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Charlottesville-based flower firm Poppy, the fastest-growing florist in the country, closes $6.5M funding round

If your favorite gift this Christmas season is small and shiny, the blizzard of wedding planning tasks awaiting you may seem huge and intimidating. Thanks to an innovative company that trims steps and stress from the process of buying wedding flowers, checking off one important box can be a blooming success.

Cameron Hardesty, Poppy’s founder and CEO, based her company in Charlottesville and San Francisco.

Hardesty had many reasons to set up shop in Charlottesville. Not only can she and her husband raise their children closer to both sets of grandparents, but “another big draw about Charlottesville is it’s a really big wedding destination,” she said.

Poppy, founded in 2019, offers a different experience through a combination of its buying power, access to farms and digital innovation.

“One reason is our buying power. Another is how we buy,” Hardesty said. “We buy the majority of our flowers directly from the farms.” That step alone can cut the price of flowers 30% to 50%, she said.

The third component is innovative in business terms — and comfortable to digital natives who’d like to do as much wedding planning online as possible. An online booking and fulfillment process helps couples get the flowers they’ve dreamed of while staying within their budgets.

“What’s very appealing about Poppy is that you can do the entire process online,” Hardesty said. “No one’s pressuring you to go beyond a minimum you’re not comfortable with.”

“We’ve built a digital platform where our pricing is instantaneous,” Hardesty said, which eliminates the step of asking a florist to source and price different flowers to create an estimate. “You can mix and match with your budget, and a lot of the math is done for you.”

Hardesty knows firsthand how the concept can ease the process of planning a wedding.

“My wedding was the proto-Poppy wedding,” she said.

Her 2017 wedding was being considered for coverage by Martha Stewart Weddings, so she knew her flowers had to be outstanding. At the time, she was the head buyer for Urban Stems, so she decided to order her flowers directly from farms and hired local floral designers in Austin, Texas, where her ceremony took place. By the time she walked down the aisle, she’d saved $18,000 on flowers.

Poppy works with a farm outside Quito, Ecuador, that is fair trade certified and employs many female heads of households. Ecuador’s climate makes it a go-to destination for higher-end event flowers, and this farm’s peak seasons for flower sales are around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Poppy’s peak wedding season is autumn, which offers the farm more work and income at a slower time.

Poppy appeals to couples with a range of wedding flower budgets, but “our sweet spot is about $5,000,” Hardesty said. The concept is particularly appealing to people who can’t or don’t want to pony up to meet minimum orders that would make them profitable for traditional florists — but who don’t want to go the DIY route to cut costs.

Not working with florists means that couples risk missing out on the creative magic that trained floral designers can bring to their visions of the perfect day. What Hardesty has learned over the years is that there’s a world of talented floral designers out there who love creating dazzling displays outside the traditional network of wedding florists.

Poppy has a network of about 400 independent floral designers who can turn ideas into arrangements. “There are people who just want to do floral design who don’t want to run businesses,” Hardesty said.

Poppy’s business model is empowering to floral designers and bridal couples alike.

“That has been a guiding principle for this business,” Hardesty said. “There are people who just want to do floral design who don’t want to run businesses.”

“I used Poppy for my wedding, and it took a lot of the stress out of it," said Jessica Straus Fuchs, Poppy’s marketing consultant, adding that its website is useful for couples who aren’t really sure what kinds of flowers they want. If you can’t tell a rose from a ranunculus, you won’t end up on the hook for buying hundreds of the wrong bloom.

“Poppy does a really good job of educating people,” Fuchs said. Its new customer-facing online quiz helps assess customers’ style and color preferences and leads them to 13 different color palettes that can be tweaked to suit individual tastes.

“Green and white in 2023 has been the most popular color palette,” Fuchs said. “We don’t make you get a degree in horticulture to take this quiz. We can help you set your North Star with your color palette, and everything can flow from there.”

Poppy was a leap of faith in the beginning, but it has carved out its own creative niche in the $5 billion wedding flower industry.

“Starting a wedding business literally months before COVID was really hard,” Hardesty said. But about 3,000 weddings later, as the largest and fastest growing wedding florist in the country, Poppy has raised a $6.5 million Series A financing led by Michigan Capital Network, with participation by IDEA Fund Partners, Techstars, Angeles Investors, Riptide Ventures and Front Porch Ventures.

The Dec. 11 financing news came at a fortuitous time for the company. During a sentimental time of year, it’s good news for newly engaged couples, too.

“The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a big week for us,” Hardesty said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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