Tips for Managing Floral Logistics in a Big City
Life as a florist in a large metropolitan area can be both challenging and rewarding. Since moving from Kentucky to New York City, I’ve learned many lessons in adaptability, flexibility, and patience (car, studio, and cooler, I miss you!). But I’ve also found that for the same reasons, my appreciation for flowers and my admiration for their resilience has deepened! Floral work is undoubtedly a labor of love, but over time I’ve discovered some tips that have made the big city flower life easier. Whether you’re a city native who’s venturing into flowers for the first time or a seasoned flower pro transitioning into big city life, I hope these tips can be helpful for you too!
1. Be smart with space
Whenever possible, go vertical for storage.
Consider custom storage solutions that efficiently utilize all of the precious space available to you, including vertical space! Start with a shelving system with at least four levels. Save the top shelf for seasonal items not in use or lightweight materials like packing paper. The bottom shelf can be for loose flowers and buckets while the middle shelves can be rotating storage and staging for completed arrangements. You can also consider adding shelving below your work table as well and store vessels and tools there.
Consider short-term space rentals.
If you have a seasonal business or produce primarily small-scale events, a traditional year-round studio space may not be the best fit for your business. While I can effectively produce styled shoots, parties, and smaller weddings out of my apartment, when I have a larger event on the horizon, I look into short-term studio rental options.
There are postings for space up at the flower market occasionally, or you can find options through Craigslist and other creative newsletters and classifieds. You can also check in with industry friends with studios and see if you could rent their space on their off weekends. They don’t have to be florists, either! Woodworking, pottery, or photography studios could all be an excellent fit for your needs.
Get creative with inventory and rental options.
When space is limited, so are our inventory options. However, there are always creative ways to work around this challenge. For example, you can connect with other florists in your area and propose an inventory swap or rental agreement. For example, Florist A owns and stores the chuppah structure, while Florist B owns and stores the circular arch. When either of you needs the other structure, simply swap!
If possible, consider structuring your offerings in a way that incentivizes clients to take home their arrangements. Believe it or not, it is sometimes more cost-effective to buy vessels and let your clients keep them than it is to buy or rent vessels, return to the venue with a crew to strike, and then place them back in storage.
Don’t forget that there are likely floral nonprofits in your neighborhood that would love to take extra vessels off your hands!
2. Be smart with transportation
Allow extra time for travel.
I can’t stress this point enough. Consider adding at least a 30-minute buffer to the estimated time needed for delivery in the city. Not only are you up against unpredictable traffic patterns, public transportation delays, and elusive parking spots, but you’re also carrying delicate cargo that requires careful handling! Plan ahead and leave ample time for unexpected travel troubles.
Don’t write off public transportation.
If you’re up for a challenge, the subway or bus system can be a practical option for commuting with flower orders or small arrangements. Just be mindful of your packing and ensure that your items wrapped safely and are packaged in a way that is easy for you to hold. Don’t assume that there will be a seat available on your train or bus, so remember you’ll need one hand free to hold onto the railing! If you’re coming from the market, let your rep know you’re traveling via public transport, and they’ll often help you bundle your flowers more efficiently!
Consider ride-shares or rentals.
For large events, same-day, in-city rental rates for U-Haul vans can be very affordable. For smaller jobs, consider using a ride-sharing app like Lyft and requesting their largest vehicle option. However, be prepared that not all rides are open to large loads of branches or potentially leaky vases! I’ve had to cancel rides before after the driver arrived and saw what we were carrying. (This goes back to the previous tip of allocating extra time for transportation!) Remember to allocate money for tips, too, in addition to the base cost of the ride.
Don’t depend on your phone for directions.
Not much to say here, but I’ll leave you with the image of me stuck at a busy Manhattan intersection, unsure which way to turn to find the delivery address after my phone’s service gave out unexpectedly. It never hurts to have some handwritten directions!
Pack for the worst-case scenario.
Remember the scene above? Same picture, but add in paper bags that are disintegrating from spilled water after a particularly jolty subway ride and pedestrians calling out, “Hey lady! Did you know your bags are falling apart?!”
Pack as if your driver will hit that pothole, the subway will be crowded and jolty, that the 10% chance of showers will turn into 100%, etc. When those situations don’t happen, you’ll be elated! And when they do, you’ll be prepared.
3. Be smart with sourcing
If you live in a large city, chances are you have access to a beautiful local flower market or district. I encourage you to take full advantage of this and explore the options available to you there. There’s nothing like walking through a sea of flowers and letting yourself be led by whatever ingredient sparks your inspiration!
However, some events require more planning. Just because you live in an area with a vibrant market doesn’t mean you have to walk through and hand-select your orders each time. I’ve built a relationship with one store in my local flower district and will place the majority of my order through them before my larger events. This way, I can be confident that my product will be ready and waiting for me, instead of crossing my fingers and hoping that what I need hasn’t been picked over! It’s also helpful because you can more accurately plan for your costs in advance.
I will say that, even when ordering in advance, I’ll leave one or two types of ingredients off of the order (for example, a fragrant accent flower or a sturdy flowering branch) and will let myself be led by what catches my attention at the market that day. Sourcing is all about finding the right balance for you and your business, so feel free to mix it up and split your orders.
Of course, don’t forget you have countless options available to you outside of the local market. Wholesalers from around the country, like Alaska Peony Cooperative, can ship directly to you (or to your local airport), and sometimes that may be a great solution to a unique sourcing need. (Just be mindful of estimated delivery times and any restrictions your studio building or apartment places on shipments.)
4. Be smart with bookings
The most amazing part of living in a large city is the number of opportunities available to you. In many markets, weddings make up the majority of a florist’s bookings. However, in a larger city, countless other events could also use your services! Evaluate the goals of your business and your passion points, and then consider connecting with the following:
Nonprofits hosting fundraising galas
Photography studios producing editorial content
Companies or PR firms hosting product launches
Retail stores needing weekly window displays
Museums with stately entrance arrangements
And the list could go on and on! The possibilities are endless, so I encourage you to have fun exploring different floral offerings and services until you find your sweet spot.
To all of the big city florists out there, I salute you! Cheers to loving the world through flowers, whether that’s from a one-bedroom apartment, a subway car, or a storefront. Go team!
Photos by Weddings By Two