Seasoned Petal It Forward participants have time and cost-saving tips and say the experience and marketing opportunities outweigh the challenges.
“You can’t buy that kind of community relations,” says Deborah Whitfield, manager of Art Flower and Gift Shoppe in Rockville Centre, New York, which plans to give away 750 bouquets at this year’s Petal It Forward.
The event, which encourages participants to give away two bouquets — one for the recipient and one for the recipient to gift to someone — generates so much attention and new business for the shop, that it is permanently included in the business’s annual budget, owner Keith Linsalata says.
“What better opportunity to advertise in your community and get a buzz going?” he says. “We are one of the few businesses in the community that help people grieve when they need to grieve and lift them up and when they need lifted up. I think the communities need the uplift.”
Linsalata and others offer tips to make the event affordable and manageable.
Buy premade bouquets
Buying pre-made, wrapped bouquets can save time and money.
City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut, went that route after realizing how much time and labor was involved assembling and wrapping bouquets themselves. “It’s been much easier to buy premade bouquets and slap a sticker on them,” says Nicole Palazzo of City Line.
Work with wholesalers and farms
Many wholesalers and farms support Petal It Forward and may be able to help reduce costs.
DV Flora works with two farms, Holland America Flowers, and The Queen’s Flowers to provide pre-made bouquets that include Petal It Forward stickers on the sleeves, says John Burk, DV Flora’s ecommerce and marketing manager. The farms sell the bouquets at-cost to DV Flora, which sells them at-cost to customers. Stem counts and flower varieties vary between the two farms, enabling customers to choose from a variety of a price point that best suits their resources, Burk says.
Valerie Lee, co-owner of J. Miller Flowers and Gifts in Oakland, California, talked with growers at the San Francisco Flower Mart who offered to donate flowers for the events, as did farms that she orders from direct. She credits her strong relationships with those growers for their donations. “Some of them are so generous,” she says.
Give away single stems, smaller bouquets, or fewer bouquets
Stretch product by giving away single stems, or even one flower paired with foliage, rather than a large bouquet. Encourage the recipients to use the flower in a bud vase at their desk, in a bathroom, or wherever they will see it often.
Another option is to give away fewer bouquets, which is what Mike Whittle of K. Mike Whittle Designs opted to do. His shop in Marietta, Georgia, usually gives away 250 to 275 bouquets. “We just could not afford that this year,” Whittle says. This year he plans to make and distribute 120 bouquets. He’d like to do more but says it’s more important to spread cheer through flowers, no matter how many he can distribute. “As long as we get it out there,” he says.
Partner with a community organization
If labor is a concern, consider finding a community organization that could benefit from getting their message out through the event, while also lending manpower. Volunteers could help assemble bouquets, sticker them and distribute them. The organization can also include information about their mission in the process.
That’s what Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids, Michigan did last year with great success. They partnered with a mental health foundation to pass out 1,500 bouquets. Foister’s Flowers and Gifts in Muncie, Indiana, partners with other businesses in the community to pass out the flowers. Owner Sharon Grubbs sells buckets of bouquets at cost to an auto shop, which gives the flowers away to customers.
Garden clubs and youth organizations also make great partners. Whittle has a long-standing relationship with a garden club and says they will provide him with eight volunteers to make and pass out bouquets. “We have a great relationship with them,” he says, adding that their volunteers free up his staff to stay in the shop.
Find an organization to sponsor the event
Students in a horticulture club at Central Lake College in Brainerd, Minnesota, found a sponsor to underwrite the cost of their Petal It Forward event this year. Last year, the club used its small activity fund to pay for 100 bouquets. This year, the club found a sponsor. Copper Creek Landscapes and Design in Nisswa, Minnesota, is paying for the club to give away 600 bouquets.
Amanda Jedlinsky is managing editor of SAF Now.