Not quite sure where to start when it comes to establishing a relationship with a floral wholesaler? I'm here to help.
If you haven't been to the Sydney Flower Market, you need to make a plan to go. It's gotta be one of the most magical flowering places on the planet.
And the most stressful. (As a florist, it's kinda like walking onto the set of Mean Girls right in the middle of that scene where the jungle fight breaks out.)
It's super intimidating. Everyone walks around looking like they know what they're doing (and you feel like you're the only one wondering WTF is going on). In addition to all the pros lookin' like pros, the general public is allowed in and you're fighting for a parking space and elbow room just to get in the doors
The place is massive. There are more than 150 wholesalers spread out over a few acres of space. It's all set within a massive warehouse, filled with the season's best. Buckets are spilling out of every corner, ballooning with the best blooms. For us florists, it's the literal 'kid in a candy store' experience.
Yes, it is a sight to be seen.
But it also kinda makes you wanna run screaming in the other direction, questioning your life choices and wondering how the heck does a wanna-be-florist go about establishing a relationship with a floral wholesaler?
The worry is compounded when you count up the number of well-established florists who have been working with wholesalers for years and even decades. What's a girl to do? (Panic and run screaming in the opposite direction...heading straight back into the corporate world and back to a desk job??? Yes, I did contemplate that many, many times during the 3:30 am alarms.)
So, I thought it might be helpful to pull together my top three tips when it comes to establishing a relationship with a floral wholesaler.
If you're brand new, this blog post will give you an insider's scoop on the florist + wholesaler relationship.
If you've been in business for a few years and want to take your flower business to the next level, this blog post will give you a few unexpected surprises, spark new ideas and give you a few secrets to ensure you separate yourself from the competition.
Why Establishing A Relationship with a Floral Wholesaler Matters
In the world of cooking, one of the best principles to follow is "Start with good ingredients." The same thing goes for flowers.
You'll be so much happier with the end result of your flower arrangements if you start with fresh, high-quality ingredients. In fact, one of the ways we created a loyal customer base in our flower shop was to make sure we focused on offering the highest quality, longest-lasting flowers.
I remember one year when a woman came in to tell us that her Mother's Day flowers lastest three weeks. Now, that's certainly not the norm, but it's always stuck in my mind because when you source quality ingredients and educate your clients on how to care for their flowers, they'll be so happy they'll tell their friends. And that extra word of mouth helps to grow your business and your bottom line.
As a floral designer with grand ambitions, having access to – and building relationships with – growers and wholesalers who have high-quality products (and quality customer service) can make all the difference in your success.
Investing the time and energy into building relationships with your floral wholesaler takes time but it can be one of the magic bullets to building a loyal following and growing your bottom line.
PRO TIP: I remember one of my flower school teachers told me "Cheap flowers are cheap for a reason. Don't ever expect them to get better." That piece of advice has always stuck in my head and I truly believe when it comes to whoelsaler flowers, you do get what you pay for.
How to Approach Floral Wholesalers
Here's the most important thing to remember: your wholesalers are running a business. Their list of to-dos and sh*t to sort through is just as long as yours.
Even with that being said, never underestimate the power of being professional and polite. The art of great customer service is lost on so many business owners but it's one of the secrets to building any B2B relationship.
For example, you know how when you walk into a business and get a kind smile, a professional greeting and the staff actually make eye contact with you. Yeah, I mean that kinda "back to basics, treat humans as humans" sorta professionalism.
The same thing applies when it comes to establishing a relationship with a floral wholesaler. So, whether you've been working with your wholesaler for years or are just starting out, Rule #1: be kind to your wholesalers.
And yes, be kind, even if they don't give you the time of day.
Remember, it's totally normal for wholesalers to be working all hours of the night, not sleeping and running on empty. So don't be surprised if they can barely string two words together. Don't forget: your wholesalers are running a business and you are not their only customer or concern.
If I could go back and tell my old self one thing about establishing a relationship with a floral wholesaler, it would be this: no one knows who you are and that is your best secret weapon.
If you're anything like me and feel like a total imposter and fraud, walking into a busy wholesaler brings up all of our insecurities and 'who do you think you are' storylines.
But let's flip that story on its head. The fact that your wholesalers don't know who you are is a great advantage. It means you can be a total noob and no one is paying enough attention to remember you.
So you can go ahead and ask all the dumb questions, get embarrassed and get through all the awkward 'first day of school' tremors. Then come back again next week and do it all over again.
Remember, No One Was Born Knowing All The Things
Read that again...
Maybe even write it down somewhere you'll see it every day.
This one thought has served me so well when walking into super intimidating, scary, new situations.
Because yes, quite literally, no one was born knowing how to do anything. We've all had to learn stuff and make mistakes and ask heaps of questions to get to where we are today. That means you get to do the same thing.
In fact, when it comes to building relationships with wholesalers, I actually like to just go all in, be brave and default to asking wholesalers and growers heaps of questions.
I do this for two reasons: (1) they know a lot about flowers – like a lot a lot, way more than you and I could ever know and being able to glimpse just 1% of that information is super helpful for you and your business.
And (2) it gives you a taste of what their long term customer service is going to be like. Wholesalers who cannot be bothered to acknowledge you, answer a couple of questions and don't see you as a valuable, paying client...they may not be the kind of partner you want to have in your business in the long run.
I use the word 'partner' very intentionally. Your wholesalers and growers are your partners in crime. Choose them wisely and then invest the time and energy into building, growing and maintaining those relationships – you never know when you'll need them to come in and save the day.
PRO TIP – If you need help sorting out how much to order from your growers and wholesalers, be sure to check out this super helpful blog post: Learning How To Create A Floral Design Recipe
Don't Forget, Local Growers Are All Around You
Yes, bigger more established wholesalers are awesome. But so are the growing number of boutique flower farmers popping up all around us. It's very possible you have access to some of the best, freshest ingredients around – it might be a few KMs down the road or literally down the street.
Do some digging. Jump on Google. Search Instagram hashtags and see if any local growers pop up. You never know who you might be able to connect with and what sorts of magical ingredients are being grown in your neighbourhood. And it could be that you get exclusive access to something amazing and build a whole network of local growers who will grow alongside you.
For example, my most favourite dahlias growers set up their entire business about 3km from my house. I was astounded to see their operation and set-up and I loved being able to support their family-run business.
Plus their dahlias are unlike anything you've ever seen. In peak season, we'd be going through 50-60 bunches per week and it was so awesome to have access to this quality product.
I loved these dahlias. Our clients loved these days. It was so incredible!
Many times, these kinds of growers may not be able to work with the larger wholesalers because they don't have the volume to support their structure. But that makes it a perfect opportunity for you.
Again, don't be shy. Reach out. Make a connection. Be kind. Be professional and be polite. They won't bite. (Just remember their to-do list is just as long as yours is – probably even longer.)
More Tips To Help You Build A Better Relationship With Your Wholesalers (FREE resource)
In this week's podcast episode, I'm digging more into the world of wholesaler relationships.
I'm sharing a few funny stories about what it's really like to shop at the Sydney Flower Market, with all the famous florists as well as passing on my best tips for building better relationships with your floral wholesalers and local growers.
Inside This Week's Podcast Episode You'll Learn:
✓ 5 tips to help you build better relationships with your wholesalers, even if you're brand new
✓ The three most important things to know when it comes to wholesaler and flower grower relationships
✓ Why the relationship you have with your wholesalers matters so much
✓ How to approach new wholesalers and growers and quickly win their trust (so you can get the best flowers!)
Listen to the full episode here