Starting a floral business isn't easy, but it can be a highly rewarding.
Apart from the money, you get to create beautiful floral designs everyday. As a bonus, you can make someone’s special day even better (e.g, by providing amazing bouquets and arrangements for a wedding or other celebratory event).
My wife (who is the artistic one) and I ran a flower shop for years and have learned a thing or two about it. There are some basic things you will need to know, but I also want to provide you some insider tips to help you succeed.
Here’s a preview of the topics we’ll cover.
9 Steps To Starting Your Floral Business:
It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
Step 1: Learn the Business Before You Start One
There’s a lot to learn about the flower business.
There's no better teacher than hands-on experience, so if you are serious about starting a flower shop, you may want to invest some time working at one.
You can learn the ins and outs of how arrangements are made, how deliveries work, tips on how to manage perishable inventory, etc. It’s better to learn all of this on someone else’s dime.
Step 2: Establish Your Floral Business
Once you’ve gained some basic knowledge of the business and are ready to take the plunge, the first thing you need to do is set up your floral business.
Name and Logo
This includes selecting a name and logo that you like. Having trouble figuring out a name? Try Shopify's name generator. It’s free.
As for a logo, I have zero artistic ability and limited technical skills, so I like a simple and easy-to-use option.
Looka will provide you a professional-looking logo at a reasonable price. You can choose from hundreds of logo designs (based on parameters and preferences you select) before settling on the one you like. You can also customize to your heart’s content. Check them out here.
Note: You want to make sure your name and logo are original to you and are not going to infringe someone else's intellectual property. If you are unsure, you can check the USPTO's trademark search tool as a starting point.
Set Up Your Business Website For Free
If you want an online presence for your business (and you should), you should set up a website. The website does not have to be incredibly fancy or cost a lot of money to set up. There are a lot of resources available to help you with this.
In fact, Google allows you to build your first business website for free. Just follow the instructions and you will be on your way.
List Your Business Online
It is also important to get your new floral business on Google. You can do this by listing it on Google My Business. This way, people who are searching for floral businesses in your area can find you.
If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out this tutorial from Google.
Set Up Your Business Entity
If your business is going to be a corporation, LLC, or some other business entity, you should establish that as well. You can hire a lawyer to help you or you can use many of the online resources that can help you set up your business entity.
I like Incorporate because they can get you up and running quickly and easily. They also have some great resources to educate you on what type of entity to choose and which may be the right state to choose for your new entity. If you want to learn more, check them out below.
You should consult with your accountant and lawyer before taking this step, so you understand the tax and legal consequences of setting up this type of organization for your business.
Step 3: Create a Business Plan
A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business.
It organizes your thoughts relating to your business into an actionable plan. Some things to include are budgeting, identifying your target market and competition, pricing strategy, marketing strategy, operational plans (how you plan to run your floral business), and growth projections.
Don’t stress too much about getting it perfect. I would use it more as an organizational tool at this point.
Another benefit of having a business plan is that it can help you raise money from banks and investors. These folks will want to see a professional-looking business plan as part of their lending or investing process.
Don’t know how to get started? The Small Business Administration has a great tool to help you write your business plan.
Step 4: Find a Great Location
You want to find a location that has great visibility from the road and high traffic. Having plenty of parking is also important.
Since flowers are a discretionary purchase, you may want to focus on locations where the residents have some disposable income. If your strategy is to target weddings, you may want to find a location with a sizable younger demographic. City-data.com is a great free resource that gives you demographic information about a given neighborhood.
You also want to assess the local competition in a given area (a simple google search should pop up local florists in the area you are targeting). If the neighborhood is saturated with floral businesses, you may want to look for a location that has less competition.
Finally, see if there are a lot of businesses, churches, and other organizations in the area that may need flowers regularly. I will talk about “standing orders” a bit later on, but they can be a gold mine of consistent income for you.
Step 5: Figure Out Costs and Secure Financing
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Floral Business?
You will need at least $30,000 (probably closer to $50,000) if you are opening a brand new floral business with a storefront. Not only will you need to purchase inventory, such as the flowers themselves, but you will also need to buy equipment (coolers), furniture, a delivery vehicle, and a host of other supplies.
Here are some of the key things you will need to start a floral business:
- Storage cooler
- Display coolers
- Vases, knives, buckets, flower food, floral foam, cards, ribbons, wrapping paper or plastic, etc. needed to prepare arrangements
- Tables and shelves to display other items for sale (like vases, artificial flowers, chocolates, etc.)
- Workstations to prepare your arrangements
- Delivery van
Obviously, you will have ongoing costs as you operate your floral business too: most notably, rent, costs to buy flowers, employee expenses, etc.
Financing Your Flower Shop
Unless you have a ton of cash lying around, you will probably want some help funding the start-up costs of your floral business.
SBA loans or traditional bank financing are the most likely sources of funding.
If you prefer to operate online, you may want to check out Fundera. They are affiliated with Nerdwallet and offer small business financing options from a variety of potential lenders. You fill out one application and they provide you with a list of lenders suited for your situation.
