Rona Hullen runs her one-woman floral business, R Flowers and Baskets in Discovery Bay, California without the need for floral wire service companies. We’re both inspired AND impressed. Check out our conversation on the latest episode of Flower Shop Secrets.
Rona’s been growing her floral business for two years since opening in her home garage in May of 2018 with nothing but a cooler. Since then, her sales have grown and she has been able to reinvest back into the business. Now she has a walk-in cooler and a delivery van, custom wrapped with her logo. She continues to make an impact within her community,by doing things like delivering free floral arrangements to random homes around town with well-wishes of staying positive through the pandemic. As her town’s local florist, Rona finds joy and honor in creating arrangements for some of the most emotional moments in people’s lives.
What’s up everybody? This is Joe Vega, and welcome to another Fower Shop Secret podcast and Today, I’ll be speaking with Rona Hollen of R Flowers and Baskets in Discovery Bay, California. She finds it to be an honor to make arrangements for the people in her community during the emotional moments in life. She also runs her one woman flower shop completely wire service free. How does she do it? Let’s find out…
Joe Vega 0:00
What’s up everybody? This is Joe Vega, and welcome to another Fower Shop Secret podcast and Today, I’ll be speaking with Rona Hollen of R Flowers and Baskets in Discovery Bay, California. She finds it to be an honor to make arrangements for the people in her community during the emotional moments in life. She also runs her one woman flower shop completely wire service free. How does she do it? Let’s find out.
So the big question is this. How can small business owners like us in the floral industry overcome the greed of order gatherers and bypass the deceitful games played by wire services? How do we market, sell and deliver flowers online? So we may break free from these antiquated practices and earn our freedom? Those are some of the questions we will answer on this podcast. I’m Joe Vega. Welcome to Flower Shop Secrets.
Hey, Rona, good to have you here. How’s it going?
Rona Hullen 1:01
It’s going great. Thanks for having me.
Joe Vega 1:04
Oh, absolutely. So you have a pretty interesting backstory. But before we get to that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into the floral industry?
Rona Hullen 1:14
Well, I kind of just happened into it like everyone else. I, my daughter was getting married. And I was looking for a way to save a little bit of money. And I thought, well, I wonder if I can do the flowers. So I went, and I started researching and trying to train myself. And then I thought, why don’t I just go get a job at the local florist, and kind of be transparent with her and tell her what I’m up to, and see if she can help me out. And and so I ended up working there for about four months. And in the process. I absolutely fell in love with it. And I’m, I’m obsessed with it. I lay in bed every night and I’m listening to videos and training sessions. I’m like a sponge. I can’t get enough of it. And it’s it’s been going like this for about four years. So anyway, that’s how it started. I was trying to save money. Right. And I thought it’d be kind of neat to do my own daughter’s wedding. A little more personal, you know. And so that’s where it all started. I just did not mean to become passionate about it. So here I am. I can’t get enough of it.
Joe Vega 2:29
So what’s your background? What what sort of professions Did you have before this?
Rona Hullen 2:33
Well, I was a sales rep. I was a beverage Rep. And I also bought my father’s window cleaning company. And so I still currently own that. But my daughter runs the window cleaning company while I run the florist. And the florist is my three car garage. So I don’t actually have a shot. I have a walk in cooler. And fill up the whole three car garage with all my floors.
Joe Vega 3:07
How much money did you guys make last year?
Rona Hullen 3:10
So my sales were 120. That’s my gross last year. And I’m just a one person shop I do at holidays hire people to deliver for me. Get my kids in here helping me. It’s kind of a family thing. And I just recently I’m kind of excited about this. I just recently hired a gal to work a couple hours a day. And she’s, she loves to design. She likes to drive. She likes to do all of it. So I’m just hoping to get her going. And maybe that’s baby steps into growing. So
Joe Vega 3:52
that’s fantastic. Is that? Is this your first employee?
Rona Hullen 3:55
Rona Hullen 3:57
For my cloud shop.
Joe Vega 4:00
Rona Hullen 4:01
Thank you. I’m excited. I
Rona Hullen 4:03
you know, I do periodically. Like I said hire drivers. But she’s the first one that I’m hiring to actually design and help me out that way.
