The Valentine's Delivery Rush Is About to Begin. Here Are the Startups Behind Poised to Flourish.
Valentine's Day is just around the corner and these flower delivery services are readying for the holiday rush. Americans order over 250 million roses for Valentine's Day, according to the Society of American Florists, and this year — with more staying at home — online delivery sales are poised to grow.
"Because of the pandemic, there is a definite downward trend in face-to-face [dates] and that sort of thing," said Steve Dionne, executive director of California Association of Flower Growers and Shippers. "And it appears, as we get close to the holiday, our predictions have [been] borne out that it's definitely creating a surge in demand. The industry as a whole is expecting a very, very strong Valentine's Day, from the standpoint of consumer demand."
The proliferation of flower delivery apps, some who rely on imported flowers, has reconfigured the industry for many, but he added, it has created more distribution channels for local growers.
"The internet sellers are disruptors in the industry," he said. "But if at the end of the day that results in a positive consumer experience and more access to the product, then it's a net gain for the whole industry."
Only Mother's Day surpasses Valentine's Day in flower orders, said Farbod Shoraka, chief executive of BloomNation, but because moms are more flexible when it comes to the exact date, deliveries for Mother's Day are often distributed over the course of a week. This makes it easier for florists to arrange bouquets and coordinate deliveries while still using the freshest flowers. Valentine's Day, however, can be a challenge for florists.
"[There is] really high pressure around delivering on that special day of Valentine's," said Shoraka. "And so you go from a florist handling, maybe, you know, 10 orders a day, 15 orders a day, if you're a larger shop, they might do 20 or 30 orders, [but on Valentine's Day] it's all of a sudden, 100 or 200 or 300 in a single day."
The Marina del Rey service has a large selection of Valentine's Day arrangements, all within the $39 to $69 range and all made with flowers sourced from local farmers. Because of the spike in sales near the holiday, orders must be placed by February 11th. The company also offers a subscription service for weekly, biweekly, monthly or bimonthly arrangement deliveries. Subscribers also receive free shipping and a 30% discount on their orders.
The Bouqs Co. started as a Shark Tank pitch in 2014 by John Tabis and Juan Pablo Montufar. They left without a deal, but went on to pursue their idea: an online flower shop that was farm to table, without buyers in between. They have a "curated" group of local florists that complete the arrangements offered on their website, allowing for same day delivery in some cities.
Shark Tank judge Robert Herjavec remembered the company three years later, when he was buying wedding flower arrangements and was shocked at their steep prices. Herjavec became an investor in the company, which has raised $74 million to date.
BloomNation is an online platform for local florists. It has over 3,000 florists in its network, and offers a much wider array of arrangements than The Bouqs and Teleflora. Local florists create their own bouquets. The company does not coordinate delivery for the florists, but CEO Farbod Shoraka said it will soon announce a partnership with Mountain View-based robot delivery company Tortoise, for contactless robot delivery. Some Los Angeles florists on the platform include Huntington Flowers, Dolce Fiori, JNJ Florals and LA Floral Designs.
BloomNation got its start, in part, thanks to a poker championship.
Co-founders Shoraka and Gregg Weisstein saw that local florists were struggling to get themselves online without relying on big flower brokers like 1-800-Flowers. They added to their team World Series of Poker champion David Daneshgar, who raised a big portion of their seed round funding after entering a poker tournament in Los Angeles and winning $30,000.
BloomNation prides itself on promoting local florists' creativity and autonomy. They do not dictate the arrangements or pricing; florists choose what they post and sell on their websites.
Teleflora offers same-day delivery on a wide range of set bouquets arranged by local florists. The company has a network of over 10,000 member florists in North America and 20,000 affiliated florists internationally.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1934, Teleflora is one of the oldest flower delivery services, its original name being Telegraph Delivery Service. The company is privately owned, and its current president and chief executive is Jeff Bennett.
Teleflora's member florists fill local orders that are placed through Teleflora's website. The startup doesn't handle flower sourcing or delivery for its florists, but it provides the arrangement designs they should follow and the website customers order from. One of the company's key appeals is that it never delivers flowers in a box — every arrangement is hand delivered by the local florist.
UrbanStems began as a bike courier service, delivering arrangements of flowers from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms to the Washington D.C. area. Now they've expanded to shipping their arrangements, plants and gift boxes to all 50 states, with prices starting at $48.
The company has raised $32 million to date, and recently announced a partnership with Kate Hudson's King St. Vodka to offer the "love fern," a nod to her role in the movie "How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days."
Headquartered in San Francisco, Farmgirl Flowers offers flower shipments to the continental United States, sourcing all flowers from local farmers. Arrangements range from $45 to $250, with specific flowers varying with the seasons.
Their bouquets are seasonal — the photos on their site don't represent exactly the bouquet customers receive, and the exact blooms are dependent on what farmers have available. Founder and chief executive Christina Stembel wanted to step away from imported flowers and support American growers, she told The New York Times, and launched Farmgirl flowers from her living room in 2010.
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As Thanksgiving approached, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti implored residents to stay home and halt all nonessential travel as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed.
But on Thanksgiving Day, Peter Pham, one of L.A.'s most prominent early-stage investors and the co-founder of Science Inc, a Santa Monica startup studio and early-stage venture fund that manages over $100 million and recently launched a $310.5 million SPAC, posted a selfie of himself atop Las Vegas' High Roller ferris wheel.
He was clutching a can of Liquid Death, the bad boy-themed canned water brand that has improbably become Science's buzziest startup. Pham guzzles six cans a day, because he says he does not trust municipal tap water.
"I'm not afraid of dying," Pham told me recently. "There's risk for everything and COVID is a risk that I feel very confident in my ability to deal with. I could be wrong and that's OK. I am OK if I fucked up and I die from it."
Ceres Group Holdings is becoming corporate America's biggest cannabis dealmaker out of its Century City offices.
The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
Parallel has about 42 retail stores outside of California, but has big plans for a big expansion into L.A. sometime in the next year or two.
Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.