Flowers. A universal symbol of love, romance and life. When Carouseller @atflowerhouse saw her parents’ traditional floristry stall struggle to adapt to modern times and trends, she decided to step in and help.

When a flower blooms in a forest, and no one is there to see it, is it still beautiful?

Read about how she transformed the traditional business with modern practices and creative marketing.

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How did you get involved in your parents’ florist business?

Our family’s floral beginnings began when a recession in the ‘80s hit our main export business hard. Despite enduring a huge upheaval in housing and lifestyle, it didn’t dampen my folks’ passion in design and working with flowers.

The humble beginnings of @atflowerhouse

We moved into our current estate in 1995. In her heyday, my mother was a regular judge on various florist competitions in Taiwan, and even won several awards herself. With the chance to start anew, my mother began to rekindle her love in floristry.

She took over a market stall, together with my dad who was always there to help out whenever he had time off his work. I was in primary school then, and every nook and cranny was my playground. That's how I started hanging out around the shop, helping out sporadically.

What was it like working there? What was a typical day like when you helped out?

When it comes to working with flowers in the heartlands, it is definitely not something like a pretty little parisien setting working on apothecary jars and snipping rose stems in our little aprons.
 

4am

On regular days, we would:

  • Roll up the shutters and move out the racks
  • Display our potted plants and artificial flowers
  • Prepare and display our cut flowers
  • Clear the drainage filled with gunk
  • Prepare other necessities such as loose Jasmine

10am

As the morning frenzy dies off, the blistering heat starts to set in, while the afternoon crowd arrives. Typically, it will consist of blue collar workers grabbing their lunches. Fewer transactions happen during these hours as most window shop around our items such as terrariums, succulents, bouquets and gardening supplies.

2pm

The keeping starts. More than often its double the time of opening procedures.

  • Clear up space in the stall to make way for the potted plants
  • Change and treat the water in our fridge. Trim away flowers that were manhandled.
  • Await suppliers delivery and prepare them for the next day .
  • Washing up of our shopfront

4pm

Closing time involves waiting for customers that are coming after work to collect their orders. Thereafter, we will push in all racks and benches, secure and lock up.

When you began playing a bigger role, what were some of the new things you tried? How did it work out?

After I graduated and joined the workforce, I began to better appreciate the business climate we were operating in. I learned our stall’s profits were constantly in decline, mainly due to competition and the emergence of big supermarkets dealing with fresh-cut flowers.

My folks didn't want to lose the shop as they enjoyed the company of their friends who come by everyday, the freedom to pursue their passion in floristry. I, too, did not want them to be burdened by all these worries and for them to take it easy during their retirement years. That’s how I started to get actively involved in the business. This started with an overhaul of our primitive bookkeeping process and inventory management systems.

I manually built a simplified integrated system that oversaw:

  • Order-taking which bypasses front line sales
  • Order management to minimise errors
  • Proactive demand management to prevent wastage
  • Just-in-time Inventory control to ensure freshness
  • Price monitoring systems to keep the pricing low
  • Other solution-providing programs to give instant quotations and comparisons.

Besides the backend, I had initially experimented with maintaining a blog and Facebook page for marketing and to raise awareness in the early days.

It’s only more recently when we started using a more diverse set of platforms including Google, Wix, Instagram and, of course, Carousell. The possibilities for reach were endless. We are still constantly trying to improve ourselves on areas such as brand management, programme writing and e-commerce.
 

When did you start using Carousell? What inspired you to use our marketplace to sell flowers?

Even though I had the app for some time, I really started using Carousell actively in February 2017. My initial aim was to clear my preloved dresses and sell some of our pottery items from the shop.

One day when I was browsing, I stumbled across a bouquet arrangement. It was a decent attempt at one of the trendsetting Korean florist signature arrangements, and it was well received by the community. It was right then I discovered that the Carousell community appreciated a good floral arrangement.

I started experimenting by listing some of our original designs on Carousell, giving consideration to the target audience on Carousell. It proved to be tremendously successful, and I was thoroughly overwhelmed by the amount of responses. It’s great to know that our wrapping technique and arrangements have gone on to inspire a good percentage of florists to follow as well.

I have seen quite a few great arrangements on this platform, absolutely commendable. With the focus on photos, it's definitely a great platform to showcase great designs and selections.

How has Carousell helped your business?

Carousell has really revitalised our dying business that barely saw any profits on a day to day basis. Nowadays, our stall has moved away from the usual cut flower display to that of a working and storage space to produce orders we receive online.

I always believed that the floristry trade is a business of endurance and creativity, similar to some design related industries. Everyone can learn to arrange but all good florists should be able to design and create their own style, just like photography and painting an art piece.

All these would not have happened without Carousell, our long-time suppliers, our very diligent in-house driver and the great customers we have met along the way.

How do you think Carousell can help revive old trades, like florists and beyond?

Just by looking at the various stalls in the wet market, it is easy to identify which trades are actually being threatened or overtaken by competition, such as supermarkets.

Floristry has been threatened by low barriers of entry, which sees many aspirants who have picked up a thing or two in floral arrangement classes and setting up shop. While we do have many respected older florists that have evolved with the times, the industry has also witnessed the closure of many of other traditional florists and suppliers in the past decade.
 

The hands-on experience is something I believe could be highlighted to distinguish the older practitioners from the new. Carousell as marketplace, not only showcases great designs but is also a platform that teaches and inspires. We think this a great opportunity for traditional trades to revamp themselves.

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@atflowerhouse will be selling her original designs at Carouselland, happening on 11-12 August at Marina Bay Sands. Come by to check out her amazing flowers!

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