Start a Retail Florist


No matter what the occasion is, everyone loves to receive flowers. Even when someone is sad, they find it hard not to smile when they see a bunch of flowers delivered to their door. Flowers are sent as gifts to convey a variety of messages, such as “Congratulations,” “Get Well,” “I’m Sorry” or “I Love You.” Flowers are also used on a daily basis to decorate offices, hotels and homes. Plus, seasonally, during Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Valentine’s Day there is a boost in floral sales around the world.

Starting your own florist business is one way to be your own boss and to artistically express yourself. Not only will you be able to enjoy the benefits of working for yourself, you can also feel a sense of satisfaction that you are creating something that will make someone smile. To succeed as a florist you must not only have the creative talent to make breathtaking displays, but you should also have some business sense, enough materials to get you started and a great support system backing you up. The support you get from your friends and family will help you both physically and emotionally prepare for your grand opening. Their continued support will help you and your business long after opening the doors for the first time.

Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you successfully open a new retail florist business.

Know What You Want

Before you start making plans for your blooming retail floral business, you need to sit back and determine what type of floral business is you want to work. There are so many different types of floral businesses out there for you to choose from. For example, some florists only offer services to businesses, while others only cater to brides-to-be. Smaller floral shops have been opened in hospitals offering cheerful “Get Well” arrangements that are easy to take care of and small enough to fit in a hospital room. There are also full-service florists, which are the most common ones out there, that offer everything florally possible, including items for weddings, funerals, gift giving, balloons and delivery service.

Another thing to consider is what types of products and services you would like to offer your clients. For example, will you be offering complete arrangements and are they custom-made or pre-made? Or will you be offering single flowers or bouquets? Another question to ask yourself is if you will be offering a silk floral line as an alternative to customers who do not want real flowers. Make a list of everything you want to offer and who your target clientele will be. This will help you when it is time to write up your business plan.

Name Your Business

After you have decided what type of services you want to offer, you will need to come up with a name for your retail floral business. You can keep this as simple as your first or last name, such as “June’s Floral Shop” or make it unique such as “Seaside Flowers.” The name you choose should be something that is easy to remember. This way customers will be able to easily remember you when they need to order their next floral arrangement. The name should also be something you like, because you do not want to have to go through legal channels just for a name change.

Knowledge is Power

Now you have a business name and an idea of what services you want to offer, so it is time to educate yourself. Spend a day or two going to other floral shops in your area. Find out what your competition is offering, ask questions about the services they offer and the prices for each one. Make notes of the customer service they offer and how they handle your questions. This will give you an idea of prices in the area and how other floral shops are presenting themselves to the community.

You will also want to learn simple business-related items, such as bookkeeping, buying, selling, managing costs and marketing. A good knowledge of customer service practices is a necessity of operating your own floral business. If you do not already have these skills you can check with local business organizations and community colleges to see if they offer any classes on how to operate a business and dealing with customers.

Well, it goes without saying, that if you plan on opening a floral business, you should be knowledgeable about the floral and garden industries. This knowledge will help you with your floral design, storing, proper handling and nutrition of flowers. You must know the different types of plants and flowers there are and how to take care of each one. This information is important because you can not only use it within your business, but you will also be able to answer any customer questions about their flower purchase or plants they have at home. Customers are more likely to return to your floral shop in the future if you are able to give them answers to the questions they ask.

Purchase some flowers, practice making arrangements and take lots of photographs. The more you practice the more sample pictures you will have to show your customers. Also, if you practice ahead of time you will get a feel of what it will be like to make a lot of arrangements and if this is the business you truly want to get into.

Make a Business Plan

Now onto the business plan. Your business plan should include everything your want your business to be, what is needed to get it there and how you are going to implement the plan. Important items to include in your business plan are your target demographic, your budget, division of costs and profits and things you will need. A well written business plan can help you get a loan to cover all or just a portion of your start-up costs. Lenders like to see what you plan to do with their money and how you plan to make the money to pay them back.

Part of your business plan is the budget, which will include how much money you need to pay rent, buy supplies, pay for advertising, pay employees and all other costs related to your business. The start-up costs for a floral business can run between $10,000 to $50,000. Actual start-up costs will depend upon the location you choose to open your floral shop and how much inventory you need to get started.

Find a Location

Some things to consider when looking for a place for your floral shop are location, convenience and accessibility. Think about the neighborhood where your shop will be located and make sure it is a safe one. You will also want to look to see if it is both accessible from the street (with plenty of parking) and from the sidewalk. This will ensure customers can get to your business not matter if they are driving or walking by.

Your business location should have plenty of display window space in the front of the building and enough space inside to accommodate your floral needs. The inside of the building should equipped with a sink, a walk-in cooler and lots of storage space. If the building does not already have these items, you need to make sure there is enough space to have them installed. You will also need to have enough space for a work station, a retail section, a display cooler and a storage cooler.

Finally when looking at a location, consider any expansion possibilities. If you buy the building, check to see if there will be enough room to expand the building as your business grows. Or if you are renting, ask the landlord if there is a possibility of expanding into a space adjacent to your floral shop.

