A rose by any other name can smell just as good, but for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the flower industry, unused product and wasted expense is definitely not a bargain.
Cash management and business operations remain a sensitive point for SMEs in creative and event verticals such as flowers and catering. While revenues can be strong, margins remain slim, often due to supply chain disruptions and supplier management headaches.
It is also a market which To select Founder and CEO Ryan o’neil said has been underserved by the B2B technology arena. As a result, he told PYMNTS in an interview, those unused David Austin garden roses can quickly turn into Abraham Lincoln roses, costing florists $ 5 per stem.
“This is the impetus behind our platform,” he said. “You have disposables or consumables that are expiring, so how do we simplify this process to make sure you don’t have that bucket of leftover flowers? “
As O’Neil explained, being successful as a small, independent florist certainly requires technology that can cope with the unique challenges of the market. But after a tumultuous 2020, it also means having the tools to relax its business model and capture new sources of income as they arise.
Pruning excess platforms
The lack of industry-targeted FinTech solutions for the floral industry is currently forcing companies to attempt to tinker with a variety of platforms to run their businesses, as O’Neil said he had experienced from. first hand.
“We had information and documentation in 17 different places,” he said. “We had to have 12 different tabs. We had Google Forms, billing software, and payment processing software. We had this Franken sheet created from Excel to try to manage and calculate some numbers for us.
Given the nuanced sore points of the floral industry, such manual, non-integrated workflows were problematic. The availability of flower species fluctuates with seasonality, supply chains often from cross-border farmers in markets like Ecuador and Colombia face delays, and products can wilt and die in transit if they occur. are not delivered on time.
Agility and efficiency are critical to successful operations, but without integrated workflows, florists are often forced to order from wholesalers at the last minute, faced with high product margins, O’Neil said. Additionally, to mitigate the risk of not having enough viable produce, or because they lack visibility into precise inventory projections, florists can often order too many flowers, so that product is wasted in the end. of an event – and thus the margins are even finer.
This is where Curate came in to streamline a variety of workflows, from processing payments to managing vendors, into a holistic portal designed for florists and caterers. Becoming more efficient means that a florist can have several months – instead of a few weeks – of visibility into future orders to prepare.
Expanding the business model
Many florists using Curate have had a difficult 2020 due to wedding cancellations and postponements, making it all the more imperative that these businesses have a proper overview of operations and cash flow.
It was also a period that raised awareness of the importance of an economic model flexible enough to capture income beyond events. Working with employers looking to make employee home workspaces a little brighter with a bouquet or collaborating with hotels and other business clients in need of lobby amenities have become valuable strategies for staying afloat. or even thrive.
Adopting a B2B operating model comes with new challenges, however.
As O’Neil explained, contrary to what many might assume, it’s often more difficult to collect a timely payment from a business client than from a couple planning their wedding day. He has seen cases where accounting departments explicitly require payment terms of 45 days instead of the traditional 30-day deadline, for example.
“When you work in the accounts payable of these big companies, they have this culture that arises,” he said, noting that these companies would often treat invoices from a small freelance florist like any other invoice. . Typically, florists just have to accept it.
“Our customers feel it because they want the business,” he said. “They want this great hotel brand on their resume and create an experience that a wedding or event wouldn’t allow them to create.”
What makes it even more difficult when it comes to Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR) in the floral industry is that today there are no coding standards. industry-wide for products like a David Austin rose. As such, Curate does not have a built-in AR and AP function, choosing instead to outsource this workflow to the florist to manage it independently with business customers and suppliers. But O’Neil said he’s confident that one day the industry will embrace standard product codes that could open the door to AR / AP automation and efficient B2B payments.
As with so many SMEs, florists face a lot of friction both in the front office and in the back office. Increasing margins by adopting new business models is a must, but to do it effectively, these professionals need technology that can deliver the kind of business intelligence and information they need to get there. ‘before.
It’s no easy task, however, and O’Neil said it forces space entrepreneurs to be more tactful about how they develop their business. Fortunately, it’s an industry populated by creatives.
“People are thinking incredibly creatively about how to seize every opportunity, from workshops and cooking classes to business and hotels,” he said. “The pandemic has really forced things that people never really take the time to think about. “