Joe Vega 4:13
Great. You know what, that’s something that a lot of florists right now are struggling in terms of finding good help. What was your process like to find a designer? Well, she
Rona Hullen 4:24
kind of just happened on me. She’s a friend of a friend. And so she was a referral and in she’s good with just working a few hours here or maybe not working a few days because, you know, keeping a consistent workload is is the battle right? You don’t want to be paying for somebody and having a workload so she’s very flexible. And so that took a lot of the stress out of hiring her because I don’t feel like I have to employ her a set amount of hours every single day. So it’s working out so far. I’m excited. I can have her working all day, you know?
Rona Hullen 5:07
Yeah, absolutely. So that’s great. Both before before she came on board, though, you’re, you know, you’ve been a one woman shop, right? I mean, you’ve done everything. So what are some of the challenges there?
Rona Hullen 5:17
What ends up happening is I’m making arrangements right in the morning, then I go out delivering. And then while I’m out delivering, I’m getting more orders coming through the computer, and you just constantly feel like you’re kind of chasing right. And the phone’s ringing in while you’re out. So it gets a little bit stressful, and then you come back and you go out again. And so you kind of always feel, you know, like, You’re, you’re running around. So it would be nice to just be at the shop, have someone else doing the running around while I’m taking care of the business. So I’m kind of I’m getting there. So yeah, I’m hoping that my new gal can do my deliveries and stuff, because that’s
Rona Hullen 6:05
the negative i would say is I feel anxious because more businesses coming in while I’m not there. So because I’m not delivering. But having said that I actually love delivering to because I love seeing the people receive the flowers. It’s exciting. So I don’t know if the catch 22
Rona Hullen 6:27
Yeah, it is. Yeah, it’s doable.
Rona Hullen 6:30
for one person to get this done. You know, I mean, it just depends how hard you want to work.
Joe Vega 6:37
Did you have any help before this at all? From from anyone?
Rona Hullen 6:45
Joe Vega 6:45
Wow. So you, your one woman Wrecking Crew? Hmm. Yeah. That’s great. That’s fantastic.
Rona Jullen 6:50
I know. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And I, I started it with $500. So
Joe Vega 6:57
yeah, wow. Yeah, incredible.
Rona Hullen 7:00
That was what I had to start it. So I and then as I bought my first cooler and then started getting jobs, and I just kind of turned it around like that. I just reinvest my money back into it until now I’ve got walk in coolers and racks and just a van that’s got the logos on it, it’s wrapped. So I’m like legit.
Joe Vega 7:26
Hey, if you deliver your own, if you arrange your own flowers, and you deliver your own flowers, you’re you’re legit enough. You know?
Rona Hullen 7:35
Joe Vega 7:36
I tell florists all the time when, you know, some of them would would some flowers, we get upset. Because we would have in our network, some shops who don’t have a retail location, you know, they would have a studio or they would work out of their garage or whatever, right? And our stance on that is listen, who you pay rent to is none of our business. If you arrange your own flowers, and you deliver your own flowers, you’re a florist. You’re a local florists, we will provide our services to you.
Rona Hullen 8:10
Well, you know, I also did, I am a CFP, I went and I got certified. So, I went to Las Vegas and did with aifd and got certified and did all that. So I am legitimate.
Rona Hullen 8:23
I am a real,
Joe Vega 8:24
no one’s questioning that. So how long ago was that you need? You know, I’m just trying to get a gauge the timetable? When did you actually get started?
Rona Hullen 8:34
Let’s see here. I opened my shop at home in 2018. In May. So it’s pretty new. Wow. So
Joe Vega 8:42
that wasn’t that long ago? No, that was so you went from $500 to doing $120,000 in two years? Yes. That’s incredible. Yeah. Wow. Were you part of a wire service at any point in that?
Rona Hullen 9:00
I did that for a couple years. And it was it worked out good for the beginning. Because every order that I do, I attach a business card. So hundreds and hundreds of orders were going out when I first got started with business cards. And now my phone rings, so it’s kind of nice.
Joe Vega 9:22
That’s fantastic. So you’re now your wife service free.
Rona Hullen 9:27
Joe Vega 9:29
So you’re free woman that’s
Rona Hullen 9:31
Yeah, I love it. You know, and then it’s, it’s it’s awesome. Because with the lovingly website, I can just if I’m over capacitated for the day, I can turn it off and start filling up for tomorrow. You know, it works perfect.
Joe Vega 9:48
What does a freedom actually mean for you?
