SAF Wednesday E-Brief
Apr. 15, 2015

Florist Convinces Lawmaker to Co-Sponsor STARS Act
By Mary Westbrook

Jo Buttram, AAF, AMF, PCF (left) and her daughter, Shelby Shy, AAF (right) have spent years building strong relationships with lawmakers, including Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a former mayor of Rogers, Ark., who was elected to Congress five years ago.

Days after visiting a retail florist in Rogers, Ark., an influential congressman has agreed to co-sponsor important legislation that would address some of the floral industry’s concerns about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last week, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) visited Shirley’s Flowers & Gifts in Rogers, Ark., to follow up on conversations started last month between his aides and Jo Buttram, AAF, AMF, PCF, during SAF’s Congressional Action Days (CAD). (Buttram wasn’t the only florist who’s been hard at work on the floral industry’s key legislative issues. Read about a Maryland florist’s recent ACA-related testimony to Congress.)  

During the 90-minute visit, Buttram and her daughter, Shelby Shy, AAF, discussed substantive policy issues, including the STARS Act (H.R. 863), one of three issues CAD attendees discussed with lawmakers, which would clarify the ACA’s definition of “seasonal.”

Knowing that the bill is still in need of co-sponsors, Buttram asked the lawmaker directly for his support, and then Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations, followed up with the congressman’s staff, providing additional information.

During his 90-minute visit to Shirley’s Flowers & Gifts in Rogers, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) discussed substantive policy issues with Jo Buttram, AAF, AMF, PCF and toured the business. Less than a week later, the congressman agreed to co-sponsor the STARS Act, a direct result of his visit with Buttram.

Less than a week after the visit, Buttram heard from Claire Burghoff, Womack’s communications director: Success!

“Thank you so much for inviting Congressman Womack and me to visit your shop,” wrote Burghoff in an email to Buttram. “I wanted to quickly follow up with you to let you know that after our meeting, we took a look at the STARS Act, and Congressman Womack signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. Hope this is welcomed news, and thank you again!”

“Welcomed” was a serious understatement for Buttram, who has spent years building and maintaining solid relationships with her legislators but has never seen this kind of fast pay-off for those efforts.

“Wow!” she wrote to SAF, noting her pride over the fact that Womack’s visit to her business had been the direct impetus for his decision. “I feel so empowered.”

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) visited with Shirley’s staff team, including Joanne Sturmi, and learnd a few things about design.

During the congressman’s visit, Buttram and Shy also discussed immigration reform and toured the business alongside Womack, Burghoff and Jeff Thacker, a field representative for the congressman — giving the mother-daughter duo an opportunity to strengthen already strong ties. Both Womack and Thacker, a former mayor of Rogers, are longtime customers of Shirley’s, and, earlier this month, Womack sent the store a personalized letter, congratulating the staff on its recent Small Business of the Year award from the local Chamber of Commerce

Even before the exciting news of the co-sponsorship came in, Buttram felt enthusiastic about the visit, which came so soon after her CAD visit to Capitol Hill in March. Ever the savvy business owner, she didn’t allow the trio to leave Shirley’s empty-handed: “They all left with flowers in their hands and a promise [to] use our flower shop for functions they have in our area.”

Ready to become more active in politics? SAF staff can help you connect with lawmakers and prep for meetings or visits. For more information or to become involved with SAF’s government relations efforts, contact Shawn McBurney,

Maryland Florist Testifies to Congress
By Mary Westbrook

When Skip Paal Jr., AAF, of Rutland Beard Floral Group, headquartered in Baltimore, Md., testified this week to a House Committee on the Affordable Care Act, he likened the preparation of written and oral statements to writing a research paper. “The nice part was, there was no wrong answer. I just had to talk about what’s going on in my business.” The testimony came on the heels of Paal’s March 10-11 participation in SAF’s Congressional Action Days (CAD), after congressional aides contacted SAF about industry members who could comment on the law and its effect on business.

When congressional aides were in need of real-life testimony concerning the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on business owners, they turned to SAF — and SAF turned to retail florist (and veteran Congressional Action Days, CAD, attendee) Skip Paal, AAF.

This week, Paal, of Rutland Beard Floral Group, headquartered in Baltimore, Md., traveled back to Capitol Hill a month after participating in CAD to testify before the Subcommitte on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of the House Education and Workforce Committee. There, Paal told legislators about his business, a fourth-generation enterprise that has grown from two to 11 locations and now employs 152 people. In written and oral testimony, he shared how the law has affected his family’s business and why action is needed to relieve the burden placed on small business owners by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The nature of the testimony provided for a bit of a last-minute hustle on Paal’s part: Congressional aides considered a number of business owners to address lawmakers but the final line-up, Paal, alongside a hobby store retailer and representatives from an HR company and think tank, wasn’t solidified until last week. That left Paal just a few days to prepare his statements, with the help of Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations.

