Ralph Giordano, owner of Giordano's Floral Creations, is a 4th generation florist whose family came to the United States from Italy in the early 1900s. Growing up in the Bronx, Giordano spent his childhood working the family flower and funeral home businesses. As a young child, he swept the floors and processed flowers. By the time he was a teenager, he was producing wedding bouquets and store-front designs. For Giordano, eventually owning his own business in the flower industry was a foregone conclusion.
"After I graduated high school in 1991, I moved to Florida," he said. "My parents were divorced and, before the move, I spent a lot of time going back and forth between New York and Florida. For the next few years, I worked for a few different flower shops before becoming an Assistant Manager at a pretty large shop in South Florida. In 1998, the owner of a small flower shop, Flowers by Ann Smith, was looking to retire. After doing some research, my wife Leslie, and I, decided it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
In March of 1998, Giordano and his wife purchased the business. Two years later, they changed the name to Giordano's Floral Creations. As Giordano shared, even for someone as seasoned in the industry as he was, buying and growing his own business still provided its fair share of challenges.
"When we bought the business, we basically bought the good will and the clientele," he said. "Very little assets come with the purchase of a flower business. This one had a great reputation, but the shop was really far behind in the times. It had one phone line, no point of sale and only one credit card swipe. It felt like I went 20 years backwards. Regardless, I knew what was required to get the business to where it needed to be. We spent a lot of time and energy in the early days reaching out to existing and potential clients and letting them know who we were and what services we offered."
Giordano shared that his marketing strategy was to target corporate accounts. They reached out to car dealerships, funeral homes, hospitals, churches and wedding venues. Rather than going after the broad spectrum of retail consumers, they would select different types of industries and target those with specific marketing materials. According to Giordano, the strategy paid off.
"We grew dramatically over the first few years," he said. "After that, our growth sort of plateaued. Then the recession hit. That erased about three or four years of growth. However, we just kept at it. We tightened our belts and looked at marketing efforts that were working and those that weren't. In some areas we made changes. In others, such as the Yellow Pages, we dropped them all together."
After 20 years in business, it's safe to say that Giordano, who loves the emotional joy that flowers bring to people in times of despair, has hit his stride. As a trusted local florist serving St. Lucie and Martin Counties, Giordano's Floral Creations, offers professionally designed flower arrangements and floral gifts to fit any occasion.
Looking ahead, Giordano is focused more on educating consumers and fellow floral designers about industry trends. As Giordano shared, the flower business is one of the few industries where you don't need any formal training to open a shop. As such, it's easy to start, but not easy to turn a profit. He wants those thinking about getting into the business to know this. He's also very focused on educating consumers about colors, styles and emotions that come with various arrangements. He's even taken formal and professional steps towards becoming an expert in his industry. He's added professional state accreditations, such as Florida State Master Designer (FSMD), along with national accreditations such as the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD).
What advice does Giordano have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "First of all, learn and know your numbers," he said. "A lot of people in this industry, and others, don't know their numbers. Once you understand your numbers, it's all about finding the niche in the industry that works for you and your clients. What works in St. Lucie might not work in Martin or Miami-Dade County. When it comes to specific advice regarding the flower industry, you have to love what you're doing to work with such low margins. This industry has a very small margin of error in terms of making money or losing it over the long haul. This is especially true more so today than 20 or 30 years ago. When I was a kid, the only place to get flowers was from a flower shop. Nowadays, you can get flowers at fruit stands, grocery stores and many other retail locations. You have to deal with added competition everywhere."