City News takes a behind-the-counter look at the operations of a floral shop.
Wax flowers and baby’s breath are strewn around the table as Elaine Mahong, manager of Xpressflower.com at HDB Hub and Ang Mo Kio Hub, expertly fastens stalk by stalk onto a ring of beading wire. She is preparing a wedding headpiece for a client’s big day the next day, and focus is paramount—bridal arrangements and bouquets have to stand the wear and tear of being carried around the whole day, and loose flowers that fall off, especially from the wedding car, is a bad omen.
With a background in English Literature, the 24-year-old Mahong put her literary dreams on hold to pursue her passion for flowers, and her dedication shows. Together with her friend Rio Harsono, one of the franchise owners of Xpressflower.com, they have seen brisk business—their first outlet (and Xpressflower.com’s first franchisee) at HDB Hub was opened this year in January. Just two weeks ago, they opened a second outlet at Ang Mo Kio Hub.
Harsono first chanced upon the idea of opening a floral business at a franchise expo last year, when he saw that Xpressflower.com’s business model matched his business profile—in terms of budget, size of shop, and profit margin, among others.
Several things set Xpressflower.com apart from the run-of-the-mill florist—firstly, it is the first floral business in Singapore that provides 24-hour delivery service. Its website is also accredited by Case Trust, which ensures a secure transaction everytime a client makes an online order. Additionally, 90 percent of its staff members are certified, having undergone training at the Nobleman School of Floral Design here in Singapore. It is an internationally recognized floral institution endorsed by the World Flower Council, which is a global organization dedicated to preserving the flower culture in various countries worldwide.
The courses cover a broad range of topics, from the basic principles of floral design proportion, balance and color co-ordination to cutting, rooting and sponging techniques, as well as the nuances of floral arrangements—knowing the difference between a normal hand bouquet and a bridal bouquet, creating simple yet visually impactful floral arrangements, and so on.
As such, they are also well-equipped to advise customers on the types of flowers to get for a specific occasion. Says Mahong, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the business, invoicing, as well as recruitment, among others, “Whenever a customer requests for a bouquet, we will ask about the occasion, the purpose, and the person, in order to fashion a suitable bouquet.”
For example, a typical romantic bouquet is different from a proposal bouquet in terms of the number and types of roses used. It helps that they offer a wide variety of flowers, including the unusual, such as pin cushion flowers, blue roses (for the men) and glow-in-the-dark roses, for romantic picnics under the night sky, perhaps?
Color is another essential element, as different colors symbolize different meanings. “You probably don’t want to send yellow roses to your girlfriend unless she really does love yellow roses,” says Harsono. Yellow is the color of friendship, red signifies passionate love while white speaks of pure, spiritual love.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF XPRESSFLOWER>COM|
Cultural sensitivity is also important, especially in cosmopolitan Singapore. Mahong adds, “While Asians love lilies, as they translate into ‘wishes of prosperity and luck’ in Chinese, avoid giving lilies to Westerners as they are usually used for mourning purposes.”
Product aside, timeliness is one of the defining factors of service excellence provided. “The flower business is all about surprises—you don’t want to let your loved one in on your plans but yet you want to make sure that everything goes as planned,” says Harsono. Through an IT system, the client will receive an e-mail and SMS confirmation simultaneously as soon as their order has been delivered.
Needless to say, the business receives many midnight orders. Concludes Harsono, “For the person who has everything, flowers are the best gift—they are exquisite, have a pleasant scent and they convey an emotion that cannot be captured with words.”
Call Xpressflower.com at HDB Hub and Ang Mo Kio Hub at +65 6255 0501 for orders or log on to www.xpressflower.com to see the full range of products available.