Providing Flowers in Uncertain Times
Dealing with uncertainty is part of every small business owner’s experience. Dealing with uncertainty can be challenging, stressful, and make us feel out of control. We like things that are knowable, predictable, and foreseeable. As flower growers and designers the weather is unpredictable. COVID is unpredictable. Customer buying habits are unpredictable. And the list goes on. We wanted to share a couple examples of how we’ve been dealing with uncertainty recently. We’re not experts, but we’re trying.
Laura Beth ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Uncertainty: the pandemic wrote that word on each of our doorsteps. For two years, we watched each other cope, and struggled ourselves with the unknown future. I had an abundance of unhealthy coping mechanisms just like everybody else, but I had a few healthy ones too, namely staying busy, peanut M&M’s, and therapy.
I learned a trick in therapy that helps me deal with uncertainty and all the other emotions to boot. Here’s how it works. When I start to display signs of emotional stress (cheeks reddening, snapping at people, whatever it may be), I say to myself: “I’m noticing that I’m feeling________.” I know that sounds simple, but it lifts me out of my body for a moment. There up above, I can objectively see that the strong emotions coursing through my veins are not me; they will pass.
This trick has come to my rescue countless times, but as we are here to talk about flower farming, I’ll share a real example of how this trick helped me in business during uncertain times. One day mid-pandemic, a florist called me to complain that our prices were too high, and she insisted on a discount.
Here are the first two responses that came to mind:
Option A: “I’m worried about the future and don’t want to turn customers away, so okay, I’ll give you a discount.”
Option B: “How dare you undervalue all my hard work, I’m trying to feed my family, expletive, never call me again.”
Neither Option A nor B seemed ideal, so I used my therapy trick: “I’m noticing that I’m feeling FURIOUS that this customer doesn’t get what I’m doing.” Ah, rage! I could see myself from above, standing out in the field clutching my phone to my ear, fuming that this person doesn’t understand flower farming. It was a little comical.
That tiny moment of perspective sparked empathy in me. My shoulders relaxed, and I chose Option C: to respectfully explain why our flowers cost what they do. “I completely understand where you’re coming from. We pay our employees a living wage. We feel we are competitive with the local wholesaler; in many cases, our flowers are more affordable despite being consistently better quality. I can’t give you a discount; but I hope you can see where I’m coming from, and that we can work together in the future.”
To my complete shock, she responded that she’d like to place an order—despite our prices. She was a reliable weekly customer all season after that. I’m still amazed that my response was so effective. It was a real victory for me—not that I got her business, but that I was able to catch myself before letting my emotion of the moment (rage) dictate my response.
I’ve used this therapy trick constantly during our search for farmland. “I’m noticing that I’m feeling terrified we will never find a place.” helped me look inward to discover that I truly believed, underneath all my fear, that we would eventually find home. “I’m noticing that I’m feeling frustrated.” prevented me from yelling at my loan officer when they wouldn’t loan us as much as we wanted.
I can even use the trick to navigate happy emotions: “I’m noticing that I’m feeling grateful.” helps reinforce that marvelous warmth of gratitude. Right now, I’m noticing that I’m feeling grateful for all of you reading: this community is special, and I’m glad that our connection through the ASCFG is there through a pandemic, through global unrest, and all the other uncertainty of living.
For us at Local Color Flowers, COVID continues to be the most unpredictable thing we have had to navigate since we began our business fifteen years ago. About five years ago, we consciously decided to try to transition our business to doing more in-person things in our shop including more design classes—special events like Open Studio, and Saturdays at LoCoFlo, and special Flower Club events.
When COVID hit, we were doing about 60% of our work in person in our shop. Another 30% of our work was wedding work with only about 10% of our work being daily deliveries and subscriptions. After a few weeks of being shut down in March of 2020, we realized how uncertain the future of our business was proving to be. We didn’t know when we would be able to resume in-person events. We didn’t know when weddings would be safe again. We didn’t know if we would be able to generate enough work to keep our team employed. The uncertainty was overwhelming.
During the first six months, I worked hard on not dwelling on the uncertainty. Rather, I funneled all of my energy into the things I could control. We had access to flowers since our growers were still able to grow, and people wanted flowers in their homes. We created a new product (the LoCoFlo Bucket) and promoted home deliveries and subscriptions. While I was feeling sad, frustrated, and stressed about all that we were NOT able to do, I remained focused on what we were able to do.
When the summer of 2021 arrived, our city’s mask mandate was lifted and we were ready to start in-person events again. We scheduled six months’ worth of classes and events. Registration opened and our community was excited about in-person events again. This plan lasted about a month before Delta and then later Omicron halted these plans as well. We taught one class before we canceled everything again. The disappointment was heavy. Again, we worked hard to figure out what we COULD do rather than dwelling on what we couldn’t do. We ramped up the sale of products like dried flowers, dried wreaths, and evergreen wreaths. We created and offered an online class for the first time. I knew there would be a time that in-person events would come back, but I had to let go of my hope and expectations about when that would happen and focus on the old mantra One Day at a Time.
So here we are on March 1, 2022, ready to open our doors for in-person classes and events again. We’re beyond excited because so much of what we love about our work is being in community with our flower people. I’m also fully aware that things can change at any moment. Uncertainty has been normalized and we’re all finding tools to help deal with it better.
Local Color Flowers
Ellen Frost is owner of Local Color Flowers. Contact her at [email protected]lo.com
Laura Beth Resnick
Laura Beth Resnick is owner of Butterbee Farm. Contact her at [email protected]