the fact that wire services take a huge cut out of every order they send you, and they also undercut the florist by pricing the arrangements at a rate you, as a small business owner, can’t really compete with. It ended up being a terrible relationship. If you want to know more about wire-services, please read this third party website article on the Florist Detective: How Wire Services Work. I am constantly educating my customers on the importance and value to them of ordering flowers from local florists instead of using a third-party wire service. Everyone benefits from local-based orders: You will get a better product for your money, you will actually speak with a floral designer that can tell you what they have and what will look best, and you’ll be able to rest assured knowing that your order is being cared for by a real, living person.
When I decided to leave the wire service, I was back in the the throes of being the little guy on the block. I can’t tell you how many customers base their decisions soley on price– not the quality of design, of service, or of product– and how many times I’ve had to watch people walk out the door because they could get a $5 bouquet of (not the best) roses at Kroger. I used to be upset about it. I’m not anymore, and I’ll tell you why: we give a different, better product than flowers you buy at Wal Mart or the grocery store. We’re not a discount shop and we don’t do discount work. We pride ourselves on selecting the best quality flowers and plants, staying on top of techniques that keep the flowers fresher and better longer, and we try not to worry about what the “Bigger guys” are doing.
Over the past few years, I’ve been sad to see several local retail flower shops close. I understand how it happens: they can’t compete. I don’t want to see our sweet little studio space go down that same road. We love our shop and love our customers. We love doing what we do. And I feel it’s part of my mission as a small, independent business owner to encourage and educate our customers and potential customers about the value of small, local, independent businesses. In order to do spread the news and to tout the value of small business ownership, we are members of the 3/50 project and Independent We Stand. Why? Because if we don’t do something now to assert the value of small businesses and small business ownership, we’re going to end up living in a world where everything is a franchise, chain, or big box store. Why is that so bad, you ask? Try to find the individuality in that kind of environment. Try to find customer service that is based on caring instead of being just a number. What’s more– for every dollar you spend at your local, independent business you put more money back into your local community. And that’s something worth getting behind, right?