It’s easy to sit around all day and daydream about opening your own flower shop, but actually doing it is a different story. Starting your own business is a big step with big responsibility and risk, but it also brings with it big opportunities and job satisfaction.
Studies have shown that the workers who realize the most stress on the job are those who lack control in their work. Freedom is that magic factor that drives the zeal entrepreneurs need in order to succeed on their own.
So if you’re ready to put in a lot of hard work, to commit yourself to something you care about and to persevere through the challenges, this mini-guide will give you some points on how to start a flower shop of your own.
Before investing your time and money, you want to make sure that floristry is the career for you. Read our article “Is Floristry Right for Me?” to get a general idea if you’re well suited for the job. If you’d like to start a flower shop of your own, but are unsure if this would be the right decision for you, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Have you been working in floristry long enough to know whether it’s something you’d enjoy in the long run?
How well suited are you to doing this job, day in, day out?
Do you have enough experience and skills to successfully run your flower business?
If not, can you spend some time working on someone else’s dime and/or take some floristry courses to get more hands-on floristry skills?
What about business skills… do you feel you have enough knowledge to handle the job?
Self-employment requires wearing a lot of different hats. Are you able to pick things up quickly or can you take some courses to learn what you need to learn?
Do you have enough funds to properly launch your business, run it through the tough first years and support yourself?
What kind of flower shop do you want to open up? Storefront retail? Online shop? Wholesale supplier to other florists?
Do you want to specialize in flowers? Florist supplies? Would you offer flowers in addition to other goods?
If you were to choose an online shop, would you miss the person-to-person interaction?
Do you have enough technical skill and patience with computers to run an online shop?
Knowing the answers to these basic questions can help you figure out if you’re ready to start a shop and give you some ideas about the direction you want to take.
Once you’ve answered some personal questions to determine whether starting a flower shop is right for you, you have to figure out how much of a market there is for a florist shop. At this point, it’s a good idea to develop a business plan. If you’ve never written a business plan before read through the Small Business Association’s advice on creating a business plan.
Start by asking yourself where you’d like to open up. Then do market research that reflects the kind of florist business you want to open up. Are you hoping to have a successful bricks and mortar shop that relies primarily on walk-in business? Find out how many potential customers there would be in your area and how much they would spend on flowers. Are you planning on making online services a big part of your business? Broaden your scope to your whole delivery area.
You can do market research by surveying people in the neighbourhood to find out how often they buy flowers, how much they typically spend and what occasions they usually buy flowers for.
You can ask around by simply stopping people on the street and polling them. Or use social media sites and discussion forums to ask questions of people in your area and to drum up participants for a more formal survey where you can gather more detailed information.
Surveys are easy enough to put together on Google Forms or Survey Monkey (or any of countless other survey tools). The trick is to get people to complete them. Keep them short, keep the purpose clear, offer incentives if you can and be transparent about how the survey will help participants.
Focus groups and interviews are standard market research tools, but they might be difficult to get if you’re just starting out. Instead, research your competition. Get on their mailing lists and gather as much publicly available information as you can to learn about what works for them and what they struggle with.
If you want to pass this task off completely and you have some cash to invest in this stage, you could also just hire a market research firm.
It’s not just customers you have to think about, but the competition. With the proliferation of online shopping, competition has increased dramatically. Think about how your shop can compete, differentiate itself and provide services to customers.
Whether it’s giving away a flower to all customers who come into the shop or hosting floristry courses to build rapport, adding that personal touch and building face-to-face connections with customers is often enough to build repeat clients.
How many shops that sell flowers are there in your target market? What type of shops are they? Retail florist shops, grocery stores, big box stores? Now go back to your market research. How do most people in your target market like to shop for flowers? Does your competition already satisfy the market or is there room for you to succeed? Read reviews of your competition’s services to find places where you can fill a need or do things better.
Find Your Competitive Advantage
Investopedia defines competitive advantage as: “an advantage that a firm has over its competitors, allowing it to generate greater sales or margins and/or retain more customers than its competition. There can be many types of competitive advantages including the firm’s cost structure, product offerings, distribution network and customer support.”
To figure out your competitive advantage it’s a good idea to do a SWOT analysis. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business. Good first questions to ask for each of these four areas are:
Strengths: what characteristics will your business have that give it an advantage over others in your market (i.e. will you specialize in a particular type of flower or have a strong online presence?).
