We know about ridesharing, supper clubs, and pizza. Now, innovation is disrupting the flower industry. Say hello to entrepreneurs who are changing the way we express our feelings to our love interests, decorate our spaces, or cheer up an ailing loved one by creating flowers on demand.
Typically, around Valentine’s Day, milestone events such as birthdays or anniversaries, or for funerals, we seek out flower distributors. Whether it’s a dozen roses for an important date or a get well soon bouquet, Americans spend big on flowers. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $2.1 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day alone – making the flower industry a multi-billion industry.
Yet, a few customers who were frustrated by the long waits, expensive costs, and impersonal nature of online flower buying, are bypassing the process and have started their own floral delivery services that tap into technology and local distribution means to create a new, custom delivery service for your flower needs.
Last February, a Washington, D.C.-based company called UrbanStems burst onto the scene after New Yorker Ajay Kori unsuccessfully tried to send his girlfriend in Philadelphia a bouquet of flowers for her birthday. When the flowers never arrived, he teamed up with a friend to create an online, on-demand flower service. They source flowers all the way from Ecuador and Colombia and deliver bouquets to the Washington D.C.-area and now New York City at a lower price than online competitors.
The Washington Post tells the story of UrbanStems and explains how it works. In short, users can pick a bouquet, pay for it, write a personal note, and choose a delivery time of one-hour, two-hours or 24-hours. Working with bike couriers from Urban Delivery — a New York-based start-up that provides same-day delivery services for other start-ups – couriers shuttle the bouquets from the warehouse to their intended recipients, texting a photo of the bouquet after delivery for confirmation.
This is a big disruption to the flower delivery industry, but even in this new world of on-demand flowers, there is new competition.
Recently, 27-year-old female entrepreneur from New York Kate Gilman left her law firm job to start Petal by Pedal which delivers fresh flowers from farmer’s markets in a mason jar. Gilman and her staff of two work with a small fleet of independent bike deliverymen to deliver the individually made bouquets.
Calling it a flower concierge service, New York Daily News captures the battle of same-day floral delivery services:
"I loved the simplicity of buying a bundle of flowers at the farmer's market," but hated the heartless experience of buying online,” said Gilman, 27.
The Greenwich Village resident took that idea and ran with it, sourcing her blooms from New York City and Upstate farmers.
"We want to be a service that is your flower concierge," she said.
That model has blossomed for Gilman, who has corporate partnerships with lifestyle brands like designer Rebecca Minkoff and LUSH Spa.
"It's really a dynamic thing to be a part of, especially in a place like New York City, where it's really hard to notice little kindnesses,” said Gilman.
“There's always emotion in how people get flowers."
This is exciting because we’re seeing another sphere for disruption and innovation in the marketplace. When online ordering came into vogue, brick-and-mortar companies were turned upside down. Customers were limited to the hours of operation and whims of store owners. Barely a generation later, we’re seeing how the marketplace is responding to the heretofore impersonal nature of buying online.
The results are new options for consumers. It’s a beautiful thing to watch free enterprise and entrepreneurship flourish.
The only hindrance that can throw a monkey wrench into this industry is government regulation. Often this regulation is driven by established companies that don’t want completion and which have gained marketshare; secured protections in the law by lobbying their local, state and federal lawmakers; and made the rules for all to abide by.
As we've seen by the desperate responses of cab drivers to Lyft and Uber, many traditional companies have no idea how to respond to innovation—perhaps because they stopped innovating so long ago. Instead they protest and lobby lawmakers and regulators for short term victories. Innovation wins in the long run though.
So far so good in the flower world. Competition usually leads to two behaviors: more innovation or retrenchment. Let’s hope we see more of the former and none of the latter.