Stock Up

Sit down and make a list before going out and buying everything you need for your floral business. Things you will need to purchase include flowers, flower supplies, decorations, office supplies and business supplies. The plants and flowers can be purchased from a wholesaler or local grower. Try to find a reputable wholesaler, especially one who stands behind his products and offers a money back guarantee. A good wholesaler is one who will let you look at the product before you buy it. Some wholesalers also hold seminars and classes to show florist what is new on the market, the latest floral trends and new techniques.

You might want to purchase floor mats for your work station to keep your feet cushioned while working. Your work area should also have large trash receptacles and be fully stocked with all of the floral designing tools you need, including floral foam, baskets, vases, Styrofoam, ribbon, floral tape, wire, holiday decorations and any other items you will need to make bouquets and floral displays.

For the office you will need to stock up on a variety of supplies, such as pens, note pads, order forms, care tags, a computer, phone, fax machine, copier and calculator. You might want to consider getting a 1-800 number with multiple lines coming into the business. Other supplies you will need to get started include a calendar, business cards, fliers and a website.

In the beginning keep your inventory of all supplies — business and floral — limited to only what you need. Remember, you can always add supplies to your business as it grows.

Service Sign-Up

Sign up for all of the services you need to properly and smoothly run your floral business. To help with ordering you will need to sign up with FTD and/or Teleflora. All businesses need shipping services, which are available through UPS, USPS and Fed Ex. Consider signing up for a business account with each of these companies. Sign up with a bank or credit service so you can accept credit cards from your customers.

Get Licensed

In order to legally open your doors as a florist you need to have a business license, tax identification number and permits. Check with your local county clerk for a listing of all legal requirements needed to open your business.

Bank Accounts

Sign up for a business bank account at a local bank. This account will be used to pay business related expenses, pay employees and to purchase more flowers. If desired, you can also sign up for a business credit card that can be used to make all inventory purchases.

Get Insured

Insurance is needed to help protect both you and your business. Should someone come into your store and get hurt, you will need the insurance to cover the injury and ensure you do not lose your business. Check around with local insurance agents and get written quotes for the type of business protection you want. You will also want to ask your insurance agent what the state and local insurance laws are and make sure you get the coverage required.

Hire Employees

Though you may want to start out small, you might want to still hire an employee or two to help you out. Even if you hire someone to answer phones and help customers and another person to handle deliveries. This will ensure you have the time to work on orders, displays and running the business side of things. As your business grows you can always add more staff as needed.

Though he may not be a direct employee, you might want to look into hiring an accountant. He will take care of all of your business taxes, deductions, payroll and help with a budget. If you are not good at keeping records, this is one person you will need for your business to be successful.

Advertise and Market Yourself

Your advertising can be as simple as getting a space in the local yellow pages and running a small ad once a week in the newspaper. Other methods of advertising can include local radio stations, magazines, television stations and other publications. Since advertising can get costly, there are others ways of promoting your business.

Sign up with the local chamber of commerce and start attending networking luncheons, dinners and coffee. These networking sessions offer members a chance to meet other members and talk about their businesses in front of others. You can also network with other wedding related businesses, such as bridal shops, local restaurants, caterers, photographers, DJs, hotels, country clubs and other wedding-related services. Offer to set up a display for their business in your shop if you can do the same in theirs.

Another advertising method is to leave your mark around town. Ask local businesses if you can leave your business cards or brochures there for customers to see. Offer to do the same for them in your shop. You can also hang your brochures on community bulletin boards. Carry your business cards with you everywhere you go. This way you can hand them out when you see someone who is in need of your services and also drop them in drawings. Drawings can not only get your name out there, but you might also win a free lunch.

Online marketing is the way of today. Set your floral shop up with a website and promote it on all of your printed material. Set you business up with a Facebook and Twitter account that you can use to list upcoming specials, post photo samples and have a way to communicate with your customers. You can also write a blog for your customers to read on a regular basis. Things to include in the blog are how to take care of plants and flowers, what are the best flowers to give for a certain occasion, wedding trends, upcoming specials at your shop and how to create your own bouquet. Customers will love your online tips and will call or come in your shop when they have other questions that are not answered online.

Advertising is just like stocking up on supplies. Only advertise when and where your budget allows in the beginning. You can always add to it and expand your advertising range as your business succeeds and grows.

Open House

You have your location selected and it is filled with lots of inventory, but business is not as booming as you hoped. Let everyone in the community know you are open for business and the services you offer by hosting an open house. Pick a night when people can come in, take a tour of your floral shop, meet you and your employees and have some snacks and drinks. Send out press releases to all local media, including newspapers, radio stations and television stations. Offer a thank you package to everyone who comes to your open house, which can include a flower and a coupon.

Another alternative to hosting an open house is to host a bridal fair at your floral shop. Invite other wedding-related businesses to join you on a Saturday or Sunday. Have a space in your shop where each vendor can set up and showcase their services. Everyone involved can share in the duties of the fair. For example, have the caterer bring some food, let the DJ take care of the music and have the photographer take pictures to send to the newspaper with a press release about the event.

Hopefully these tips can help you get your new floral business off to a great start.

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