Weaknesses: what characteristics does your business plan have that might place it at a disadvantage over others in your market (i.e. poor location, small selection of products to choose from).
Opportunities: is there anything your business can exploit to its advantage (i.e. government just announced new small business grants, local competitors do not have a strong online presence).
Threats: can you think of anything that could cause problems for your business (i.e. growing online competition, people buying less flowers due to a poor economy).
If you’d like to do further brainstorming, here’s a link to a full set of SWOT questions you can ask yourself.
Location, Location, Location
The more foot traffic you have passing your shop the more business you will get, so consider it as you scout out the best possible spot. Observe traffic patterns at each of your proposed locations to determine traffic volume and the times people tend to pass by. Make sure you consider parking and ease of access when you’re looking at locations.
If you work in the floristry industry, you may come across an owner who wants to retire and sell their business, which could save you a lot of time and effort having to build up clients, find a location, buy products and hire staff.
Perhaps you want to run your business from home or just start it at home with a plan to move out once you get the chance. That will certainly cut costs and it’s becoming a more popular option as small florist revenues decrease. If you’re going to start from home, dedicate an area of your home to the business. Flowers are messy and it’s a good idea to keep them separate from your living space.
Another option is to start with a market stall, or a mobile location like a truck, to build your business before moving into a bricks and mortar location. Starting slow and building up is a wise decision that works well for a lot of people. In any case, try to balance the costs of the location with its available space. You want enough space to expand and grow if you decide to offer more products or services, but you don’t want to pay for empty space that’s not serving you.
Taxation and Licenses
Time to stop smelling the roses. Here comes the not fun, but really important stuff. Register your business with the relevant government agencies and find out what licenses you need to run your business. Visit your local small business office for free guidance on this stage of the process, as well as for some good advice on other matters related to starting a business.
Consider hiring an accountant to get your business started off right. You’ll have to make a number of decisions on how to run your business (i.e. incorporate or sole proprietorship) and account for taxes and deductions, and it’s easier to set this up properly than to have to go back and make changes.
Get a referral from a family member or friend on a good insurance agent and decide how you want to insure your business, and, if you’re delivering flowers, your vehicle. Try to find an insurance agent who’s familiar with the floral industry and the kinds of liability issues that can come up (for example, if suppliers provide the wrong type of flowers or the flowers spoil right before an event).
Find Good Suppliers
As mentioned in the insurance section, you don’t want to run into the problem of getting sued just because your supplier provided the wrong type of flowers. Though that’s an untypically negative scenario, finding good suppliers that can provide you with quality product at competitive prices is an important part of doing well in the floristry business. To be as efficient as possible, look for suppliers who will deliver small quantities so that you don’t waste inventory.
To find high-quality suppliers, ask around. Find out who your competitors are using and what they like about them. Talk to vendors at flower markets about what they can provide, and whether they can recommend someone if they can’t provide something you need. Most importantly, actively work to build a good relationship from the start. Make transactions easy on the suppliers you want to work with and be sure to thank them and to give them good publicity when they do a great job.
Making Your First Purchases
In the beginning you’ll have to make a number of big purchases to get up and running, purchases like refrigeration cases, containers and possibly a delivery van as well as a lot of little stuff like ribbons, floral tape and cards. Be wise with your investments and only purchase what you really need until you know what’s going to sell. As with any big purchase spend a good amount of time researching the best purchasing decision. Online shopping makes researching products a lot quicker and easier.
Think about all your monthly product purchases and expenses (rent, electricity to power the refrigeration cases, supplies, salaries, etc.) and budget accordingly. Aim to have at least a few months of savings in the bank to cover these expenses in case your earnings can’t cover them. The more savings you have built up before you launch the better off you’ll be, and the more relaxed.
If you’re hiring staff, it’s a good idea to hire part-timers in the beginning for added flexibility, writes the owners of Floranext, who have been in the flower business since 1969. They also add that “experienced designers will require a higher wage than a General Shop worker. Schedule designers enough hours to fill orders and create some designs for the display case then let the general help take it from there.”
