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How it Started

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"It all started with an OG florist and an online makeup quiz."

Says lead designer Courtney when she explains how Coral Oak Flower Co. came to be. Her best friend and fellow designer Jenn says that they really got their start in high school when they planned their senior prom. At the time, hiring a decorator and florist for the event was all done in person. They had to go from designer to designer that,  “all seemed burnt out and exhausted.” "None of them had the time really, to sit with us and explain things. So we said F*** it. We can do this ourselves." Jenn recalls. That is precisely what they did. According to Jenn, Senior Prom went off without a hitch. ​ They spent the next few years in college planning school events, birthday parties and showers. In 2012 they took on their first wedding client and absolutely fell in love. Over the next several years, they partnered with other planners and venues alike to help bring wedding day visions to life, time and time again. But when the world suddenly stopped due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the all inclusive wedding venue that these ladies helped to build, suddenly closed its doors and later sold. ​ "We had no idea what to even do." Courtney says. "We both got super depressed and felt like we had so much more we could give to the world. But, because we had always worked for/with a venue or planner, we didn't have a space of our own." She continued. "For that matter, in 2020, who the hell had money or the nerve to start a new business? We didn't. But then we met this old man named Jesse." ​ In a turn of fate, as Courtney and Jenn walked through a nearly empty flower market, they bumped into an older man named Jesse. "He (Jesse) seemed so distraught and looked so defeated. He had dropped his bucket of flowers and water went everywhere. We both ran over to help him and of course, Courtney gets to chatting with him." Jenn remembers with a laugh. ​ "He explained to us that he had been in business for nearly 35 year and recently lost his wife who had helped him keep his floral studio alive over the years. His two employees moved back to other states to be closer to family and he was about to lose his building."  ​ Jesse was hit very hard by the pandemic. Having the majority of his business come from "word of mouth" sales and an occasional wedding, losing even one of them was detrimental. Losing both was career ending.  ​ "I honestly had no idea what her (Courtney) plan was when she asked him if we could see his studio. She just insisted that we all meet at his studio the following day. She assured him that we could help him stay open and told me that it would be good for us." ​ Low and behold, over a cup of Columbian coffee that Jesse had made for the ladies, in the small seating area just inside his studio doors, the Coral Oak Flower Company was born. With the understanding that the girls would share Jesse's space with him, helping him retain his building if he in turn, would agree to help them build their wedding floral company using some of his knowledge and expertise.  ​ " It was one of those pivotal moments where you are like, if this works, we can help so many people." Courtney explained. "The initial goal was to help him (Jesse) get back on his feet. Build him a website and teach him how to market. Show him that he could do more with his iPhone than just call, text or read the news." Laughing she continued. "We decided that we would start in Orlando and reach out to small Mom and Pop shops in near by cities and see if they needed help as well. Opening ourselves up to additional areas and territories, and ultimately more sales, all while helping OG florists re-claim their fame and start connecting with a younger demographic." ​ "We had no idea that there were so many florists on the brink of closure. We heard so many stories that would rip out our hearts. And we just decided, Okay we have Jesse in Orlando and now we have Virginia down in Miami and the Wilson family in Daytona, we can start an affiliate program too. That will allow us to do events in each of the areas we want to work in and we can help breathe some life back into these businesses. It all just kind of snowballed from there. Now we are doing events in California and New York and feel like we have been so unbelievably blessed.” ​ But with all good, Murphys Law dictates that there will be an equal amount of bad. With Coral Oak Flower Co. originally only operating with two designers and a handful of assistants, (we now know they are affiliates) keeping up with the leads and the custom quotes got to be very overwhelming for the duo. ​ "We kept saying, these are really good problems to have. We have so many leads that we can't keep up. But it was a double edged sword because we were losing leads due to our lag time. We would spend days going back and forth with some clients, just collecting basic details, for them to turn around and book with another company. We know that for that reason alone, so many florists we had met and worked with in the past had all resorted to sending out packages. The problem with the package method was that it really felt like a one-size fits-all approach and it wasn’t fair. Some clients had more expensive flower choices and needed so much more than the package provided. And other clients had such minimal requests.” Jenn said looking over at Courtney. ​ “And the whole package thing was something that we said from the very beginning that we weren’t going to do. Not just because they don’t fit everyone, but it really feels generic and takes the personalization out of the whole process. Every couple is different. Every wedding is different. We wanted each client to feel like the package that they selected had been customized and created by them.” Courtney said. ​ “Curated. We started calling it Package Curation.” Jenn interjected. ​ “Exactly. We wanted them to select everything they wanted and nothing that they didn’t. We wanted them to choose their own flowers and colors, down to the bouquet wraps. But the problem with that was, we had no idea how to do that. Posting some photos and some prices on our website wasn’t going to work because again, we are taking away the personality of interacting with us. We felt like we had hit a wall and really had no idea how move passed it.” Courtney finished. ​ Several months went by and the ladies and their team of affiliates all collectively wracked their brains on how to move beyond the archaic times of going back and forth with potential clients and still provide unique and customer specific quotes and estimates.  ​ “I had taken this online makeup quiz about foundation that had me answer a bunch of different questions. It had me upload photos of my face and skin and really put me on the spot. By the time I had finished the quiz, at the end, it showed me the perfect hand selected foundation that would work best for my skin, with a link that allowed me to order it instantly. I dropped my iPad and called Jenn immediately and shouted, We can make a quiz! We can make a quiz!” ​ Explaining to Jenn and the rest of their team later, how their new Wedding Day Floral Needs Questionnaire came to be from an online makeup quiz, the ladies say that they feel that they are revolutionizing the way vendors work together and the way that they interact with the clients.  ​ “We don’t need to compete with anyone. We can all work together. We truly feel that knowledge is power and the bigger we grow and the closer we get with the affiliates, we will continue to change the game. More knowledge. More power. Truly reinventing the wedding wheel. This is only the beginning for us and our ever growing team. This is only the first chapter.” Courtney finished. ​ Coral Oak Flower Co. Officially came to be on January 8th 2021 in a small studio in downtown Fort Lauderdale owned by a man named Jesse, two bright and eager designers and later an online makeup quiz. This company made our list for our 2022 Companies to Watch. The sky is the limit for this team and we are eager to see them grow.  ​ Original excerpt written by Jessica Mae with She Owns it Magazine

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