“I’ve testified a number of times in court cases, but never anything like this,” said Paal, who admitted to some nerves associated with the “unknown variable” of speaking for the first time to Congress. “The nice part was, there was no wrong answer. I just had to talk about what’s going on in my business.”

Paal’s calm, collected demeanor (and, of course, deep knowledge of his business) came through clearly during the hearing, said McBurney. He praised Paal for being “unrattled” by potentially contentious questions (Paal did not have access to lawmakers’ questions beforehand) and for representing the industry in such a high-profile setting, calling the invitation a “big deal.”

“There were only two small employers asked to provide a perspective on small business, and a florist was one of them,” he said.

Read about other industry-related developments on Capitol Hill in Florist Convinces Lawmaker to Co-Sponsor STARS Act.More

Get Your Mobile Strategy in Motion at SAF Retail Growth Solutions
By Shelley Estersohn

Jim Dion

Tim Farrell

Tim Huckabee

Renato Sogueco

Derrick Myers

If you want to engage and keep your customers, you better start thinking in terms of smartphones. That’s the message Jim Dion of Dionco Inc., is bringing to SAF Retail Growth Solutions, June 7-8 in Hartford, Conn.

During his presentation, The On-Demand Economy: Mobile Customers Want it Now — Are You Ready?, Dion will look at the effect of mobile technology on retail operations, marketing and sales. He’ll share examples of what other companies are doing and talk about the elements of a successful mobile strategy. Dion also will lead Trend Talkback, an interactive follow-up session where florists can ask questions and explore ideas about mobile opportunities.

SAF’s 36-hour mini-conference is designed to help florists uncover profitable opportunities through a fast-paced mix of market insight, best practices and ideas from peers. Also on the program:

RSVP to Profitable Parties — Tim Farrell, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, of Farrell’s Florist in Drexell Hill, Pa., will explore hidden costs that often go unrealized in florists’ party and wedding reception pricing structures — and how to recapture them for added profit. He’ll share marketing, sales and production tactics behind his successful event business and demonstrate how to produce high-impact designs cost-effectively.

E-commerce 2.0 and Beyond — E-commerce today is a complex maze of customer interactions happening via social media, pay per click ads, videos, review sites and more. SAF Chief Information Officer Renato Sogueco explains the elements of effective e-commerce strategy and how they work together to drive traffic and sales.

CSI: Flower Shop Live! — Attendees watch and listen as Tim Huckabee of FloralStrategies, LLC, poses as a consumer and calls flower shops to place orders. As they dissect the highs and lows of the conversation together, Huckabee will talk about best practices, missed opportunities and how to manage customer expectations.

Treasure Hunt: Finding Your Hidden Profits — Retail floral financial analyst Derrick Myers, CPA, CFP, PFCI, of Crockett Myers, will present an easy-to-digest look inside the six main cost centers of a flower shop. He’ll share time-tested cost-control techniques used by hundreds of profitable florists and explain how to use formulas and worksheets to improve the bottom line.

RGS includes networking and a Supplier Showcase – where attendees can meet reps from leading companies and learn about the latest solutions for floral shops.

For RGS details and to register, visit

Special thanks to SAF’s 1-Day Profit Blast underwriting partner:

Thanks also to SAF’s 1-Day Profit Blast promotional partners:

Industry Groups Call Lowe's Announcement 'Surprising'
By Mary Westbrook
Four respected horticulture industry groups, including SAF, have come together to respond to a recent policy change at Lowe’s, the Mooresville, N.C.-based home improvement chain with 1,840 locations across North America.

This month, the company announced plans to “phase out [neonicotinoids, or neonics] in shelf products and plants by the spring of 2019, as suitable alternatives become available,” according to Reuters. Some groups have linked neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides, to declining honeybee populations.

The joint statement from AmericanHort, SAF, the Horticultural Research Institute and the American Floral Endowment emphasizes that healthy trees, plants and flowers are critically important to healthy bees and bee habitats. While noting that improper pesticide use can harm bees, the statement challenged the science behind Lowe’s announcement, saying that “a growing number of credible independent studies indicate that neonicotinoids, when used as directed, are not the cause of widespread bee health issues.” (Read current, positive reports and recent peer reviewed research on the state of honeybee health.)

In recent months, some online petitions have asked Lowe’s and its competitors to stop using or selling neonicotinoids. According to the Reuters story, Home Depot, the largest U.S. home improvement chain, now asks its suppliers to “start labeling any plants treated with neonics.”

Like many other scientific issues, the “highly complex topic” of pollinator health can be misleading when discussed through the media said Lin Schmale, SAF’s senior director of government relations. She emphasized that, as noted in the industry statement and seen in the horticulture groups’ joint work, it’s critical for industry groups and experts to stay at the forefront of efforts to “fund important research on the health of bees, and guide horticulture on safe and responsible pest management.”

