Floral industry members from 44 states and three countries staged some 565 flower giveaways this year for the Society of American Florists’ Petal It Forward. The feel-good initiative has a simple format — surprised consumers keep one bouquet or flower for themselves and pass a second along to someone else — and a powerful message that transcends any one outreach or day: Flowers make people happy.
SAF launched Petal It Forward six years ago to help floral industry members generate goodwill and glowing press coverage. The effort — spearheaded by SAF but organized at the community level by local florists, wholesalers, growers, suppliers and other industry-related groups — took on new meaning this year in the midst of a global pandemic that has led to higher levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation among the public.
“University research commissioned by SAF proves that flowers and plants have health benefits that are so important and relevant right now — they help create moments of calm, increase feelings of happiness, reduce stress and more,” said Kate Penn, SAF’s CEO. “We knew those were important messages and experiences to share this year, and it’s been so inspiring to see how hundreds of floral industry members have run with the idea and implemented SAF tools and marketing ideas to create poignant and memorable floral moments among thousands of consumers in a safe, COVID-compliant way, all in just one day.”
SAF will continue to share some of our favorite Petal It Forward stories via social media and through future publications, but at press time, here are some of the posts, articles and firsthand accounts that are helping to define the day.
Innovative, Safe Giveaways
Nanz & Kraft in Louisville, Kentucky, turned Petal It Forward into a weeklong celebration, offering shop visitors a pair of potted African violets — one to keep and one to give away. Usually, Nanz & Kraft employees stand on the street somewhere in Louisville for a day and hand out two flowers to passersby. But concerns about virus transmission prompted them to host an in-store celebration instead. Last year, the business passed out about 1,000 flowers and plants and David Kraft told The Voice Tribune the team has “always receive excellent feedback.”
“Passing them out personally for the last five years has been really interesting because you’ll have people in tears saying they’ve had someone pass away or someone will say an employee at work is having a really tough day and it’s wonderful that you are doing this,” Kraft told reporter Elizabeth Scinta.
Elise Samson, of Elise Floral in Cheshire, Connecticut, wore a Petal It Forward-branded mask to distribute bouquets outside The Bean Coffee Roasters. Among her visitors this morning? Friend and mentor Carisa Lockery, of Pink Olive Events. “Thank you, Elise Floral!” the wedding planner posted to her Instagram stories, along with a close up of her bouquet and its enclosure card, which showed details of the Petal It Forward concept.
Longtime Petal It Forward participants Expressions Unlimited in Greenville, S.C. shared a cheerful video on social media that stressed the safety precautions the business was taking, including limiting crowd interactions and incorporating social distancing at giveaway sites. Among the messages in the video: “If you happen to be driving by and you see people [outside our shop] with flowers, we’re only demonstrating the fact that flowers make people’s day better and we just want to give them to you!”
Tillie’s Flower Shop — a first time Petal It Forward participant — dispatched 35 Happiness Ambassadors around Wichita, Kansas, to (safely) help the business with its effort. The shop used SAF’s university research to help make the case that flowers and plants are an important part of people’s lives, now more than ever.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of this year’s strongest messages centered on the importance of community — and the idea of coming together.
One example: Consider the Lilies in West Bend, Wisconsin, which participated in Petal It Forward last year, teased this year’s event on Facebook with live videos on Oct. 21 and pre-event posts that read, “Stay tuned because this week is going to be AMAZING! Something big is coming!” and used the hashtags #wbtogether and #randomactsofflowers.
Donna Newman, owner of Southern Scents Floral in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, planned to give away 500 bouquets during this year’s event. She and her team promoted their efforts via Facebook and worked with another local business, Sullivan Tire and Auto, to ensure they had adequate space. Part of their messaging involved encouraging recipients to pass on the floral love to an essential worker.
Speaking of team spirit, In Lindale, Texas, the team at Lindale Floral reprised its 2019 approach, collaborating with the local high school. On Tuesday, students from Lindale High School visited the shop to arrange bouquets, which they distributed in pairs to classmates the following day.
