A workday that begins with a bleary-eyed 5am market trip to buy fresh flowers is not for everyone. Aileen Cassin, owner of Daisy Chain Florist in Sydney’s north-west, wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the Australian population spending an estimated $193.4 million on flowers for Mother’s Day and $93.3 million on flowers for Valentine’s Day in 2013, Aileen Cassin’s Castle Hill-based business, Daisy Chain Florist, is at the forefront of a growing market.
Indeed, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are Cassin’s two busiest times of the year, balanced with a steady stream of walk-in and online customers, corporate orders and flowers for weddings and special events.
Starting Daisy Chain Florist
Cassin began training as a florist when she was 19, “nearly 20 years ago now”. She worked in the industry for eight years before deciding to go out on her own.
“My last boss was the same age as me … I figured, if he can do it, why can’t I?” Cassin recalls. “My dad ran his own business, and I had my entire family’s support. I thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go and get a job’. Which, of course, never happened!”
Just two years into the business, Cassin decided to set up an online shop for Daisy Chain Florist. “I considered it a necessity,” she says. “All of the big florists were online at the time and small businesses had to keep up.”
Those first few e-commerce websites in the floristry industry were far removed from what consumers expect today. “In the early days, you couldn’t order from a lot of the sites like you can now – they just had info on the business and some pictures,” says Cassin.
Fast forward to 2014, and Cassin receives the majority of her orders online, outside of retail hours.
“I use My Online Shop from Australia Post and DirectOne from SecurePay for payments, as it’s a lot easier to receive orders out of hours,” she says. “The majority of Daisy Chain’s orders come through after 5:30pm. Without the online shop, they just wouldn’t be able to buy from me.”
The art of self-promotion
Also running 24/7 is Cassin’s social media promotion of Daisy Chain Florist. She has embraced Facebook and Pinterest as an alternative to more traditional forms of advertising, like print.
“I ran some ads in the local newspaper and they didn’t really work,” she says, adding that social media lends itself more to the visual appeal of flowers. “It’s much easier to sell something if people can see it, so I regularly put up posts on Facebook and Pinterest,” explains Cassin. “When it’s in front of people, you get much more of a response. Plus, my regular customers like checking out my arrangements and they help spread the word, sometimes by liking and commenting on posts.
“I look at it as a necessary tool – lots of florists don’t do it [social media] because they’re not tech savvy, but I think you need to be.”
Cassin also networks regularly, attending her local Chamber of Commerce small business meetings once or twice a month. She’s been going since day one of Daisy Chain Florist and has found it beneficial on many levels.
“I get quite a few corporate orders through my connection with the local Sydney Hills Chamber of Commerce,” says Cassin. “I’ve been attending their meetings for 12 years now. At the start, I’d take some flowers along to show what I can do. Now people just know me, and it’s become a word-of-mouth thing.”
Cassin has also reaped the benefits of joining in the “My Board” groups within the Chamber of Commerce. “These are smaller groups … there will be me, a lawyer, an accountant and so on, and we’ll discuss subjects like leadership and technology. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and get advice from other people in business,” she says.
Overcoming e-commerce hurdles
While Cassin’s parents have always been on hand to lend her business advice, she wishes someone had been there to tell her about the challenges of launching an e-commerce website all those years ago.
“It was a lot more challenging that I expected,” she admits. “The person I was initially working with was not used to working with florists and didn’t have a great understanding of what I needed. It was also quite time consuming. I had to ensure I had the right ‘fine print’ information, addressing all the rules and regulations and taking existing information and changing it to suit my business.”
With those days long behind her, Cassin says the only problem with selling flowers online now is slightly impatient and pedantic customers.
“Sometimes, when people order flowers online, they expect to get exactly what’s in the picture, and they want it instantly,” she explains. “What they don’t understand is that florists don’t always get a say – some flowers are seasonal, like tulips, and it really depends on what’s available from the market. We can’t always meet expectations.”
Daisy Chain Florist has plenty of happy customers, however, and Cassin’s plans for the future involve growing the business to a manageable level.
“I’d like to grow slightly – but not too much. I don’t want to have to hire any more staff,” she says. “My immediate goal is to keep building my list of regular clients, as a lot of my corporate clients have been taken over or bought out in recent months, and the new owners don’t see value in fresh flowers.”
1. “Write a list of your needs and check out your competitors’ sites, then do it better.
2. “If you’re in a visual industry, like floristry, put up your own images. People want to see what you can do – don’t just use images from somewhere else.
3. “Meet your suppliers and get to know them before you move ahead or strike a deal. Make sure everyone understands your objectives before launching into it.
4. “Always remember that you get what you pay for.”