I recently saw on Facebook a story of a farmer trying to sell his invention to the Sharks, which I think many of you know who I’m talking about. Most of the sharks were not interested in his water-saver idea because the farmer didn’t have enough mark-up or a sales outlet, but one shark agreed to give the money he was asking for and work with him. This farmer was very humbled, and when asked why he doesn’t sell his water savers for more, he responded “Because I’m selling to farmers.” He was happy making a dollar on each because he was thinking of who he was selling to.
While this is very sweet and humble, he was never going to get rich, but he was happy with that. I related to that farmer because if I’m able to keep my production costs down and still make a profit by my sales point, I’m happy and fulfilled to a point from my sales to my customers.
The other day I was loading my car with wedding table bouquets, a square vase that I charge $50, for and thinking it takes me selling two buckets of wholesale bouquets to make that same $50. So you would think that is the route I would take with my flowers but that’s not my choice. While weddings are good money makers, there is a trade-off with time spent on weekends which means that I’m not spending valuable time with my family and friends.
This past year my brother got his cancer back and it’s a real eye-opener as to what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’m lucky to have a great family and plenty of grandchildren so even though the weddings are so profitable, is that what I want? I just wanted to open my schedule up so when my 12-year-old grandson wants me to be at a school function or my granddaughter wants me to see her play softball I can manage to be there. Or if I need to go sit with my brother at the hospital so my sister-in-law can have a break, I can. If my entire week is so scheduled out, there is not enough wiggle room for anything extra that comes up.
I have had to make decisions about weddings so I decided to cut back to about half as I still love designing them and I like the money. I decided to take my calendar and mark out all weekends that I know I have things going on, blocked out July and August because it’s just too hot in Texas, and holiday weekends, and now I have a wedding schedule I can live with. I don’t do wedding shows and my only real advertisement is Facebook and word of mouth.
I picked up a venue this year through word of mouth where the venue provides the flowers. I don’t have to deal with the brides. The venue owner just sends me a few inspirational pictures from the brides and I have the freedom to design away. This would be a great avenue to any of you wanting to expand your wedding accounts. There are so many new venues opening up everywhere and even if they don’t offer this option they will be after you offer to be their preferred wedding flower provider.
I’ve also decided I want to do more growing. I’ve always liked growing and selling and pushing myself to do more but I’m flexible and willing to change. What worked in my earlier years doesn’t necessarily fit now. My husband retired, something I don’t know if I will ever be able to see myself doing, but I will slowly adapt myself and my business to fit our schedule instead of us working on the flower schedule.
I’m pretty much set in my ways and recently when I had to rebuild my crew, I wasn’t prepared for what happened. I advertised on my personal Facebook page because in my town everyone pretty much knows everyone, and word of mouth that I needed help travels fast. I hired two people in a day and it wasn’t what I wanted but it worked out perfectly. One is a 76-year-old woman who comes in just twice a week on bouquet day. She puts sleeves on the bouquets and straight bunches that we assemble, and also makes some of the smaller, simpler straight bunches. She also keeps everything counted and in order. When she called me about the job I was like “Oh dear, how am I going to tell this lady that she won’t work out?” but boy, was I wrong. She loves coming in for about 8 hours a week and just loves working with flowers. She turned out to be such a blessing. The other gal worked out also because I just needed someone for a couple of months till the college summer helped started so she fit the slot perfectly. My daughter tells me “Mom, I don’t know why you worry about help because it always works out for you.” I tell her it’s not worrying, it’s called planning.
In my effort to grow more, I’ve added quite a few crops. In the fall I ordered a shipment of Colibri poppies from Henk Onings with Onings Holland. They were a hit in winter sales. I bumped my shipments up to three successive plantings this coming winter. We sell all the blooms in straight bunches as they are a high-demand flower with many of the designers, and don’t normally put them in our bouquets. I tried just picking into water and putting heat to the cut edges and I didn’t see much difference in vase life.
I’ve also added eucalyptus to my plantings this year. It used to always give me a headache from the smell but I’m trying again and so far I’m good with the aroma. I planted all of it in unheated greenhouses but have the capability of protecting from the cold. I ordered plugs for silverdrop and silver dollar eucalyptus. I planted some in the ground and some in crates. They all seem to be doing well and I plan on cutting soon for sales in straight bunches. Eucalyptus is a great wedding filler.
I also added another row of ‘Erlicheer’ daffodils that I sourced from Ednie, Dave Dowling. These beauties are a novelty flower and have a strong scent. I also added some daffodils from Our American Roots that I thought were unique. Varieties included ‘Delnashaugh’, ‘Flower Parade’, and ‘Obdam’.
As I age it gets harder and harder to pick all the anemones and ranunculus so this year I decided to try a bunch of anemone in crates up on raised benches. I planted ten bulbs per crate and they did amazing for me and they were so easy to pick. I’m going to try it with my ranunculus as well next year
For our spring bouquets I needed some serious filler so I added forget-me-nots. I had four-foot tall plants that bloomed and bloomed for a couple of months and gave me some serious fluff for my bouquets.
This past year I added more ‘Belonica’ double lilies to my lily schedule. I brought a crate in one month earlier than the year before and added two successions for lilies later. I also added ‘Thalia’ and ‘Natalia’ which are other double lilies that Zabo has to offer. They all turned out amazing, and a large portion of them bloomed just in time for Mother’s Day so that was super awesome. It felt so good having that something extra to offer at Mother’s Day. My plan this year was to have a ton of flowers for Mother’s Day and it just worked out beautifully. I turned in all my lily orders in April of 2016 to insure that I would get all the lilies I want and scheduled out to ship to me in two-week increments.
I planted the lilies in a greenhouse that we were able to keep from freezing. Some were planted in crates on tables and others in crates on the ground. The ones on the ground grew so much taller and stronger than those on elevated tables. The ground-grown ones were so tall that I wanted to say “timber” every time I cut one because it felt like we were cutting trees down.
By the time you are reading this article we will be in the dog days of summer in Texas, zone 8B and hot as heck, and trying to get our work done in the morning hours and then retreat to the air conditioning. It’s hard to come out and work even in the evenings because at 9:00 p.m. it can still be 95 degrees. We do manage to get watering and jobs in the shade done. Enjoy your summer and get ready for a busy fall.