Think the Society of American Florists’ Petal It Forward is “only” about retailers? The big-hearted outreach also provides a chance for those floral professionals who are typically behind the scenes, including growers, suppliers and wholesalers, to experience what retail florists witness every day — the happiness that flowers bring to others.
“It’s a great opportunity to remind us why we all grow and or sell flowers,” said Tracy Easter of Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers, in Fallbrook, California, the grower that won Floral Management magazine’s 2018 Marketer of the Year award. “The joy experienced by the gift giver and gift receiver is something that we are somewhat removed from so this is a great chance to experience what we are working for.”
The day of Petal It Forward, to be held this year on Oct. 23, Resendiz sends its farm employees out to public locations such as restaurants and gas stations to hand out bouquets.
“We catch them by surprise, which adds to the experience of what Petal It Forward is all about,” said Easter, who helped hand out 300 bouquets last year.
Since 2015, SAF has led the industry in Petal It Forward. During this flower giveaway, consumers receive two bouquets (or flowers) — one to keep and one to share — to demonstrate university research that shows flowers make people happy, and they are encouraged to post on social media about their experience using the hashtag #petalitforward.
The Resendiz team starts promoting October’s event in June to customers and community through its website and social media.
Supplier Smithers-Oasis starts in the summer, too. Kelly Mace, marketing programs and communications manager, said that the company orders T-shirts early and follows the SAF checklist.
“SAF does a great job of preparing people for it with their checklist and we follow that,” said Mace.
This will be the fourth year that Smithers-Oasis participates. The Kent, Ohio, floral supply company contributes in two ways — by donating flower food packets to customers and by purchasing 200 bouquets from a local wholesaler to hand out on the college town’s streets.
“We try to schedule it around lunch time when there are a lot of people out. Our corporate office is right downtown, so we bring the bouquets there and that’s where we station everyone. It’s super fun,” she said.
Vaughan’s Horticulture, a wholesaler, started preparing for Petal It Forward in June by ordering custom shirts and informing vendors about this year’s event, said Ashleigh Newton, a customer service representative. Last year was Vaughan’s first year participating, handing out 200 bouquets that were donated by growers and vendors.
“It’s fun to step away from our cubicles and as a team create something really beautiful together,” said Newton. “I think it’s a wonderful reminder that no matter who you are, flowers can brighten your day and your spirits.”
Jamie Kitz, a key account sales manager and corporate citizenship specialist with Sakata Seed America, a breeder of ornamental and vegetable seeds and plants, shares the same sentiments.
“Sometimes we get too close to our product and to see the joy on someone’s face when you give them flowers — there’s nothing like it,” said Kitz. Sakata passed out 250 bouquets last year, partnering with grower Kitayama Brothers.
Kitz urges everyone to participate, advising first-time participants to start small.
“It doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production or a huge number of flowers; it’s the one-on-one interaction of handing out flowers that matters,” she said. “Any amount of flowers that you feel comfortable handing out — small bouquets or even single stems — they have the same effect.”
Renee Houston Zemanski is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.