“We found during COVID that people wanted fresh flowers to brighten up their homes. I think they also like the idea of field-grown bouquets, especially the zinnias and sunflowers.” –Vicki Cooper
When John and Vicki Cooper launched Twin Creek Flowers in 2019, they focused on selling wholesale to florists in the immediate area, with plans to expand in 2020. However, like most small business owner, the COVID-19 pandemic created a detour.
After purchasing a small farm in Hahira, Georgia, the Coopers started getting their infrastructure ready to grow primarily snapdragons, zinnias, and sunflowers.
The Coopers also reached out to Alyssa Foskey, a business consultant with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Valdosta State University, to get their business up and running.
“Alyssa helped us go about contacting florists within a 50-mile radius of Valdosta,” John says. “She had access to listings and information that was hard for us to get on our own.”
With the first crop of flowers blooming in the fields, the COVID pandemic put an immediate halt to weddings and events, a major revenue source of floral businesses.
“Just before COVID hit, we felt poised and excited to see all the flowers blooming,” Vicki says. “When the weddings and events stopped, most of the florists closed,” or had business drastically reduced.
The Coopers immediately knew they would have to alter their business model. “It was like blood draining down to your toes kind of moment,” Vicki says. “We realized that we had to do something different and fast. We watched on television how growers in Holland were destroying thousands and thousands of tulips, and we didn’t want to start shredding our flowers.”
With the florist and wholesale market closed—at least in the short-term—the Coopers once again requested advice from Foskey and other SBDC consultants.
“We had regular phone conferences, and they would give suggestions,” John says. “They were the sounding board that every business needs, especially when you are starting something new. They helped us stay on track.”
Like many other small business owners, the COVID restrictions provided the Coopers with an opportunity to pivot by moving from a business-to-business to a business-to-consumer approach. They also found an immediate solution a few miles down the road at the Hahira Farmers Market.
Instead of watching their flowers wither in the fields, the Coopers sold bouquets at the weekly market and, at the same time, delivered a little happiness.
“We found during COVID that people wanted fresh flowers to brighten up their homes,” Vicki says. “I think they also like the idea of field-grown bouquets, especially the zinnias and sunflowers.”
The adjustment to retail sales also presented the Coopers with some new marketing challenges. “The original business approach was wholesale,” John says. “We had to move to social media to build customers and get name recognition in the community.”
While the initial shock of COVID restrictions caught the Coopers a little off-guard, on the positive side, they discovered a new revenue stream.
“Having the farmers market sure did pull this little farm right up,” Vicki says. “Now that we are back working with the florists, we will continue to sell bouquets at the farmers market.”