One secret to success for hosting a local Petal It Forward event on Oct. 24? Don’t be afraid to ask suppliers for help — they most likely want to support your local promotion and there’s a good chance they are participating in the nationwide goodwill effort as well.
When Lori Dietrich of Bethpage Florist in Bethpage, New York, looked to cost-effectively source flowers for her Petal It Forward event last year, she turned to one of her favorite wholesalers, DVFlora, who offered a special price for a box of 15 pre-made bouquets. She bought 120 bouquets for employees to hand out around town as they gave two bouquets to each passerby — one to keep and one to share with someone else — and asked recipients to post on social media about the experience of giving and receiving flowers using the hashtag #petalitforward.
To determine how many bouquets to buy, Dietrich considered her budget and the number of staff who would serve as “happiness ambassadors,” handing out Petal It Forward bouquets. Dietrich’s team re-wrapped the lily, sunflower, alstroemeria and daisy stems, and attached the shop’s business card along with a #PetalItForward Card that reads, “Science proves flowers make people happy. If these did the trick, show us at #petalitforward.”
She says her shop likely will distribute about the same number of bouquets for this year’s Petal It Forward event. Dietrich, who also designs for special events under the name Beautiful Beginnings Flowers, said she considers it community service to participate in Petal It Forward. “We take full advantage of making flowers a visual part of our community and their experiences.”
In addition to offering discounted bouquets to retailers like Dietrich for their local Petal It Forward efforts, DVFlora sent eight employees with 250 bouquets to turn downtown Haddonfield, New Jersey, into “a full-blown flower shop,” as the company described the 2017 event on its blog, “Two Bouquets = Endless Smiles.” The DVFlora employees felt as rewarded as the recipients, who then passed the joy on.
Multiplying its effect, DVFlora worked with Sun Valley Floral Farms and Holland America to ship over 5,500 bouquets to retail florists all over the Northeast.
Since 2015, the Society of American Florists has choreographed one of the most engaging floral promotions in the industry’s history — Petal It Forward. What started as an SAF-led promotional event in New York City has grown into a nationwide initiative that connects the entire industry.
For the 2017 Petal It Forward, Frank Adams Wholesale in Portland, Oregon, provided special kits to more than 20 retailers in the area, all customers of theirs who registered with them online. In turn, Frank Adams contacted growers for donations to source flowers for its kits, paying the freight, said Robyn Peterka, cut flower manager and buyer. The kits included roses, lilies, hydrangea, greens, spray roses and callas, so florists could create mixed bouquets, along with printed, pre-cut tags.
But Frank Adams didn’t stop there. The company also sent teams out into the community with handtied, wrapped lily bouquets, Peterka said. The “quick-and-easy-to-assemble” bouquets included SAF’s Petal It Forward tags https://safnow.org/petalitforward/petal-it-forward-flower-card-template/ explaining the premise behind the flower giveaway, she said.
To obtain flowers for Petal It Forward last year, Robbin Lee of J. Miller Flowers and Gifts in Oakland, California, reached out to growers and suppliers that the shop purchases from three times a week at the San Francisco Flower Mart, a wholesale market. First, she gave them a letter explaining the campaign, and later followed up with a personal, direct “ask.” Because Lee gave them plenty of time and was flexible about the varieties, growers were happy to support the business’ efforts to give back to the community with free flowers. “We have built up a relationship with them for decades,” said Lee’s sister, Valerie Lee Ow.
Many other collaborations proved just as fruitful. Last year, wholesaler Bill Doran Company, which supplies retailers in 18 states, encouraged nearly 270 of its customers to hold local Petal It Forward events — a productive team effort that put 32,500 bouquets and single-stem roses into people’s hands. First Bill Doran sent customers a save-the-date notice, and then offered a special low price for bouquets in any quantity, with the order cutoff about two weeks before the event.
Steph Cook of Cullman Florist in Cullman, Alabama, also received donations from wholesalers with whom the shop has developed close relationships for its 2017 Petal It Forward event. Cullman’s local wholesaler, Walker Wholesale Florist, helped, as did Flowers Direct of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She said she will ask the wholesalers again what they’re comfortable contributing for the 2018 round because getting out and mingling with the public is a rejuvenating change of pace.
“We get caught up in the business aspect,” Cook said. “We like to get out there and be in the community, marketing what you want your brand to be. We don’t want people to think they can’t afford flowers. You want flowers to be seen because they improve people’s moods.”
Get ready now to join the nationwide Petal It Forward campaign by conducting a local event on Oct. 24. “The sooner you ask for donations or reduced price for pre-made bouquets or flowers, the better,” said Jennifer Sparks, SAF’s vice president of marketing. “Now is the time to talk to your suppliers to see if they would be willing to work with you on product. By the same token, we urge wholesalers and growers to approach their customers about helping with their Petal It Forward efforts.”
SAF provides members with advice on program logistics, as well as easy-to-implement materials (like a Petal It Forward Flower Card template) and resources at safnow.org/petalitforward.
Sparks encourages members to fill out the online participation form at safnow.org/pifform once they know they’re holding an Oct. 24 Petal It Forward event as SAF is compiling a list of participating florists to share with the media.