Setting Up Shop
Here you can give your brain a little rest and get your muscles moving. If you have a physical store or a stall, take your time to plan out how you’d like everything displayed so customers can see everything and access everything easily. Then purchase your inventory and lay it all out.
Set up your business phone with voicemail and record a professional voicemail greeting. You could also forward calls to your mobile phone or hire the services of an answering service to take messages and have them delivered to you as they come in.
Business Cards and Other Marketing Material
Look online for some good deals. If you know how to do graphic design yourself you can put together a nice looking card, otherwise you can hire a designer or go with a basic template for your card. You can also visit a local printing shop to have both of these done for you. If you need signage, letterhead and other marketing materials for your business you can get these done here as well.
Remember that you’re in an artistic business, so your marketing materials should look professional and beautiful and should say something about the kinds of styles and designs they might expect at your shop. If your designs are ultra-modern, your marketing materials should share that aesthetic.
Build a Website
Building a strong website is an essential step nowadays in order to market yourself. If you know how to use the Internet well and are comfortable designing a website you can easily design nice looking websites using intuitive tools like Weebly or WordPress. But if you have the budget to hire a professional web designer, go for it.
If books are judged by their covers, websites are judged within microseconds of landing on the homepage. So having a stunning design and an easy-to-navigate interface is key to attracting visitors and keeping them on their site.
Get a trustworthy and reliable web host. This website runs on Bluehost, which has proven to be reliable, easy to use and affordable. Or you can consider going with a provider that caters specifically to florist businesses, like Floranext.
Promote Your Website
Creating a blog is a good way to start promoting yourself because the more pages you have written on your site, the more opportunities people have to land on your site through web searches.
Link up your site’s RSS feed to syndication networks so that your blog articles get distributed to other sources. Doing this step only takes researching the syndication networks and submitting them. All else is automated, so whenever you publish an article it automatically gets sent out to these networks via RSS.
Promote your site on Google Places and directories such as the Yellow Pages, Chamber of Commerce, floral associations and local business associations.
In general, you want to build links to your website to help promote it. Some other promotion ideas to do this include: hooking up with other blogs and exchanging articles, commenting on articles and building infographics. If you can give people useful information that helps them, that goes a long way to building your brand.
Build Your Online Presence
Unfortunately, building and promoting your website is not quite enough nowadays, with the many social media networks available. Get onto the main ones like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
If you have a blog you can set up these sites to post snippets of your articles automatically, saving you some work. It takes a good amount of effort to build up a real following on these sites, but once you do, it’s a wonderful tool to have at your disposal, as you can fire off a quick post and get your message seen by a lot of people.
The benefit of having a bricks-and-mortar shop is that you interact with customers and can ask them for their email address. Having an email list is essential for contacting customers whenever sales or other promotions happen. Do not substitute your social media list for a proper mailing list as you do not own your Facebook or Twitter page and they can be disabled at any time without warning.
Set Up E-commerce
There are a few routes you can go here. You could either opt to take the easy way and go through a company that specializes in solutions for the florist industry like Floranext, set it up yourself, or outsource the work to a freelancer. Though it’s a little bit more involved than building a simple website, designing your site to take orders is still possible to do yourself.
To build visitor confidence so that they will hand over their credit card and make sales on your website, use a reputable payment processing gateway that charges low enough processing fees. Authorize.net, Verisign and PayPal are a few options to choose from (read this review).
Popular e-commerce platforms you can choose from include Magento, osCommerce and OpenCart (read this review for more). If you don’t know how to set up an e-commerce site yourself, outsource the work to a web designer. Upwork is a good place to look for freelancers.
Think about what your customers read and watch, then take out ads in those media. Wedding magazines are a good example of targeted advertising for your market.
Particularly if you’re selling products from your shop, initiating a cost-per-click campaign (CPC) through Google Adsense is a good idea since it targets eyeballs specifically interested in buying flowers (it does this because it matches ads to keywords found in the text of websites). And you only pay per click, which means you’re only spending on those who really are interested in you.
Attend business networking events to connect with other local business people, particularly those who sell products complementary to yours, such as funeral homes and wedding planners. Search online or ask your local Chamber of Commerce for some suggestions.
Reach out to other local florists, too. Just because you’re in competition doesn’t mean you can’t develop friendly working relationships. In fact, those working relationships can end up being mutually beneficial.
Image credit: Pixabay