New This Month

Out & About: A Fresh New Way to Send Flowers

The original idea for UrbanStems -- a new flower-delivery service based in Washington, D.C. and New York City -- blossomed while cofounder Ajay Kori was in a long-distance relationship. Dutiful boyfriend that he was, Kori often sent flowers for special occasions. After the (very late) arrival of one particularly miserable-looking bouquet, many hours spent in customer service hell, and a positively miffed girlfriend, he and his friend Jeff Sheely decided to figure out how they might be able to change the flower delivery system for the better. We caught up with Sheely to learn more about their flourishing endeavor.

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Photography by: Courtesy of Urban Stems

At the outset, what did you find were the main problems with the current flower delivery system?
I think our respective backgrounds in e-commerce, marketing, and technology helped us to identify the problems in this antiquated service. There are many middlemen involved in traditional online floral delivery, and slow service isn’t just annoying to customers, it also ensures that the flowers are bound to spoil soon after they get to their destination. For the same reasons, the system also wasn't entirely affordable, and it certainly wasn't transparent.

 

In the end, we took everything we didn't like about the industry and created UrbanStems. We've got four "pillars" that we are proud to stand by. The first is the price. We start out with a reasonable price point, and we don't charge any extra fees. The second is the bouquet quality. We use premium flowers that come from Rainforest Alliance Certified, eco-friendly farms. The third is speed. We have one-hour delivery windows, and we get the flowers to the recipient exactly on time via one of our bike couriers. The fourth pillar is a superior level of transparency. When the flowers arrive to your recipient, the courier takes a photo of the bouquet in front of the destination building and sends it to you.

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What's been the most difficult challenge you've had to overcome in dealing with the fragile, delicate nature and short lifespan of your product?
One of our biggest initial challenges was ensuring that our flowers arrived to the customer in peak condition. This has obviously been a big issue in the flower delivery industry for years, so we made it our goal to limit the time from when our flowers are cut on the farm to the time they arrive in D.C. or New York to only 48 hours, ensuring that they arrive to your recipient looking their best.

Do you swear by any arranging "rules" at the UrbanStems headquarters? Care to share some Arranging 101 advice for people looking to create their own arrangements at home?
We've heard so many rules about which flowers go well together and the proper way to arrange bouquets -- one of the biggest is the “rule of odds," which is based on the idea that flowers naturally tend to grow in odd numbers, so you'd want to mimic that by using, say, three roses or five daisies in your indoor arrangement. As for our personal approach, we usually think about what kind of mood we're trying to convey with our bouquet. Then, we try to come up with something that's cohesive and doesn't stray too far from that theme. We always consider scent, too. But really, at the end of the day, we believe it's about trusting your instinct and letting your creativity and personality come into play.

 

As for arranging at home: With the disclaimer that you should always use UrbanStems flowers [laughs], it's true that you really can make wonderful arrangements with wildflowers or even supermarket flowers. It's a fun challenge, for sure. You can also play around with drying flowers that are on the way out. Try growing your own, though. That would be the best challenge of all, and fresh flowers are always going to look better.

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Photography by: Sarah Sugarman

Interestingly, the majority of your customers are women sending flowers to friends. That's certainly a change in the traditional romantic sentiment associated with flowers.
Yes, that's been really interesting. People generally think of flower delivery as a guy-sending-to-girl thing, but we’re finding that a lot of people want to send flowers to their friends as a nice "just because" gesture. But when you think about it, all of the dynamics at play here are surprising. We’ve got a bunch of guys running a flower company -- that might not be expected either! I think a lot of the changes we're seeing have to do with our "Send Happy" slogan. It doesn't have to be romantic. It's easy and affordable, so why not brighten a friend's day? It's also a testament to the beauty of our arrangements and packaging (chartreuse burlap, a bow, and a handwritten note), which are curated to appeal to anybody with good taste. No one's excluded, and that's been very cool.

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Photography by: Sarah Sugarman

What can we expect from UrbanStems in the future?
We just launched in New York, so that's definitely what we're focused on right now. We're excited to bring this new way of sending flowers to the people of Manhattan. It's interesting, because you can get pretty much anything at a moment’s notice in this city, but until now, there wasn’t really a good way to get affordable, beautiful, fast flower delivery. Another one of our goals is to keep talking up our hashtag, #SendHappy. After all, that’s really what we’re all about. Flower delivery is about making someone’s day in a moment’s notice and sending happiness. And people have really latched on to that idea.

 

Learn more about the team and philosophy behind UrbanStems at their website.

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