Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.Photos by Driely S. for Racked
What comes to mind when you envision a mason jar of locally grown flowers being hand-delivered to you by bicycle? Romantic? Whimsical? Nostalgic? All of the above? Kate Gilman is making that dreamy vision a reality with her soon-to-launch floral delivery business, Petal by Pedal.
When it launches in April, the online service will connects customers to every bloom in every bouquet they order. Shoppers will be able to create an account with a personalized calendar, marked with important dates—anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays that call for beautiful flowers. They arrive with an information card on where they came from, typed on an old-school typewriter. After the jump, Kate fills us in on all the other personal details.
Do you have a background in floristry?
My mom was a gardener, so I did that with her growing up in Long Island. I only had the idea to do it professionally about a year and a half ago. I was all lined up to start at a law firm. I had gone to law school and was back in New York, but as it got closer, I started to feel my creative side stifled.
I was spending time walking around to green markets in New York, especially in Union Square by where I live. And I was looking at flowers and talking to growers. It made me want to start something to connect people with flowers, so they could know their background and where they came from. So I started talking to more people about putting something together, and I took courses at New York Flower School, and got back to something I've always loved.
How did you go about putting the idea for Petal by Pedal into action?
Taking it from me talking to growers to knowing it would make sense economically was a process that took about nine months. I have growers dedicated to sourcing bulbs to me, some are upstate, some are in Brooklyn and part of the Brooklyn Grange. Some I met at the green market, some I sought out. Then there was building the website, which has been one of the most important steps of the process.
When you buy flowers online, there's no customization or personalization. You log on and choose from 10,000 options. Doing that, I was never satisfied. And none of these farmers sell online. You either get the in-person experience at markets and delis or at florists. And there's such a price gap there: markets and delis are cheap, florists are expensive. And online they don't make their own bouquets, so there's no accountability there.
Basically, there are these gaps we can fill. Petal by Pedal will fill these voids in price and accountability. I want to make flowers like food, where people care and put thought into what they're buying. They want to know where everything came from. It's something happening in fashion, too—it's exciting, people want to know the background of what they're getting, and we can do that for flowers.
Did you know you wanted to develop a business based on bicycle delivery? Why is that an important factor?
It's part of that green ethos. It's a big trend: something that started on the West Coast and has now come here. New York is more bikable than ever. All these cool groups are popping up and working with this innovation and it really brings costs down. You're not paying for things to be delivered in on planes.
It's also aesthetically pleasing, and drives home the spirit of the brand. Your flowers are coming to you on a bicycle with this person-to-person interaction, and it connects you with the entire process. It simplifies things, and brings you back to this nostalgic time with this sense of authenticity and connection.
How do you work with local gardens and farms?
The grower roster will change as Petal by Pedal evolves and we see where the best flowers come from. Right now, we're starting with five to eight growers, and they're super varied. Some are family-run farms with a few acres. Some are bigger farms with hundreds of acres that also do produce. Some are urban rooftops. But the communication with them is the same. I've been meeting with them and they're so excited to sell online this way.
Right now, selling in New York is a struggle. They might have to travel, and there's so much unpredictability. There's spoilage, and the factor of transporting these flowers—you have no idea how much you'll sell, so you could end the day with flowers left over that will no longer be fresh. I'm giving them a sense of predictability with Petal by Pedal by giving them a number for what we need every week. They can know what to expect and grow according to that, which can help them become more efficient.
What are some of the benefits to ordering these flowers over imported blooms?
There are many, many benefits! Somewhere around 80% of flowers are imported in the U.S. Most people don't know much about this, but it's a big cost on the consumer. They're coming from different countries, where chemicals are used on them that might not be sanctioned in the U.S. Then they travel and aren't fresh. Our flowers are harvested here, a day before you receive them.
They're fresh, and there are no chemicals. People crave the simplicity and connection of this approach. It brings things back to basics. The flower market is missing this, it needs more of that originality. We write our cards with an old typewriter and maintain that nostalgic aspect and make it really special.
People also crave the membership element, too. We'll keep your calendars with all of your important dates. You can subscribe and have flowers for every day and event you need. It all comes at a great deal, and helps people be able to get flowers more often.
Do you plan to cater to weddings and events?
Right now, it's pretty much just for personal use. Bouquet by bouquet for individual users. I have been talking to farm-to-table restaurants and places with the same ethos as us about doing weekly bouquets for the tables and things like that. The hard thing for weddings is that brides are used to this limitless selection, and based on how we source flowers, we don't offer that kind of range.
There are some brides who want the personalization of what we do over the availability of so many different choices. In fact, I'm doing a wedding in May. But it's a very niche process. So we'll take it step by step and see if we come to that.
· Petal by Pedal [Official Site]