Time to meet another great flower start-up business! In 2013, Tobie Whitman launched Little Acre Flowers in Washington DC with a mission to provide a sustainable option for daily flower delivery services. She sources all her flowers from local farms, an awesome commitment!
I loved meeting Tobie in our Business of Local Flowers master class! She’s got such a bright and thoughtful personality and clearly already had some serious business savvy coming into the class. She asked the best questions and added so much to the group dynamic. I loved hearing about how she’s grown her business over the past season and has taken on some weddings even though she swore at the class that she wasn’t interested in them. :-)
Let’s get to it! Meet Tobie from Little Acre Flowers!
Tell us a little bit about your business, business model and clientele.
Little Acre Flowers is DC’s only 100% locally sourcing florist. We offer a unique daily arrangement based on what is fresh and seasonal – just like a daily special at a restaurant. I used to work for a traditional florist and was shocked when I learned the details of the international floral trade – flowers shouldn’t be weeks old, covered in pesticide and shipped from thousands of miles away! I wanted to provide a fresh and sustainable floral delivery option for the greater Washington DC area – a region that is increasingly interested in eating and buying local.
Our clientele is wide ranging – some are attracted to the idea of supporting local farms, some are compelled by the sustainability and others just love the way our arrangements look – a causal, garden aesthetic that highlights the beauty of the flowers.
What got you into flowers in the first place?
My grandmother was Dutch and she took me to Kerkenhof garden when I was 16. I totally fell in love with the tulips. I went to college in Massachusetts and the long, cold winters were hard. I used to go stand inside the Brattle Street Florist shop and just absorb the color and fragrance. I ultimately went into non-for-profit and government work but about 5 years ago followed my passion for flowers and transitioned into a more creative profession. I am so glad that I did!
You attended our Business of Local Flowers Master Class at Love ‘n Fresh Flowers this past spring. When you signed up, what were you looking to gain by coming to our farm?
I was excited to learn not only from Jennie and Ellen the specifics of their successful businesses but also to connect with other florist just starting out. It was great to connect with others at the same stage of business development as well as learn from the experiences of the instructors. What platform did you use to build your website? How were you publicizing? Are you offering promotions? The fact that many of us were at the same stage was super helpful.
What did you find most helpful about your time in the class? Where there any surprises?
The specifics that Jennie and Ellen shared about their businesses and finances were so useful. I was really surprised with how transparent they were – a testament to their interest in mentoring others in the field. It has been really helpful to have a sense of what other businesses looked like in the beginning – sales numbers, pricing, size of staff…It has provided such useful context that I cannot imagine having gotten anywhere else.
Can you give us a specific example of something you learned and then implemented into your own business once you went home?
I originally designed the business to exclusively offer daily deliveries and not focus on wedding services. Yet, after hearing about the experiences of established, successful florists, we have begun to do some weddings. We are testing out balancing the delivery business with wedding work. Stay tuned!
Another thing I have implemented is getting more information from and sharing details with prospective clients upfront. When responding to event and wedding inquiries, we remind clients of our 100% local approach to sourcing and our commitment to sustainability. We want to make sure that we are the right fit for clients and that we can provide what they are looking for before getting to far down the planning process.
How has your business changed over the past several months since the class?
We are a lot busier — which is great! We are moving into a new space to allow for a larger team to work for Little Acre Flowers and to offer floral arranging classes. It’s a really exciting time!
Have you stayed in touch with any other students from the class?
I have. Petal by Pedal in NYC has a very similar model to our business and we are in touch. In addition, I often recommend them to clients interested in sending flowers in New York.
Time for the “big question”! Where do you see your business going from here? A healthy business is always evolving. What’s that process look like for yours?
We will continue to expand our daily delivery business but also our wedding and event business. We also want to up our engagement in the local business community in DC – doing more partnerships and joint offerings. I think the key is to develop these with some degree of independence from one another so as not too get too overwhelmed. The process will be a little chaotic and I’m sure our priorities will evolve too. We’ll need to stay loose and expect to make some mistakes – the only way to really know is to try it!