Wholesaler Highlights: United Wholesale Flowers
I had the pleasure of visiting United Wholesale Flowers and meeting with the wonderful Brian and Tiffany Ly. The business was started by Brian and Maxx, with Tiffany working as a part-time employee at first. This brother and sister team worked through high school and college to make their floral business the success it is today. At only 39 years old, Brian has achieved success in the floral industry establishing United Wholesale as an industry leader and authority.
One of the things that impressed me the most about United Wholesale Flowers and the Lys is their customer-oriented approach and agile business model. Their success comes from putting their customers first and providing experiences. Read on to find out more about this amazing floral wholesale team.
United Wholesale Flowers: The Beginning
When I asked them about their beginnings, I was shocked. United Wholesale Flowers started when Brian Ly was still in college. He worked in the shop as a driver and completed his degree simultaneously. Brian never gave up because of the sheer joy that flowers brought their customers. At the time, Tiffany was a freshman in high school and only worked part-time while Brian and Maxx worked full-time.
The three siblings didn’t have it easy – they faced any obstacles, including the lack of a lease, the location threatening to kick them out, and juggling their education with running and growing a business. However, they succeeded and began investing in floral wholesale and retail simultaneously. From picking up flowers from the airport, booking them, putting them in their SUV, to bringing them to flower shops and auctioning them, the Lys began to build one of the most impressive floral businesses I’ve seen so far.
Growth and Success in the Floral Industry
Their humble start is a huge inspiration for any aspiring floral business owner. As time passed, they acquired several other floral businesses. Many had closed down, but the Lys acquired their assets, such as coolers and trucks. However, their main acquisition was the flower shops’ customer base and their phone numbers. From phone calls to emails, they started their marketing efforts and advertised themselves successfully.
Throughout the years, they’ve also learned from their mistakes. In 2006, they had over 1000 orders which had to be delivered throughout the city. This was hectic and required careful planning and delivery. The Lys didn’t admit defeat – the next year, they came back stronger than ever and learned from their mistakes. The following year, their Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day orders were delivered perfectly.
From 2 full-time employees and 1 part-time employee, they now hire approximately 80 employees. They also started from a tiny 700 ft² shop but now have 2 physical locations, the largest of which is their wholesale 18,000-27,500 ft² location in Santa Rosa, CA.
COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact
Two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lys invested in a second location. While this would have spelled disaster for many other floral businesses, United Wholesale Flowers held their own throughout the pandemic, with their new location now flourishing.
As Brian Ly says, the main thing they learned from the pandemic was how to weather such an extreme situation. With more updates every day, they knew they had to deal with the situation as more news came in. They managed to get through the pandemic by monitoring the situation, implementing safety practices by meeting all county protocols, and retaining their employees and customers.
Despite the police showing up to their business multiple times, they persevered. The Lys followed all state and county rules and policies under the agricultural clause. As such, they closed down walk-in services and switched to curbside pickup instead. Their versatility has allowed them to continue to do well despite so many businesses in the floral industry closing down recently. From establishing more delivery routes to prioritizing shopping, they have been flexible in adapting to customers’ needs. Before the pandemic, most of their sales were due to walk-ins, but they’ve now established themselves as a trustworthy and reliable delivery service.
Although they shut their doors, they never shut down their business. In fact, United Wholesale Flowers remained open because of their passion for flowers and their duty to their customers. Because they followed the customers’ needs, they received a lot of support, with various customers thanking them and bringing them presents.
In addition to flourishing despite a global crisis, the Lys also managed to retain 98% of their employees and allowed healthy people and management to come into work.
Future Goals and Customer-Oriented Business Model
The COVID-19 crisis has not slowed down United Wholesale Flowers. My discussion with Brian and Tiffany Ly confirmed my suspicions. By staying true to themselves and sticking by their customers, they’re still on track to meet their future goals.
United Wholesale Flowers wants to grow 10x from 2019 to 2029, and according to them, their efforts during the pandemic have helped their business in the long run. By emailing, phoning, and contacting their customers via social media, they managed to become a valuable resource during an uncertain time. They dedicated themselves and their business to their customers by adopting a customer-oriented business model, which is now paying dividends.
Instead of simply thinking of their customers as transactions, United Wholesale Flowers partners with them to make their businesses a success. By helping their customers grow, they believe that they’ll be paid back tenfold. Since their priority remains to provide high-quality flowers and catering to their customers’ needs, they offer cooler rentals to studio florists and offer them opportunities to grow their businesses.
It's by helping them grow and catering to their customers’ needs that they have become the invaluable business that they are today. They have come far in the competitive floral industry by being willing to change for their customers and using an agile business model. New Bloom Solutions looks forward to continuing to see United Wholesale Flowers flourish.