Kati Mac Floral Designs of West Chester, PA is our flower shop of the month in Pennock Floral Tri-State. We interviewed Kate McNamara, owner of Kati Mac Floral Designs.
Kate is very nice person with lots of creative business ideas. We talked about how she started, the influence of economy crisis on the flower industry and much more.
How did you get started in this industry?
I’m a horticulturist by trade; years ago I worked for a company that cared for Main Line Estates. The Estates used to hire us to care for their gardens, as well as providing them with cut flowers which we would arrange and display throughout their homes. The company I worked for had an account with Pennock as well as other places and there would be times we would purchase flowers, and bring buckets of them into their kitchens which we would use to turn it into a design studio. I can remember one house that had about 10 vases a week, if they were hosting an event it could be around 20 vases. It would depend on what was going the social events of the home owners. If they were having guests for dinner or a cocktail party, we would come in and do the extra flowers for the party. I left that company and went to Longwood Gardens and enrolled in their Floral Design Program.
This shop as it happened, just kind of fell into my lap. This was a flower shop for 25 years they were going out of business I was walking by and noticed a sign on the door “Business for sale” I walked in they didn’t really have any inventory to sell. So really we just took over the space, changed the name and with the help of my friends we were able to get things started.
We just celebrated our 5th Anniversary this past October. We’ve had a nice 5 years. It was a little rocky getting started and after 6 months of being open then the economy crashed, that was a big punch in the gut for us.
Although we lucked out, we have great foot traffic, it’s easy to park and besides making more money, I wouldn’t change anything these last 5 years.
What tools do you use to help you to stay competitive in this market place?
We’re not as traditional as the other flower shops in the area. We do more custom work, such as decorating homes and businesses for Christmas and corporate offices for holiday parties.
Also all through the summer we do gardening. We maintain the grounds for the local Country Club and also for a few private homes. So it keeps us busy during summer hours.
We are always trying to come up with new ways to keep things different. We try to use clear glass, branches, different types of leaves, and because we are gardeners we like to use a lot of plant materials. We use product that people wouldn’t think could be normally used. We also try to be Eco friendly. We don’t sell things like balloons and stuffed animals, mainly because it doesn’t go with ideals of what we try to promote.
We run campaigns on a Facebook for each holiday; we create an event around it. We run campaigns on LinkedIn as well, and we have received a lot of reviews on there, from people who used us for their corporate needs.
One other thing we do completely different is in town they do a First Friday art show. Shops in town feature different artist for that night, and the business space become the artists spot to display their work from 6 pm to 9 pm, inviting friends, family, and providing food. After the initial debuted their art is still displayed for that month in the shop. We will do a Facebook promotion of this event which not only goes to our friends but the artist can send to their friends and since each First Friday has a completely different group of people it helps to bring in new faces as well as establishing new relationships.
Name the top 3 or 5 floral design supplies or products that you just can’t live/work without?
Sharp scissors, different types of feathers and different leaves to use in a vase.
How do you deal with current economic state? The whole flower industry has changed. Holiday sales are down, Easter don’t really exist at all anymore. We have a lot of grocery stores who sells flowers. People will shop there, because they are not as knowledgeable on flower shop vs. supermarkets. We stay strong and we watch every aspect of our business. For example we won’t accept a delivery at 3 o clock in the afternoon if it’s not going make any sense for us.
While this area is higher income area, they didn’t get affected as much with the recession as most places did, but people stopped spending as much and they kind of put them selves on the budget to be more cautious.
I remember when we first opened in October 2007 we made tons of money for first few months. We had 30-40 customs pickups, corporate clients, we did huge Christmas parties, we did a lot of work with caterers. We were overwhelmed and then by the time next Christmas came we had not one caterer call, every Christmas party was being cancelled. We were kind of scrambling. We only had 10 pickups. It was such a drastic changed compared to our 1st year. We were like “What happened? Did we make any wrong decisions?” and it was all because of the economy. People were terrified to spend money. That was a huge smack in our faces. But we got over it.