When Pat and Allen Houck struck up a conversation earlier this month with Jennifer Sparks, the Society of American Florists’ vice president of marketing, they had no idea the informal chat would lead to concrete connections for Petal It Forward — and a greenhouse tour that deepened their knowledge of growers’ best practices.
During the Field to Vase dinner at SAF Palm Springs 2018, SAF’s 134th annual convention, the owners of House of Blooms in Sugar Land, Texas, told Sparks they were concerned about the cost of buying product for their Petal It Forward event on Oct. 24. That’s where networking opportunities presented by SAF Palm Springs 2018 came in.
Through Petal It Forward, industry participants around the country give people in their communities two bouquets — one to keep and one to share. The goal is to show how receiving flowers, and even more so, giving flowers, spreads happiness. House of Blooms participated last year, handing out 600 bouquets the Houcks bought from their local wholesaler, which the public loved, Pat said. This year, they plan to give away about the same number of bouquets, but they knew they wanted to find additional partners to pull off their plans.
Sparks introduced the Houcks to Ben Dobbe of Holland America Flowers in Arroyo Grande, California, a big supporter of Petal It Forward and a longtime attendee of SAF conventions. During past Petal It Forward events, Dobbe has partnered with other industry members to organize successful giveaways and after connecting with the Houcks, he agreed to work with them, too.
“I am a huge believer in Petal It Forward,” said Dobbe, chief operating officer and senior sales executive. “I see it as many in the industry do, as a way for the entire industry to give together and bring flower awareness to this great country.”
Holland America expects to supply about 20,000 bouquets this year; in the last three years, it has provided 30,000 bouquets across the country. Holland America also conducts its own events at both its Arroyo Grande and Woodland, Washington, locations.
“We believe that for one day a year, our industry can come together and spread the love of flowers with as many people as we can,” Dobbe said.
That wasn’t the only connection the Houcks made at convention. At the same SAF dinner, the pair also met grower Mike Mooney who invited them to tour Dramm & Echter’s farm in Encinitas, California. Three days later, they were at that farm, learning more about gerbera varieties and the company’s growing practices.
“We are very proud to show our greenhouse,” Mooney said, adding that one of his favorite things to show off is their beneficial bug program, how they primarily use insects that eat “bad” bugs to control pests in the gerbera greenhouse, greatly reducing the need for chemicals.
“I think it is an eye-opener [for retailers] when you see the passion, hard work, and technology that goes into producing a single flower,” he added. In turn, Mooney — a dedicated Petal It Forward supporter and participant in his own right — gains insights from his visitors, such as what varieties they prefer. “We love to get the feedback on trends, vase life, shapes and colors,” he said. “This helps us make better decisions next year.”
For similar reasons, Mooney likes going to SAF’s conventions for the networking, education and new clients. It’s a sentiment with which Pat agrees. Next to networking, Pat said she got the most out of the convention’s panel discussions, workshops, presentations, and conversations about “solutions for problems that can help my store.”
“That evening [at the Field to Vase dinner] demonstrated an example of the value of active participation in SAF,” she said. “These are two very direct examples of how SAF literally brings the industry together.”
Ready to jump into the Petal It Forward fun? Now is the time.
At press time, floral industry members in 42 states and the District of Columbia have notified the Society of American Florists of plans to participate in this year’s event. That leaves eight states to go — Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — for industry participation in all 50 states.
Support in every state, and as many cities as possible within each state, is critical to the success of Petal It Forward from a public relations standpoint, said Sparks.
“The more florists we have participating on October 24, the better chance of national news coverage and social media posts promoting flower power,” she explained. “We need to know where local events are happening so that we can tell the media, and so you can tell your local media that you are part of an effort happening nationwide.”
To notify SAF of your event, complete the Petal It Forward Participation Form at safnow.org/PIFform.
SAF provides resources to help member florists Petal It Forward, including planning timelines, tips on where and when to stage a giveaway, talking points, T-shirt and flower card templates and more at safnow.org/petalitforward.
Christy O’Farrell is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.