The pandemic has been an ideal time to send flowers. No more birthday dinners, baby announcement brunches, or “I’ve been laid off, let’s drink” nights out? Send flowers. Everyone likes flowers. It’s always a good time to send flowers. The tricky part is quality control.
I once sent my grandmother a puppy-shaped floral arrangement that arrived as a pair of googly eyes on a ball of half-dead mums. Since then, my trust in the floral delivery industry has been jaded. Modern D2C floral companies, such as Bouqs, Farmgirl Flowers, and Urban Stems, have served me well, but once I’ve missed their shipping cutoffs, I’m trapped in the unpredictable supply chain of 1-800-Big Flower.
Floracracy CEO and founder Sarah-Eva Marchese found herself in a similar predicament when communicating flower orders for her wedding and her grandmother’s funeral. Frustrated with the experience, she used her background in war studies and international security to pinpoint the floral delivery industry’s challenging dichotomy: the desire to buy something that’s deeply personal and the total lack of confidence in whether you’ll get what you purchased.
Her online floral company, Floracracy—which officially launched with $1.02 million in funding last October—uses patent-pending software based on research-backed algorithms to determine what you really mean when you say you want a “bohemian” arrangement for your mother. For instance, when you say “whimsical,” Marchese points to historical data that clarifies that to mean “tall line flowers” in “light yellow hues.” Most people have a nuanced history with flowers, says Marchese, tending to pick the blooms that grew outside their childhood home or the color or shape that reminds them of a memory. Trends infiltrate: Red roses are out. Toffee roses are in.
Floracracy shoppers follow a step-by-step process to determine a desired style, arrangement shape, size, and intention. The site then provides a visual mockup of the arrangement, where you can tweak individual flowers or have Floracracy design an arrangement based on availability and a curated list of color palettes.
When I tried it out, the interface was glitchy—sometimes literally, sometimes in the sense that there are too many options and explanations for things that seem to be for show. After spending a good amount of time on the site, I sent my mother the “Jane,” a “Rustic” style arrangement that I filled with white ranunculus, parrot tulips, and pink roses. I balked when I saw that a medium-size order, roughly 35 blooms, was $275, but the promise of “blown-glass vases that are made in the famous Verre Beldi factory in Morocco” and free overnight shipping soothed my sticker shock. A little bit.
My mother was stunned by the arrival of a waist-high box, with a bouquet wrapped in linen Furoshiki, a booklet on the language of her flowers, tiny gold scissors, and what I believe to be a quasi-custom note on cotton stationery. (Floracracy will pen a note based on provided themes. I requested “love” and “miss you.” My note said something like, “I love and miss you.”)
The unboxing experience was extreme. My mom read each piece of packaging, most of which offer thoughtful ideas to reuse or preserve your purchase. (If you donate your vase to your local domestic violence shelter, Floracracy will donate flowers.) She was overwhelmed by the amount of greenery—she admits she threw some out—but I soon began to receive photos of the Verre Beldi bowl sitting on her countertop. The flowers showed up a day earlier than I had requested, which is something to remember if you’re aiming for a specific event. But they looked just as anticipated: lush and expensive. She gives me regular updates on their well-being, pruning stems with the little gold scissors as they die, though one week later, Jane remains largely intact.
Reliability is gild on the lily for Floracracy. Yes, it was expensive. (Flowers range from $155 to $375.) But my mom loves her flowers. They look almost exactly the way I expected them to. And that’s a welcome (and worth it) surprise for both of us.
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