Building the First Sustainable Florist in New York City.
by Carly Clark
Stepping into the Gardenia Organic studio, I immediately notice one thing—the smell. All flower shops smell like plants, but these lovely blooms and plants are as fragrant as if they were still planted in the earth. I soon learn that organic flowers are not only more
fragrant; they are actually healthier for farmers and consumers since they are produced without the use of heavy chemicals.
Gardenia Organic is the first organic florist in New York City. In a time when it feels like everyone is going “green,” Hannah Ling, founder of Gardenia Organic, discovered that the local flower industry in NYC hadn’t yet joined the trend. Today, Gardenia Organic is proud to offer sustainable and local products without compromising on quality, beauty or price.
Gardenia Organic is still in its early stages, but already was voted “Best Florist 2008” by New York Magazine. Hannah offers information and advice about her journey in building her sustainable business.
(1) When did the business start?
(2) How did the idea come about?
I was looking to send flowers to a friend one day and specifically wanted to send organic, fairly traded flowers. I was staggered that not one florist in New York City offered this. I always wanted to have my own flower shop and the two just came together.
(3) How did the idea come to fruition?
After many hours of research and developing a supply chain that supported as many fair trade practices as possible, I cashed in everything I owned, got an SBA loan and opened the shop a few months later.
(4) What do you consider your unique selling proposition? In other words, what makes your business special or different?
We’re NYC’s first (and currently only) florist to use only organic, local and fair trade flowers. Our flowers are as nature intended – unadulterated, free of chemicals, seasonal and simply beautiful. Everything we do, from the flowers to the packaging, is focused on sustainability.
(5) Did you consciously incorporate sustainability into your business model? Why?
Yes. The floral industry in the USA alone is a multi-billion dollar business. Few people either know where the flowers in their bouquet have come from or how they have been grown; whether it is a $10 bunch of roses from the corner deli or a $100 bouquet from a designer florist. A typical bouquet comes from child labor, harmful chemicals, poor working conditions for farmers and thousands of air miles. I built my business on principals that support the sustainability of the environment, our health, human rights and local economies. Something as beautiful as a flower should never have such unnecessary hidden negative implications.
(6) Do you consciously incorporate design into your business? How?
Yes. We don’t just throw a dozen red roses into a vase. People assume that we’re limited in the varieties of flowers with which we can work. While it is true that we won’t use a peony in November that has been grown in South Africa, there is an abundance of sustainable products. I’m inspired by herbs, foliage and grasses to add textures and depth to an arrangement. I love to use non-traditional containers instead of vases made in China.
(7) Do you have plans for the future?
I’d love to offer classes on creating your own arrangements using materials that are readily available in your own back yard! I’d also love to have more locations.
(8) What’s the most fun thing about running a business?
Being your own boss, of course!
(9) What caught you by surprise about running or starting a business?
That it’s a 24 hour, 7 day a week, 365 days a year job – so much for being your own boss and taking time off whenever you feel like it.
(10) Any other advice or information?
Get help and advice from as many people as you can; there is always something to learn from someone else’s experience.
Make sure you have good friends around!