“This is an issue for which sound science must take priority,” she said. “Consumers want plants that are healthy, beautiful and pest-free, and neonicotinoids have proven to be among the most effective pest management tools available. Neonicotinoids also are among the safest products we have for both our employees and the environment.”

Find out more about pollinator health and the floral industry. For more information, contact Schmale at

UC Davis Student Awarded 2015 AFE Ecke Scholarship
By Lori Ostrow

Daniel Klittich

Daniel Klittich, a doctoral candidate at the University of California (UC Davis), has been awarded the 2015 Paul Ecke Jr. Scholarship through the American Floral Endowment (AFE).

The merit-based scholarship honors the late Paul Ecke Jr., who made contributions to the advancement of the floriculture industry. It is given to M.S. or Ph.D. students studying horticulture or a related field, who intend to pursue a career as a researcher, scientist or educator.

Klittich, who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in entomology, has been recognized by several organizations for his achievements in research. This latest achievement awards him with a $10,000 scholarship.

"I am very excited. Support from the industry is a very meaningful and appreciated honor," said Klittich, an aspiring floriculture scientist and educator who grew up in the nursery business.

This prestigious scholarship, established in 2010, is funded by contributions to AFE from the floral industry, the Ecke family and other sources. As the 2015 Ecke recipient, Klittich will receive $5,000 for two consecutive years, provided he continues to meet scholarship requirements.

Klittich said he is grateful for the opportunity to "help the industry move forward" with his work on pest control and management.

Paul Ecke Jr., AAF

His research is focused on increasing plant resistance to pests and disease through the use of silicon-based fertilizers. "I intend to continue this research by testing silicate fertilizers in field trials at production facilities and on new crops. This scholarship will help with technical aspects in the laboratory and allow me to travel and do more field work," he said.

Klittich has presented his research at many events, including grower meetings in California as well as gatherings connected with the Entomological Society of America, wrote Dr. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Entomology and Nematology Department at UC Davis, in his recommendation letter.

"He has written several successful grant proposals, has a number of practical publications and he is committed to a research/extension career focused on the floriculture/nursery industry," Parrella continued.

Klittich has also collaborated with growers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties including Pyramid Flowers, Inc., GroLink Chrysanthemums and Ocean Breeze International.

"We have been impressed with his practical and technical knowledge and his experience with research projects. Daniel has an excellent understanding of the needs of agriculture/horticulture growers," wrote Rene Van Wingerden and Phil Soderman of Ocean Breeze in their recommendation letter.

The two 2014 Ecke recipients, Joshua Craver of Purdue University and Emma Lookabaugh of North Carolina State University, will receive their second year of funding this year.

AFE provides more than 20 additional scholarships annually to undergraduate and graduate students.More

Biker Promo Nets Free Publicity, Lifelong Customers
By Katie Hendrick

A marquis advertising “free biker weddings” inspired two tourists to tie the knot while vacationing in Ormond Beach, Fla. They’ve since decided to relocate and told florist Rick Rivers he’s earned their business “for life.”

With his shop’s location right off busy US Highway 1 in Ormond Beach, Fla., Rick Rivers’ billboard-sized marquis is one of his most effective tools for drawing in customers to A Floral Boutique.

The prospect of 500,000 motorists coming through town for the annual “Bike Week” — not a gathering that typically calls for a lot of flowers — prompted Rivers to promote a “Free Biker Wedding” on the sign early in March. On March 11, a couple from Ohio stopped in to take him on the offer.

Rivers asked what they had in mind for the bouquet and boutonniere and then sent them to the clerk of court to get a marriage license, while he called an officiant (whom he had on standby for the promotion) as well as the local paper.

“They came back at 5:30 p.m., got the flowers, took pictures and then went to a park behind the store on the river, and made it official,” Rivers said.

The Ormond Beach Observer covered the impromptu ceremony in a feature titled, “Bike Week Visitors Tie the Knot in the Park.”

The news coverage yielded a bunch of phone calls, including one customer who asked if he’d do something similar for the 4th of July and another who said she appreciated A Floral Boutique’s “community involvement.” The best one, though, was from the newlyweds themselves, who phoned to say they were relocating to Ormond Beach and that they would be “customers for life!”More

6 Ways to Market Your Business for Less Than $100
For large brands with big marketing and advertising budgets, one or even several hundred dollars is just a drop in the monthly marketing budget. But for entrepreneurs and small business owners, every dollar counts — and investments need to pay off in real and immediate marketing ROI. More

Stock Your Shop With Comfort Baskets
By Katie Hendrick

Get some sympathy basket inspiration, in the New Products column in this month’s issue of Floral Management.

