Thanks to the the sustainable food movement, foodie buzzwords like "local," "organic" and "seasonal" have taken root in our collective consiousness, and consumer awareness about where and how food is produced has never been higher. Now a New York City startup is looking to apply the same concept to flowers. The brainchild of Long Island native Kate Gilman, Petal by Pedal aims to connect customers to local flower growers, with an online service that delivers fresh-cut bouquets door-to-door, via branded Bullitt cargo bikes. The flowers arrive in mason jars with an information card, typed on an old-school typewriter, that tells shoppers where they came from. The official Petal by Pedal website launches next week.
Kate took a moment to answer a few email questions from SHFT.
How did this idea come about?
One year ago, I would never have guessed I would be starting a company in the flower industry. I had graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law and was lined up to work at a large litigation firm in midtown Manhattan. I was living in New York City again and as my work start date got closer and closer I was feeling less and less excited about the prospect of a career in big law. During that same period, I was walking around the NYC Greenmarkets and filling my apartment with those locally grown flowers. Over and over, I kept coming to the realization that these flowers were the freshest and longest lasting ones that I could find. As a native New Yorker, I loved the experience of supporting local growers and connecting to the product that I was using. This authenticity was something that I felt was wholly missing from buying flowers online today and so Petal by Pedal was born -- a company with a strong green ethos and a mission to simplify the process of sending great flowers.
Why do you think the flower industry is ripe for disruption?
The flower industry is certainly ready for a shake-up. Today in the United States, $13 billion worth of cut flowers are sold annually and 82% of those are imported. The vast majority of those imported flowers come from Columbia, Ecuador and Japan. The end result is a flower that spends days in planes, trucks and floral coolers before it gets to you, the consumer. Each of the hands that touches the flower along the way -- the grower, the wholesaler, the retailer -- increases the price, and each of the days it spends in transit means less time for you with a fresh flower on the back end.
Sometimes the simplest and most local way of doing business can be the best, both for the planet and for your wallet. In the case of flowers, I think this rings true. Through supporting local growers and the flowers they produce, the consumer pays less for a fresher product. These blooms are also free of the many times harmful chemical pesticide and border fumigation processes inherent to imported flowers. For the growers, it means more predictability and efficiency in their growing practices, a welcome change in an industry in which the small farmer finds it difficult to stay afloat.
How important is sustainability to your business model?
Sustainability is at the heart of our business model. We source our flowers locally, package them in sustainable and reusable materials (recycled kraft paper, a mason jar and twine) and deliver them by bicycle in Manhattan. This is a model that we value, as do our customers, and we plan to keep it even while we grow and scale.
Where do you source flowers from?
Petal by Pedal sources flowers from a collection of New York State growers. These range from Long Island and upstate farms to Brooklyn commercial rooftop growers. They represent the varied practice that is farming in New York and the opportunity for those living in the city to still find connection with the land around them.
If you're in the Manhattan area, you can visit the website to touch base or place an order.
Photos courtesy Petal by Pedal