Of course, you can finance through non-traditional means too, such as through peer-to-peer lending, using a home equity line of credit, or withdrawing contributions from your Roth IRA (be careful of tax and penalty implications).
You can even “finance” your costs by partnering with someone who will front you the money in exchange for a share of the profits.
If you want more great ideas on how to find money for your floral business, check out my article on how to buy a business for no money. It focuses on how to buy a business with little or no cash, but many of the funding ideas translate well when starting a business too.
Step 6: Hire Employees and Establish Supplier Contacts
Once you have secured a good location and purchased everything you need to start your business, you should start looking to hire appropriate employees. If you are not going to be the one doing the work designing arrangements and making them, you need to hire designers. If you are going to be offering deliveries, you will need to find a driver (or a delivery service) that will run the routes for you.
Find the Right Suppliers
You will also need to establish good supplier relationships.
The most important supplier will be your flower wholesaler. We had relationships with a couple of good local nurseries and wholesalers – you need to shop around. Some trial and error will be involved until you find one that provides high-quality flowers at a good price.
You may also want to consider using wire services, like Teleflora, FTD, and Bloomnet (a subsidiary of 1-800 Flowers) to augment your business. These three are the main players in this space.
They get orders from customers from around the country and then forward them to local florists for processing and delivery.
They take a cut when they do this and the profit left to you may be really thin (or even non-existent). But they do provide a steady stream of orders that you otherwise would not be getting.
We used Teleflora and FTD (and constantly complained about the thin profits). It’s a tough decision.
Bottom line: It is way better to get direct orders from customers, so you may want to focus on making sure your marketing strategy is solid.
If you want an alternative to the big three wire services, you can try out Bloomnation, which is a marketplace for local florists. They have over 3,000 florists in their network and you can keep 90% of sales, which is far more generous than what the big three offer.
They claim to deliver 40% growth, which is pretty compelling. Worth checking out.
Step 7: Develop Marketing Plan
If you want a successful business, developing a good marketing strategy is key.
You need to make sure that people know about your business when you launch. But you also need to maintain a strong marketing program so you can keep getting clients and growing your business.
So how do you do this?
Here are some marketing strategies you can use for your floral business.
For online marketing, you can do the following:
- Set up a Google My Business, so that people looking for local florists can find you. You want to encourage people to leave good reviews there for you if they like your work. Research has found a strong relationship between the number of online reviews a business and the revenue that it generates.
- Get a great website that draws traffic to your business (you can hire an SEO expert to help you do this)
- Get on Yelp for business and let your customers find you. They are an extremely well-known brand and many people look there when searching for local businesses. Want to learn more? Check them out below:
- In addition to advertising on Yelp, you can buy online ads from other online and social media outlets (facebook, etc.) that target your demographic (it may be businesses, churches, people preparing for weddings or other events, etc.)
If you want to go old school, you can also advertise in your local newspapers, circulars, or through direct mail, flyers, etc.
Finally, you may want to do some “boots on the ground” marketing. Call up local businesses, churches, funeral homes, etc. Let them know you are a new florist in the area and are giving discounts on standing orders (we had several churches that wanted fresh flowers for Sunday service every week).
Many businesses also want fresh flowers for their offices each week or for corporate events, like holiday parties. These types of standing orders are great because they provide a source of steady income.
Put together a slick brochure that you can walk through with them during meetings. It will give off a professional image, which will help you land the account.
Try experimenting with various marketing strategies – you may be surprised at what works best.
Step 8: Obtain Insurance, Licenses, Permits, Etc.
This step is about getting your legal and risk issues squared away.
First, you should get insurance for your floral business. You will want to look into the following:
- General liability coverage
- Workers compensation insurance for your employees
- Commercial auto insurance for your vehicles
- Commercial property insurance for your equipment
In addition to getting the right insurance coverages, you will need to check with your state and local municipalities to see what type of approvals and licenses you need.
If you need help, you should hire a qualified lawyer to guide you through this process.
Step 9: Launch Your Floral Business
Now that you’ve got everything in place, you should prepare to launch your floral business.
- Begin your marketing efforts – reach out to local businesses and organizations and get the word out, advertise online and in print, and follow the other marketing strategies we outlined earlier.
- Hire your workers and get payroll set up.
- Get your presentations ready for sales meetings with potential business customers.
Once you have launched your business, you need to be prepared for a couple of things.
First, the floral business is highly seasonal. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and the fall and winter holidays are all extremely busy. But the summer months can be quite slow.
You should be prepared to ramp up for the busy times and slow down and cut costs when business is quiet.
One other thing to understand is that flowers are a tricky business because the inventory is perishable.
If you order too little, you will not be able to fill the orders that come in, but if you order too much, you will have a lot of waste.
Again, if you work at a flower shop for a bit before you start, you should be able to get a decent understanding of how a successful flower shop manages inventory, but it isn’t until you are an owner that you will fully appreciate all that is involved here.
Don’t worry if you make some mistakes in the beginning, that’s normal. You will get better at this and eventually be running a smooth operation.
So there you have it: A complete guide to starting your own floral business in 9 easy steps. If you love flowers and design (and don’t mind being busy during some of the holidays I highlighted above), this can be the perfect business for you.