Small Business: Florist finds business blooming

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Rugby World Cup gave flower retailer the boost it needed to sprout off new concept division.

Tim McKeown and Davina Prankerd. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Tim McKeown and Davina Prankerd. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Last year's Rugby World Cup wasn't just a great tonic for the country, it also gave Newmarket florist Vida Flores the kiss of life it needed after losing 75 per cent of its business during the recession.

Vida Flores, which has corporate and individual customers, did the flowers for the main Rugby World Cup venues in Auckland and Wellington.

The event also introduced the company's owner, Davina Prankerd, to merchandising expert Tim McKeown, who heads her new Vida Concept division.

Prankerd, who launched the flower business in August 2000, says: "I had so many clients asking me, 'Who should I have for this event?' that I thought, 'Let's create a business out of this'."

Vida Concept, set up in February, offers a fusion of events styling, window dressing, visual merchandising and floral installation.

"From the moment I suggested this I've never had a moment of doubt," says Prankerd.

London-born McKeown, who has freelanced for large retailers such as Liberty, Selfridges, Swarovski and Fiorelli, says: "Where we see ourselves as different is we are bespoke. From the word go we make it original for each company.

"Most dressing companies have a 'schtick' that they roll out so every event looks the same," he says.

Since joining Vida Concept, McKeown has done the window of Michael Hill's Queen St store and a number of beauty product launches.

"We are currently creating concepts for some large retailers," he says.

Prankerd and McKeown worked on the launch of the Hotel Sofitel in the Viaduct. It was all about flowers and light.

"Tim and I stood for six hours watching the candles," says Prankerd.

"Vida Flores is a small business. If someone is in there at 12 o'clock at night, it's Tim and I. We are very dedicated to the cause and attention to detail. We will not stop unless it is right."

Prankerd has five staff and brings in freelancers when she needs a bigger team. Business is booming, which has taken a bit of getting used to.

"One of the things I have to learn is to let go a bit, let the business be successful, and allow it not to be a recession any more. It's been so long, it has to be a learned thing."

Her business, approaching $1 million turnover, has grown 75 per cent in the past year.

"Vida Flores has definitely grown in its own right as a flower retailer in the last year. Vida Concept has added a service to the existing client base that fills a gap in what we already provided.

"With a lot of networking and direct contacts, Concept is nicely growing its own base. But it's very much about growing the existing business."

Throughout, the florist has had a business partner, her older brother Brent, a businessman in Sydney who has a 50 per cent stake.

"He is our sounding board," says Prankerd. "He's very good, he does not get caught up in the fluff - he see it for the raw ingredients."

Prankerd's mission, meanwhile, remains to have more people generally interested in flowers.

"I want people to want to buy flowers - it's still one of the best gifts you can get." The entrepreneur is meanwhile planning another extension to the group and the service it offers. "It is a very obvious next step for us to grow the business."

Top tip

Don't worry about having a huge crop of clients - work with the ones you have. The key is making sure they are happy, establishing great trust, and more will come.

- NZ Herald

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