Rona Hullen 9:51
It means a lot of things that it means we’ll start off financially when you are only getting a percentage of the arrangement, you have to watch every single stem. So close. You know, you put two extra Sims in, and now you’re upside down. So there’s that aspect of it and, and the creative freedom and not having to copy the cookie cutter designs all the time. So those two things are the big thing for me. I like the creative freedom. And if there’s $2 extra to make, I would like to make it right. Absolutely. And so I just strictly do my own business. Now I do a lot of weddings, events, things like that. And, yeah, so it’s working out.
Joe Vega 10:45
So you do you also do a lot of weddings, how has the pandemic affected your business?
Rona Hullen 10:50
Well, at first, when the first rolled out, it was scary to say everybody canceled everything, it came to a complete halt. And then we started seeing a lot of backyard waves, you know, what we’re going to be a big wedding is now in somebody’s backyard. So a lot of that happening, and a lot of rescheduling. And now, there’s a lot of weddings being scheduled. But they’re all outdoors. So everybody’s just kind of figuring out a way to make it all work. And outdoors seems to be the key. I’ve got the whole summer almost booked out already.
Joe Vega 11:30
Wow. Yeah, people are still getting married.
Rona Hullen 11:32
So yeah, I’ve got it seems like I’m doing consultations. Every day.
Joe Vega 11:38
I know you’re passionate about floral design, you said that you literally you know, can’t get enough of it. You You watch tons of YouTube video is that your preferred method of learning, by the way, YouTube videos in general, I
Rona Hullen 11:49
buy classes and I watch free ones. Buy a lot of magazines. I’m just constantly absorbing whatever I can,
Joe Vega 12:01
that makes sense that you will be a visual spatial learner, right? Because you’re not you’re either an auditory sequential learner, which is basically you people like to learn by reading a lot. They’re linear thinkers. I am not one of those people. I I am a visual spatial learner, I have to do it, see it, or you know, or hear it a podcast, I prefer that I preferred learning, you know, on the web or on YouTube, or just videos, which is strange, because I was a horrible student in, in high school. And in college, like I didn’t graduate college, and I barely graduated high school. So I didn’t consider myself a long live learner until sort of YouTube came along and TED talks and all these other rich media and then I just can’t get enough.
Rona Hullen 12:46
Well, that’s because you’re you’re learning the things you you’re interested in, in school, we’re having to take everything they want us to take, and we’re not into it. But now that we get online and start searching or searching for things we’re interested in, and so it’s amazing. And I love it.
Joe Vega 13:02
If I was just graduating school, and I’m in I had a interest in floral design and owning my flower shop one day, what advice would you have for me, if I was just starting out,
Rona Hullen 13:14
I would recommend working for shople like I did it at first and trying to figure out the positives and negatives, and figure that part out and get a good website. Right. And I would want to be in an area. Like I’m in a great area, I’m in an area where I’m the only florist I would do my research on my location, and I would try to not have a big rent. I think the rent gets people in a compromising position sometimes. So I kind of like working from home and it seems you know, with all this pandemic stuff, it’s become more acceptable. So I would go that route.
Joe Vega 14:09
Yeah, that old cliche still works, right? I mean, it’s no it’s not a cliche. It’s real. It’s location, location, location.
ROna Hullen 14:16
Exactly. It absolutely and I love being the only florist in my area it’s it’s it’s helpful. Every floor is has plenty of stories, when it comes to customers or recipients are just crazy stories are awesome stories, sad stories. I mean everything in between. Right.
Joe Vega 14:37
Right. Could you share with us some some stories, some interesting stories from either customers or recipients that involve them getting flowers?
Rona Hullen 14:46
Absolutely. I get all kinds of different types of things. I’ve I’ve had emotional ones I’ve had I didn’t actually realize how people Use the florist as a as a service. So I had people send flowers to someone who will not accept their phone calls. But they’ll accept the flowers and say, you know, hey, at five o’clock, I’ll be there with the police to get my things out of your apartment.
Joe Vega 15:21
That was a card message.
Rona Hullen 15:22
Yes. Oh, wow. Yes.
Rona Hullen 15:25
So there’s things like that.
Joe Vega 15:28
You know, it’s, it’s crazy how it is a form of getting a message to somebody that won’t take your call. So I’ve had things like that and, and during the pandemic, when I started giving flowers away for free, I got some emotional calls. That was really touching to the heart. you’d leave, I left flowers just for free. And I got a phone call and the lady had just returned from chemo, her first chemo treatment and, and then there was flowers on her door for no reason. And she was, it was it was just moving. Things like that. It’s flowers touch people. I mean, it’s a it’s amazing. Like, you’re you’re dealing with people on their wedding days, biggest day of their life. On days, when they’re burying the most important people in our lives. It’s just an honor to provide that service for people on those impactful days of our lives. So I don’t even know how to put that into words.