Like it or not, the phrase “in lieu of flowers” is probably here to stay.

In Auburn, N.Y., Cosentino’s Florist has found a way to capture sympathy sales, even as more and more obituaries in The Auburn Citizen include that maddening phrase: comfort baskets.

Cosentino’s comfort baskets include an assortment of items a person who is grieving would appreciate: tissues, prayer books, note cards, lotions and candles in soothing lavender scents, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, stuffed animals and a stress ball.

Customers appreciate having “a different option” that is practical and well priced, said Jessica Cosentino, AAF. “They say we’ve made gift giving for a difficult occasion a little bit easier.”

Want to create your own comfort baskets? Peruse the New Products column in this month’s Floral Management to find some great sympathy items, such as a blanket, keepsake bottle and inspirational stones. Check it out here.More

What Taylor Swift Can Teach Your Company About Protecting Its Brand Online
Fast Company
Your company could probably learn a thing or two from Taylor Swift. Earlier this month, the ever business-savvy pop star unwittingly generated a ton of click bait for publishers by doing something smart: She registered her name under the new adult-themed top-level domains.More

Will Google's Newest Algorithm Change Affect Your Business?
By Emma Fitzpatrick
I know, I know. You've heard Google cry "Algorithm change!" before, and it seemed like nothing happened. But this time it's different. Unlike the last few updates, Google has said their newest algorithm change is going to be one of the biggest to date. Starting April 21, Google is going to penalize any websites that aren't optimized for mobile devices. If your site is already optimized for mobile, you're golden. If not, you've got some work to do. Luckily, you've got time to make it happen.More

Dealing with Underachieving Employees
By Billy Arcement
In today's competitive work environment, leaders are charged with maximizing employee productivity, minimizing costs and improving profits — not always an easy task keeping all three going well. Among the monitoring responsibilities, people performance is high on the list. So, how should a leader approach an employee who is clearly underachieving and impacting productivity, costs and profits?More

Be Careful Letting Employees Use Their Smartphones for Work
By D. Albert Brannen
In today's connected world, employees often ask their employers to permit use of their personal smartphones, tablets, laptops or even their home desktops for work. Workplaces differ, and there is no "one size fits all" bring your own devices to work policy for employers. This article reviews some of the risks of employees using personal devices for work matters that employers should consider before adopting a BYOD policy.More® Floral Design Council Showcases Creative Talents of Local Florists

Several of the floral industry’s most gifted designers representing local retail flower shops throughout the country gathered at the Long Island headquarters of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM to explore new ideas, share innovative techniques and discuss best practices in floral design. The event was the Spring/Summer Floral Design Council.

On hand for the three-day event were: Vivian Chang of 1-800-Flowers | Conroy’s in Los Angeles, California; Ann Marie Pierce of 1-800-Flowers | Imperial Florist in Baldwin, New York; Wendel Cook of 1-800-Flowers | Nancy’s Floral in Gresham, Oregon; Tricia Smith of 1-800-Flowers | Fairfax in Fairfax, Virginia; Phil DeVito of 1-800-Flowers | Carle Place in Carle Place, New York; and BloomNet Design Specialist Jackie Lacey, AIFD, PFCI, CFD from Jacksonville, Florida. In total, the six designers represent over 100 years of design experience.

With just a few weeks before Mother's Day, the focus of the Spring/Summer Floral Design Council was for the florists to gather and discuss floral trends while creating today's most beautiful floral designs. The result of the event was the creation of more than 150 new floral arrangements reflecting the latest trends in design, floral varieties and colors.

“Our Floral Design Councils celebrate the incredible artistry of local florists,” said Jim McCann, CEO and Founder of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM. “By collaborating with our local retail shops and through their uniquely creative design talents, we are continually developing exciting new floral arrangements that deliver smiles across America.” More

Get Customers in the Door By Going Green
By Katie Hendrick

Don’t forget about Earth Day — Wednesday, April 22 — smack dab in the middle of Administrative Professionals Week! The holiday presents a great opportunity to institute a vase-recycling program at your shop. You’ll appeal to eco-conscious customers who appreciate your efforts to minimize your carbon footprint. You’ll lower your COGS by reusing containers you’ve already paid for. And you’ll generate in-store foot traffic, giving you the perfect opportunity to lock down some Mother’s Day sales.

Try this:
Offer $5 off a future order for every gently used container customers bring in.

Want to learn some best practices of vase recycling promotions? Click here to learn how SAF President Shirley Lyons, AAF, PFCI, scored by going green.More

APW Web Graphics
By Katie Hendrick

Encourage customers to put their administrative professionals on a pedestal by reminding them about next week’s holiday. Broadcast Administrative Professionals’ Week with SAF’s web graphics, available in two different motifs and four different sizes. They’re free, exclusively for SAF members. Download them from the SAF Web Banner Library.More