How this company saved thousands of flowers during the pandemic

  • COVID-19 crippled the wedding industry, canceling events across the country.
  • Vendors like floral design company Sweet Root Village, which lost 80% of its business in March, were hit particularly hard.
  • To save their business — and all the flowers stranded from canceled events — owners Lauren Anderson and Rachel Bridgwood held a drive-through flower event. 
  • Business Insider visited Sweet Root Village's pop-up flower market in Alexandria, Virginia, to see the other pivots the owners have implemented to keep their small business afloat.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcipt of the video.

Lauren Anderson: When people ask, like, "How are things going? How's the business, how are you?" Like, you know, your first thing is to be like,

Rachel Bridgwood: "Fine!"

Lauren Anderson: But then we're like, no.

Rachel: We're bad.

Lauren: Bad. Things are bad.

Narrator: Lauren and Rachel run the flower design company Sweet Root Village in Alexandria, Virginia. At the beginning of 2020, they were expecting their most successful year yet.

Lauren: It was our 10-year anniversary in business. We were at our highest booking level we had ever been for events. And literally within a week, it was gone.

Narrator: Then COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders canceled weddings across the country and crippled the wedding industry. Lauren and Rachel lost 80% of their business and had to furlough their staff, including themselves.

Lauren: We're like, congratulations to us. We made it 10 years...unemployment.

Rachel: We're unemployed from our own business.

Lauren: File for unemployment. This is our warehouse/studio workspace that we produce all of the flowers for weddings and events out of.

Narrator: In a typical year, they work upwards of 100 events.

Lauren: Some weekends we're employing, like, up to 100 people. We pull in big teams of people to work two, three, four, five events on any given Saturday.

Narrator: But when COVID-19 was named a pandemic, their weekly event count dropped to zero.

Lauren: Literally within the span of two days, mid-March, I think, all of our events canceled. We just had a cooler full of flowers. We could not stop the shipments. I think once we started seeing our fall events dropping off the calendar, we had to have a really intense week or two of self-reflection and looking at the numbers. And we realized, like, OK, even if this is gonna be really hard and this could take us years to dig out of this, we couldn't see ourselves doing anything else. This is worth fighting for. And knowing that we are supporting several families and livelihoods and salaries, we just had to put one foot in front of the other.

Rachel: What are some new ways we can come up with interesting revenue that still maybe feels like us?

Narrator: Remember that load of flowers they were stuck with? The pair decided to run a drive-through flower sale.

Lauren: We just set it up as a drive-through, and we blasted it all over social media and had an amazing turnout. People drove up, and they popped their trunks. We came with gloves and everything and put the flowers in their trunk. We had a goal, I think, to - we were like, "Well, let's see. If we sell this many arrangements, maybe we make, like, $1,500 and donate that." I think, over two days, how much did we raise?

Rachel: Around $13,000.

Lauren: $13,000!

Rachel: Which was amazing.

Narrator: But Lauren and Rachel still had months of canceled events and a business to keep afloat. So next, they relaunched their online à la carte shop.

Lauren: Over here, I'm finishing up a centerpiece from our Simply Sweet Root collection. An order placed online to go out as a delivery. And these are all premade designs. That's what's fun about our à la carte shop, is we're able to experiment, think outside of the box of our typical designs.

Narrator: But not everything they tried worked.

Rachel: The peony sale that we did over the summer. We had some sales. That was great. But not very much. We were like, "Maybe 50 people will buy a peony bundle!"

Lauren: We had, like, 10.

Narrator: Most recently, they hosted a pop-up farmers market in Alexandria, compete with a flower installation.

Lauren: These are just all the flowers from our local farm. Here is our Food for Others installation. Hoping that people will take pictures, share about hunger action month, and fight to end world hunger. Today, we actually chose just to do a plant sale. And so we have lots of plants, various candles, pots people can pair with.

Narrator: Local artists, ceramicists, bakers, and fellow florists also sold their products from socially distant booths. Lauren: We invited pretty much just everyone we know.

Customer: It's a thing to go to right now, when we're not able to go to a lot of places. I got some dried flowers.

Rachel: Something we probably would love to do ordinarily, but have never really had the time for it. Suddenly we have the time for it. We wanted to make it happen.

Narrator: The team has also started hosting floral-arrangement classes and making bouquets for micro weddings.

Lauren: Over here, we're working on some centerpieces for a wedding. More classic white and green, but hints of blue and blush. So that's really pretty.

Rachel: I use a mirror so I can kind of see what it looks like to someone viewing.

Narrator: Despite all these efforts, Sweet Root Village is still facing huge losses.

Lauren: We are still at an 80% revenue deficit and don't expect...

Rachel: To recoup much of that.

Narrator: Luckily for Lauren and Rachel, 96% of couples are planning on postponing, not canceling their weddings.

Lauren: We're hopeful that our spring season can move forward as planned. But we're just kind of taking it one day at a time. We've scaled our business to be the size we are now. Stay small to weather the storm. That's my advice.

Rachel: Considering ways that you can foolproof yourself. Diversifying is great. Do it.

Lauren: I think it's also OK to allow yourself to know if this is a good time to change course.

Rachel: I think that if you want it and want it to continue, you just gotta fight harder.

Lauren: It's promoting resilience. I think our team's gonna be stronger coming out of this. I think we're gonna be like, hey, we can get through 2020, we can get through anything. Right?

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