“Here we grow again…”
That’s become the mantra of Botanica International, the company renowned designer Ian Prosser, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, NDSF, started in Tampa, Florida in 1989.
It’s been 10 years since Prosser chose to abandon retail sales and focus on providing upscale, show stopping events. The decade has involved several developments to help Botanica wow clients and maximize business. The latest move, announced just yesterday, is an offshoot of the brand, called “Style House at Botanica,” a furniture and prop rental service.
Earlier this week, Prosser’s daughter, Zoë Gallina, Botanica’s creative director, gave Florist 2.0 a behind-the-scenes tour of Style House and discussed how the company (and the event industry) has evolved over the years.
F20: What is the concept of Style House?
Gallina: For the last seven or eight years, we’ve been collecting furniture and using it in our event work. Back in February in the middle of the night, I had this thought, “Why only rent to Botanica clients?” There aren’t really other places in Tampa that have inventory like ours and it’s expensive to have items delivered from Miami. I figured we could make decent money by renting to our competitors, as well as companies that want furniture for their events, but not necessarily our floral services.
Mandy Majerik, AIFD, PFCI, has a similar concept with her company,
HotHouse Design. We visited her in Birmingham, Alabama and she gave us a lot of advice as we’ve been setting up Style House.
F20: When does it launch?
Gallina: We just finished the logo and are in the process of doing an inventory of our warehouse. We hope to have the website up next month and we’ll have an open house on October 4.
We’ve been teasing the announcement for a few days with mystery posts on Instagram. As we get closer, we’ll do campaigns on Facebook and email marketing, and we’ll go around the community in person, talking to businesses, wedding planners, wedding venues and other florists to let them know what we have available for them.
F20: How big a trend is furniture in events these days?
Gallina: It’s huge. People want their events to feel like intimate gatherings and furniture helps achieve that. For instance, a lot of our clients ask for long feasting tables because they convey the feeling that you’re sitting down to eat at someone’s dining room table rather than a round table commonly found in hotel ballrooms.
Lounge areas make such a difference. Guests who want to take a break from dancing love them, as do the people who don’t like to dance, but want to be close to action. It makes them feel included in the party.
Also, sweetheart tables have come back with a vengeance and we see requests for love seats and bars all the time.
F20: How expensive is it to offer these services?
Gallina: Our biggest costs are manpower and storage. Fortunately, the University of Tampa is nearby and we have a good relationship with students who run a moving company (“College Hunks Hauling Junk”)
with lots of strong laborers and competitive pricing.
Honestly, if you rent a sofa twice, it’s paid for itself. After that it’s pure profit. We’ve gotten a good four or five years out of most pieces. After that, we sell it on Craig’s List.
Having furniture, linens, props, etc., makes it so easy to upsell. Most customers want these things anyway and appreciate the convenience of getting it in one place.
F20: How do you decide what to buy?
Gallina: We try to include a range of styles. Some things are vintage, while others have a contemporary look. A lot of times, we’ll use a traditional sofa but use funky accent pieces to change its style. We get a lot of ideas going to market (in Atlanta and Dallas). We also scroll through a lot of online shops to see what’s trending.
F20: Any tips for florists interested in getting into rentals?
Gallina: It doesn’t have to happen overnight. You can acquire pieces gradually.
F20: What have been some major turning points in the company’s evolution?
Gallina: The biggest one, of course, was the decision in 2007 to become an event only florist. After that, it was adding furniture and props to become more full-service. In 2012, we decided to create a separate division of the company, Ian Prosser Productions, for really high-end clients who want Dad’s talents. Now, with Style House, we expect to reach even more people in the community.