Joe Vega 16:40
I don’t know any other industry that deals with, like, birth, death, and everything in between. I think the closest the closest thing that comes to mind to me is probably homework. Right? Like, you know, greeting cards. Reading you’re not giving greeting cards on a first date or second day. That’s kind of weird, right? But, but you would flowers right? So flowers is buy flowers is basically the number one product that is basically always appropriate, right? I can’t think of any other product. Can you?
Rona Hullen 17:14
Oh, it’s it’s absolutely amazing. And yeah, I when I first got started in this, I thought, Oh, I do not want to do like the funeral work. I thought, oh, that’ll just be depressing and everything. And it is such an honor to do that for people and bring them some type of joy when they need it most. It’s It’s incredible.
Rona Hullen 17:41
Attending a funeral or being part of a funeral of someone who’s lived a long, healthy happy life. You know, that’s definitely something to be celebrated. I mean, that’s that’s life, right? Absolutely. When you were delivering flowers to the woman with that just came home from chemo. Like what made you give away flowers?
Rona Hullen 18:01
Well, when we first found out about the pandemic, we I thought everything was closing down. And it was right. So I thought I need to empty my box. And then I got a phone call from my wholesaler. And they said, Hey, we’re gonna empty our box. Everything’s free. Come get whatever you want. But give it away. And I said, Absolutely. So I went, filled my car up came home. And my daughter and I made arrangements as fast as I was making them. She’s running them down the street, just randomly dropping them off for people. And I was, you know, and everybody was scared at this time. You know, it’s everything’s closing down. It was, it was a crazy time. And it was nice to reach out and give people flowers. And it was amazing. And I emptied out my cooler. And fortunately, we were able to keep going. But it was it was certainly a fun little project.
Rona Hullen 19:06
And people’s reactions like oh, I was getting phone calls. There was people who had I had one lady call and she says, Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you sent me these flowers. My sister was buried in Germany today and then you sent me these flowers. I mean, you have no idea how you’re impacting and the kind of day that everyone’s having. Right? And it was just amazing to be able to do that for people
Joe Vega 19:32
and did you deliver these flowers with with a card messages or just just the flowers?
Rona Hullen 19:36
I just put a card message on it and said just hoping to bring a smile to your face. And that was it.
Joe Vega 19:45
That’s amazing. Like I can’t like that’s that’s just you know, pure joy right there.
Rona Hullen 19:49
Yeah, absolutely. And after doing that, I wish I was in a situation where I can just deliver free flowers all the time because that is so rewarding. I mean It was it was crazy.
Joe Vega 20:02
I loved it. It sounds like the ultimate sort of, you know, SF has this yearly thing called pedal it forward. I’m sure you’ve you’ve heard of it right? Yeah. And we participate. We’ve been participating. But three or four years in a row now, obviously not not this past year. Right. But it sounds like that’s the ultimate pedal it forward when you literally could just I mean, the whole seller just called you up out of nowhere and said, you can have these flowers, but you have to give him away. That was also nice of them. Right?
Rona Hullen 20:28
Absolutely. Because apparently some of the other flower host sellers, were just throwing flowers away. So I thought it was really resourceful of them to even call us and tell us to do that.
Unknown Speaker 20:40
So it was amazing. That’s nice of them. What who was the wholesaler?
Rona Hullen 20:45
It was Florida fresh in Sacramento.
Joe Vega 20:47
I think they deserve some kudos for that.
Rona Hullen 20:49
Yeah, absolutely. It was it was incredible. And so I was thankful for them bringing that up and giving me the idea to do it. Yeah,
Joe Vega 20:59
that’s, that’s awesome. Thank you. So you know what? Some of the interesting facts about you as a person outside of being a florist, like a one woman, Wrecking Crew, successful record group. Whatever are some of the accomplishments, you’re proud of? What what are some of the other things that you’re proud of?
Rona Hullen 21:19
Well, I’m proud of, well, I think I’m a good mom.
Rona Hullen 21:26
So I’m thankful for that. I hope I’m a good wife. And I am always just trying to be a better version of myself. So I’m always trying to add to things so you know, like, I know you. You already know that I learned how to fly. Yes, airplane. Yes. And that was super fun. And so I like adventure and stuff like that. So creativity and adventure.
