PROFILE: Posh Petals Inc.: Florist's business is blooming Ample competition hasn't kept Posh Petals from growing

October 8, 2007

Posh Petals Inc. Florist's business is blooming Ample competition hasn't kept Posh Petals from growing

In just more than three years, Erika White and Meredith Moynahan have moved from employees of someone else's flower shop to owners of a fast-growing retail florist with a reputation for unusual arrangements.

Posh Petals Inc. opened its doors in July 2004, just a few months after the friends and co-workers, both 32, first discussed opening their own place.

"It happened really fast," White recalled. "Everything just fell into place."

The two enlisted help from the local branch of Service Corps of Retired Executives, which advised them on everything from creating a business plan-the partners ended up writing two "because we're overachievers," Moynahan joked-and finding a location. They financed the startup with a loan from National City Bank.

Despite entering a market crowded with larger, well-established competitors, Posh Petals quickly made its mark, boosted by word-of-mouth marketing.

"All of our family members ordered something," Moynahan said of Posh Petals' first weeks.

The women also spread the word by making arrangements and delivering them in person to event managers at hotels and other venues. Soon, Posh Petals was booking weddings and events-and landing on venues' preferred vendor lists.

The pair settled into a routine: One of them worked in the shop while the other made deliveries. Before long, the walk-in and phone business was too much for one person to handle while making orders, and White and Moynahan hired their first employee.

Now, a dozen employees fill and deliver orders and take care of a steady stream of customers in the shop, which includes a retail area filled with fun and inexpensive gift items-"the kind of things we'd buy ourselves," White said.

Within the next year, the two hope to hire an additional full-time floral designer and are considering expanding their shop just around the corner from Meridian Kessler's landmark Red Key Tavern. And they're on track to double the shop's revenue to $1 million within the next couple of years.

As business has grown, so has White's and Moynahan's confidence as floral designers. Both came to the field through an interest in art, and both attended the same floral design school in Chicago, albeit at different times.

In Posh Petals' early days, the two didn't stray too far from what they had done for other shops.

"Every floral shop has its own look," White said.

Gradually, Posh Petals' look emerged. Today, the shop's work is distinctive for its use of one or two colors of flowers-often exotic varieties-and the ribbon around the vase. The result frequently is an eye-popping arrangement that stops people in their tracks, customers say.

"I can call and say, 'This is for the boss's wife,' and they'll know just what to make," said Loretta Hirsch, executive coordinator for locally based Benefit Associates Inc. "They have always been there to do what it takes to do what we want. ... They are just above and beyond."

Hirsch said her firm sends flowers five or more times a month to employees and clients for special occasions. She used to call on one of several local florists. Now, she doesn't call anyone else.

Rapid growth like Posh Petals' is unusual in the local floral market, which is dominated by several large shops, said Nora Steinmetz, owner of Welch Wholesale Florist, alongside Fall Creek off West 16th Street.

"Just based on what they order from us, their business has grown immensely," Steinmetz said. "They are two young women who work hard and are successful because they work hard."

That hard work has paid off with several awards, most recently the People's Choice award at this year's Orchard in Bloom Garden Show. Posh Petals' entry there included a dress form adorned with a jacket made of red-orange chrysanthemums.

Creating artful floral arrangements that wow recipients still thrills White and Moynahan.

"We love what we do," White said. "Every day, we can find something new and fun. As long as we can continue to do that, we will."
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