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Home » Next Gen LIVE! Fostered Ideas, Knowledge and Connections

Next Gen LIVE! Fostered Ideas, Knowledge and Connections

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Events, Events & Education, Floral Industry News | 0 comments

Sam Bowles, AAF, of Allen’s Flowers & Plants in San Diego lead the industry trends and challenges discussion at SAF’s Next Gen LIVE! conference last week.

Raya Ward, a retail flower manager from Connecticut, left the Society of American Florists’ Next Gen LIVE! event last week in San Diego with new ideas for marketing locally-grown flowers.

Lisa Nason, a marketer with Kennicott Brothers, went back to Chicago feeling empowered to improve communications between growers and florists.

Emilia Coloma, a content creator with Jet Fresh Flower Growers, gained insights on using ultraviolet lights to kill disease that she took back to the company’s farm in Ecuador.

And nearly all of the 192 attendees at SAF’s third annual Next Gen LIVE! conference left with new connections they hope will last a lifetime.

“Making the genuine connections and reaching back out to people when you need them is probably the most important thing ,” said Casey Cox of My Bloom Budz in Paragould, Arkansas. “This really lays the groundwork for that.”

Next Gen LIVE! is the only event of its kind designed by and for the next generation of floral pros and is the signature event of SAF’s Next Gen initiative, which connects the community through a Facebook page and virtual happy hour. This year’s attendees — almost half of them first timers — came from across the U.S., and Canada, Colombia and Ecuador for a day and a half of learning and networking. (See more pictures of the event here.)

Together, they learned why it can take six years to breed a flower. They swapped ideas and concerns during an industry trends and challenges session and let loose during a design competition. They discovered new products and services during the supplier showcase. They practiced breathwork in a morning wellness session, and they laughed and cried during a session on leading with empathy. They picked up tips to leverage technology — including artificial intelligence — and learned about design trends and sales hacks. They also heard how their peers successfully pitched ideas that propelled their careers.

“There is so much to this industry, and coming here made it so much smaller,” said Tracy Parke of House of Flora in Hartford, Connecticut. “And now I can’t stop . I am so energized.”

On the final day, attendees boarded buses bound for San Diego-area flower hot spots. At the International Floral Trade Center in Carlsbad, California, they learned how the floral market operates and perused several thousand square feet of fresh product. At Kendall Farms in Fallbrook, California, attendees saw first-hand how the operation employs a robot to lift heavy buckets of flowers coming off the fields, utilizes ultraviolet light to kill disease, and were dazzled by a demonstration of the farm’s new drone. At Mellano & Co. in Oceanside, California, the group saw propagation houses, learned how artificial light affects growth, and strolled the rolling hills of delphinium, solidago, myrtle and more.

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“I didn’t know what to expect, but this exceeds anything you could have ever thought,” said Angelique Witcher of Accent Decor. “It’s just been so eye opening and so interesting to see all the steps and hands that are involved in such a multi-layered process — before it even gets to .”

And then, the attendees carried that new knowledge, new ideas and new connections back to their businesses.

“I’m excited to have a better, clear view of the industry,” says Nathalie Olvera of Mellano & Co. “We had human resources, growers, retailers, event companies, and just to have everyone in one room sharing their ideas and what they do, what they go through, gives me a better understanding as a grower overseeing the purchasing.”

SAF’s fourth annual Next Gen LIVE! conference is slated for February 2025 in Dallas. Until then, young floral pros can stay connected through a Facebook page and virtual happy hour.

Amanda Jedlinsky is the managing editor of SAF News Now.

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