Joe Vega 22:03
That’s great. And I just have to ask you about the flying part. Sorry. So could you just tell us exactly like, It’s not every day that I talked to a pilot, right? Like, I don’t even you’re the you’re the only pilot I know, actually. So can you walk us through that story? How did that came to be?
Rona Hullen 22:23
Oh, I was in Palm Springs at an event that was selling airplanes at this event. And so how often are you somewhere where they’re selling an airplane, right? So of course, I looky loo over there looking at them. And the guy says, Hey, climb on in. So I climb in, and I’m sitting there, and it was a state of the art airplane, it had a glass screen. I mean, it was just incredible feeling. I thought, Oh, I want to learn how to do this, right? So I got home, and I call the local little airport. And I say, hey, I want to take lessons, you know, and I go, Okay, come on, out, come out. And of course, it looks like a world war two airplane that I’ve got to learn how to fly it. Didn’t have a touchscreen. didn’t have that cool screen, had the little circle things, you know, and I’m like, oh, man, but anyway, long story short, it was very exciting. I took a bunch of lessons. I ended up getting, like 40 hours of flight time I’ve solo flight myself, then the economy dropped out. And I could not justify taking flying lessons anymore. So I had to quit. But it was certainly fun while it lasted. Very exciting.
Joe Vega 23:45
Did you did you flew alone?
Rona Hullen 23:48
Yeah. Wow, that was so exciting. But I gotta tell you the first time when the when your trainer says he’s going to get out of the airplane. Right? And you’re like, what?
Rona Hullen 23:59
He goes, Yeah, I’m gonna get out. You take off and land three times. And I’m like, are you sure I’m ready for it was it was I could feel my face. It just. It was like getting hot, hot, hot, hot. I was like, oh my gosh. And it was like no joke. It’s not like you can pull over in a car and take a break. Right? Right. The guy gets out of the airplane and I take off. And when I came in for the landing, I was so nervous that I was overdoing everything and you’ve got your yoke, right? And I was like bouncing up and down the runway. Like a pogo stick was horrible, but it was safe. I did it and then it was all fine after I got through the nerves, but Oh, very exciting.
Joe Vegar 24:49
Now, that sounds like quite the wrong I
Rona Hullen 24:51
do miss it. I you know, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll dabble in that again someday.
Joe Vega 24:56
I am in awe and I am appreciative It definitely sounds and looks like you, you definitely have a growth mindset. And believe it or not a lot of unfortunately, you know, you either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. And, you know, unfortunately, most people, I believe, form the fixed mindset because they’re comfortable, they get to a routine, and then they just start doing, you know, they’re not as a as hungry to learn new things. So you just walked into an airplane show or you know, a sale, and next thing, you know, you’re, you’re flying.
Joe Vega 25:32
Now that’s how I roll.
Rona Hullen 25:36
That’s how I roll. When I decided I was going to be a florist. I was a florist. It just happened, right? I just, yeah, when I want to do something, I want to do it. And
Joe Vega 25:50
that’s amazing. So, so the so the last question I have for you is the pandemic is here. It doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Hopefully, it will. But like, what do you think is going to happen to the floral industry as a whole? If this thing sticks around?
Rona Hullen 26:10
Well, I’m hoping it’s not much it’s going to happen. I’m hoping I’m hoping we’re gonna all get creative and find ways to live our lives and be safe and healthy. I don’t know, I know that back in the Great Depression, I believe the florists were one of the few businesses that actually weren’t hit as hard as the other businesses and kind of feel. My business has changed a little bit over this course. But it hasn’t. Really, I don’t think it’s going to really affect us that much. Other than indoor venues are a problem right now. But other than that, I feel like people are being resourceful and going outside and I’m still having my weddings, and I’m still having events. I’m moving forward. And I don’t want to put in my head that it’s a stumbling block. Because if if I do that, then it will be and so as far as I can see. It’s all going to go great.
Joe Vega 27:21
That’s fantastic. That’s that’s that’s the attitude to have right there. Absolutely.
Rona Hullen 27:26
Joe Vega 27:27
So thanks so much. Well, thank you for joining us today.
Rona Hullen 27:30
It was my it was a pleasure.
Ronae Hullen 27:32
All right, you guys.
Joe Vega 27:33
Talk soon. Haha. Oh, by the way, we want to help your business bloom. Follow for more episodes to flower shop secrets streaming now on Spotify, Apple podcast, Google, and more.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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