Dahlias Flower Truck, which delivers throughout Central Florida, dropped off a vase full of sunflowers at Vollrath Law in Oviedo with instructions to enjoy one and share another with someone “to remind them they’re amazing.” The firm posted the flowers on Instagram with a note of thanks and a promise to #petalitforward.
Those thanks on social media kept the Petal It Forward positivity moving. “What a lovely start to our Wednesday morning!” posted Rockin’ Rogi Diner in Middleton, Nova Scotia. “Thank you sooo much to Valley Rose Flowers for including us in this wonderful initiative. Flowers have a magic way to brighten anyone’s day and this busy busy grey day was the perfect day to get these bright beauties.”
Many floral industry members already were capitalizing on the positive press opportunities Petal It Forward presents.
Binley Florist in Queensbury, New York, invited Cassie Hudson of the News 10 into the shop last Friday to watch the staff unpack and hydrate a shipment of 1,000 Petal It Forward bouquets. For its fifth year participating in SAF’s benevolence project, Binley Florist will have team members — dubbed “the Petal Patrol” — stationed around the community to share joy with random passersby. The business promoted the event robustly on social media, including live videos and posts that were shared by groups such as the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In advance of this year’s Petal It Forward, Julia Cain, owner of Flowers by Julia in Princeton, Illinois, shared her plans (pass out pairs of bouquets around town) with the local newspaper, citing SAF-sponsored research from the University of North Florida on flowers’ impact on stress reduction, along with recent statistics highlighting how prevalent stress has become during the pandemic, emphasizing the timeliness of this year’s event.
“A flower you and a flower for someone who is feeling blue. Petal It Forward can change their mood,” Cain said. “Through the positive effects of flowers, we hope to make someone’s day brighter and provide a much-needed moment of calm amidst the hectic pace of life.”
Hide, Seek — and Do Some Good
Some participants this year used the initiative to jumpstart conversations about other philanthropic and civic-minded efforts.
Andrea Hunt-Shelton, of A. Hunt Design in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, posted photos to Facebook showing buckets of bouquets and loose flowers she placed around town with signage that read “FREE! Science has proven that flowers make people happy, so treat yourself and someone you love, or take one to surprise a stranger.” Along with hints of the flowers’ locations, she included a shout out to her wholesaler, Bill Doran Company, for providing heavily discounted flowers, making it easy for her to spread joy each October.
In a comment on her post, Hunt-Shelton used Petal It Forward’s mission to segue the conversation to a likeminded initiative she launched at her shop: the CU Petal Project. “As florists, we oftentimes have extra flowers that we are not able to use. Whether it is over-ordering, leftovers from a wedding or event, or simply flowers we can no longer sell,” she explained on her site. Rather than toss these blooms, she coordinates with children and parents to repurpose them into small designs to cheer up people in hospitals, nursing homes and various places around the community. “CU Petal Project gives us as adults the opportunity to teach children the importance of generosity,” she said. “Children get unique opportunities to give to others without receiving anything in return. Something magic happens when they first realize how good it feels to surprise people and brighten their day.”
Blueprints Wedding and Event Coordination in Greensboro, North Carolina, shared a similar message in its first Petal It Forward post of the day. “We are kicking off #petalitforward2020 by introducing our newest service to the Triad area, Blueprint Blooms,” owner Tonya Miller posted to Instagram. “Our goal is to help reduce the carbon footprint of weddings and events by repurposing florals from events and distributing those throughout our community to hospice, nursing homes and women shelters. We will have more information in the coming weeks […] In the meantime, we are participating in #petalitforward by giving people two bouquets, one for them to keep and one to give to someone else. Follow along in our stories as I share the beauty throughout the day.”
In Waterloo, Iowa, Petersen & Tietz also added some extra charitable love to their Petal It Forward, encouraging recipients to nominate a hero to receive flowers and to make a donation to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
Look for more coverage in future issues and follow along on Instagram and Facebook (#petalitforward) for more feel-good flower stories.
Katie Vincent is the senior contributing writer and editor for the Society of American Florists. Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine