Introduction: I met Georgianne Vinicombe at an NJCoffee Talk – she spoke enthusiastically about the videos she produced, the brides who send her photos and her pride in her florist business. She graciously agreed to this blog interview. You can learn more about Monday Morning Flowers on the website, FB or YouTube video channel. Thank you, Georgianne!
How long have you been in business?
My Princeton shop founded 25 years ago, Yardley, PA 15. My husband joined me full time 12 years ago (leaving a career in sales and accounting) and including part-time and full-time employees, there are 20 of us running the day to day operation of both stores.
How is your business unique?
I guess in the world of florists, we are a bit unique. In addition to the usual flower offerings for just about any occasion along with wedding designs, floral delivery, etc. we have a wider than usual product assortment which includes food and gift baskets, extensive balloon bouquets and balloon decorating. We also have a complete gift shop at each location.
When I met you in person, you told me you have a had a lot of success with YouTube videos.
I do consider them successful and worth my time. For example, some of my wedding tip videos get lots of view but not only that (which may never bring in a dime to my business) they are seen by my brides prior to our meeting. They may have made an appointment with me even if I did not have these helpful videos, but I think it makes them more likely to choose me as their florist. So for weddings, they have been a “must do” for helping to align me as an “expert” in the floral/wedding area.
How did you get started making these videos?
I love making videos and I have kept them super basic. What made me start creating them was my desire to “let customers” into our world. Educate them on topics such as “how to pick your wedding flowers”, “why do flowers cost what they do” ~ you name a topic, I’ve probably hit on it. My most popular video has almost 20,000 views, and it’s just telling folks how to put on a boutonniere. I started making simple videos that showed my wedding designs. At first I used software in my computer (very basic, I assure you) and then a started using programs such as Animoto. I have fun with these because I can add text and fun music that fits the theme of the event I’m highlighting.
What technical equipment or software have you used?
Oh, I use very simple software – mostly my flip video and sometimes my camera that has a video taking option. Lots of my informational videos are simply made with my computer webcam. I have never even tried to edit these videos. I just turn the thing on, start talking and turn I off!
What would you suggest to someone starting off using YouTube to market a small business? For sure, we have used them in many ways and I think for the amount of effort (which is very small) they can pay back big. We do employee product highlights in addition to the other informational videos and if you are in retail, those are a must and can be very powerful to get the customer to see what you offer. Our walk in trade (folks coming in and walking out with something ) is less than 5% percent of our sales so in that way we are not a typical retailer but if you rely on folks walking in to your store, what better way to gain their interest than posting product videos on your website or on youtube!
How have you used social media to market your business?
I’m in love with Social Media and in my industry was probably considered an early adopter. I have used it in every possible way I can. In addition to Youtube Videos, I’m big on blogging, that has been great for relaying information, getting us press as well as inbound links to our website. I’ve posted almost 600 blogs and we get over 400 page views per day. I also love Facebook and for a visual product like flowers, it’s been the best way to invite in the public to see what we have, what it’s like working at our store as well as what’s new. I can’t stress enough how important Facebook has been to my company. I’ve also been Tweeting for quite a few years and find it’s been good getting the word out about my company in general. Although not as easy to track as some other sources, I know that Twitter has gotten me quite a few large decorating jobs and weddings. Tech savvy brides follow vendors on Twitter and it’s helped me to get quite a few weddings. I have also found that one bride on twitter sharing her experience with other Twitter followers has resulted in Twitter referrals.
What are some of your favorite social media platforms?
Obviously, I’m really in love with Facebook. It’s the “window” that customers can peek through to see what we are doing.
You mentioned brides often send you images – can you explain how you get material to share with the public so easily?
When I meet with brides, they see all the photos of our wedding designs, many of them given to my be past brides. I think this makes an impression on them because many share their photos with me later and I truly because they know that future brides will see them. Everyone wants their moment to shine. Nothing makes a bride happier than when I tell them (usually via Facebook) that many brides have admired what they chose for their wedding flowers.
What can you tell us about the small business environment for Central New Jersey? Well, I feel lucky to have a business in Central NJ. Central Jersey pretty much has it all for a business like mine. We cater to both business and individual flower buyers and both are alive and well in our area. My Princeton location (actually located in Plainsboro with a Princeton address) is in what I consider one of the prettiest business communities in the area ~ Princeton Forrestal Village. We have a very active community that buys from our shop ~ both folks who live in the areas as well as those who work in the Village and in nearby corporate parks. With the Westin Hotel and many restaurants, all feed us the clients we need to survive, not to mention easy access for our 5 delivery vans to hop right onto Route 1 to help with our promise of “Fast Delivery 7 Days a Week”. Central Jersey indeed helps me to help people “Send Someone a Smile”.
How can business owners get support?
There are some great organizations that support my business ~ with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce being high on my list. The newly formed Plainsboro Business Partnership and the Women in Business Alliance have also been great sources for sales as well as the services that we need. I am also part of a Barter organization called Barter-It, which has been wonderful for us.
Do you compete locally or regionally?
We compete both locally and nationally, believe it or not. For example; you live in California and your mom lives in Princeton, NJ. You go online to search for a florist to deliver flowers to her for her birthday. As you search, you may come upon national brands such as 1800flowers or FTD.com or you may find a small locally owned florist, like mine to place your order. The larger national chains have resources that I just don’t have that allow them to compete against me quite successfully. In addition to these “National Chains”, there are others who are not so ethical and pretend to be located in Princeton when they are simply “call centers” advertising against me. These “order gatherers” simply take the order and then relay them using a floral network to a local florist in the area for them to create and deliver. For the most part this works when local florists use this network to send out of town orders for their customers but the “waters get muddy” with these unethical businesses who “act local” but are not.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your business or running a small business in general?
I’ve been self employed for so long I don’t know any other way of life but it is what I was meant to do. I’m made for it, on every single level you can imagine. There’s no greater freedom and no more terrifying thought that when it comes down to it, it’s all on me. Sometimes I’m a success and sometimes not so much, but no matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing. At the end of the day (or a life) who could ask for anything more than that?
Thank you again, Georgianne! This interview is part of a series of interviews with small business owners.
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