ALEXANDRIA, USA: High profile speakers, bucket lists and buzz are among the motivators pushing floral industry members who’ve never attended the Society of American Florists’ (SAF’s) annual convention to make SAF Marco Island 2014 their first.
“What inspired me to sign up this year were the educational and networking opportunities with some of the industry’s finest,” said Freddy Melero, roseologist at Choice Farms in Miami. A young professional working in the import and distribution side of the industry, Melero said he has attended several floral conferences, but never one with the comprehensive business programming SAF convention offers.
It’s also the first time in more than 20 years that SAF has held its annual event in a month other than September — this year, it’s Aug. 13-16, in Marco Island, Fla.
That timing helped sway first-timer Jaimee Layton to register. Florida is a favorite summer vacation spot for the owner of Forked River Florist in Forked River, N.J., and she decided this year to leave Florida with a notebook full of ideas for her business, not just a tan. “I actually just bought it in February 2013,” she said of her shop, which has been in business for 40 years. “We’ve done renovations, purchased a new van and computer system and taken classes in New York City, but we’re always on the look out for new inspiration.”
Susie Palazzo (pictured), vice president of City Line Florist in Trumbull, Conn., signed up because she needed a little extra motivation in her position. “The programming looked exciting and the speakers engaging,” she said. “I want to expand my skill set and interact with my colleagues for some new leads.”
Many attendees say that the SAF convention, more than any other industry event, helps to provide a big-picture perspective on the industry and a place where all members fit in and support each other. “Unlike a trade show, which is typically geared toward a specific market or audience, the SAF convention brings together top floral industry thinkers and contributors from all segments in a professional, but relaxed atmosphere,” said Steve Dionne, AAF.
The president of Wafex USA in Fallbrook, Calif., which imports and exports flowers, has signed up for his “seventh or eighth” convention to learn more from growers, wholesalers and retailers. “I always come away with new insights I can utilize to help not only my day-to-day business operations, but also my understanding of what directions the industry is moving,” he said.
Mark Foertmeyer, of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse Co. in Delaware, Ohio, and the new Chairman for AmericanHort in Columbus, Ohio, looks forward to connecting with SAF members, strengthening his business network and learning more about government advocacy.
SAF Marco Island 2014 is packed with educational opportunities and showstopper events that showcase beautiful flowers, foliage and premier floral artistry. Dionne said SAF’s Outstanding Varieties Competition, which last year had 271 entries, is a must-attend event at convention. “It is not very often one has the opportunity to see many of the world’s finest new and proven varieties assembled in one room, complete with origin information and judged by industry peers,” he said.
Exposure to the crème de la crème of product — both Outstanding Varieties entries and hard goods in the Premier Products Showcase — enticed Paula Melo, of Gems Global Inc., in Miami, Fla., to sign up for her first convention. “As a director of fulfillment, I have to see what is new out there,” she said.
Derek Woodruff, AIFD, PFCI, of Derek LLC in Traverse City, Mich., looks forward to getting inducted into the Professional Floral Communicators-International and competing for the Sylvia Cup. “PFCI has been a goal for a while now and I have a love for live competition,” he said.
When the going gets tough — or you have a super specific question about keeping COGS in check, dealing with customer complaints, or tweaking your social media platforms — it sure helps to have established friends within the industry to call upon for counsel. Attendees say SAF Marco Island 2014 is the ideal place to build and maintain those important connections, which can help set you apart in good and bad times.
Carolyn Minutillo, AIFD, of Lavender Hill in Jeffersonville, Ind., named the chance to make new connections as a key reason she signed up for her first convention. She was the 2013 recipient of the Gary Buckwald Scholarship, presented by FloralStrategies, LLC, and SAF, and sponsored by Syndicate Sales, which awarded her with $10,000 worth of sales and service training from FloralStrategies, LLC. “I am looking forward to meeting new floral friends and sharing what I have learned (from my training),” she said.
Dionne can attest to the relationship building that happens at SAF conventions. Over the years, he’s developed numerous friendships. “It’s a pleasure to reconnect each year with such a nice and accomplished group,” he said. “Business travel can be rigorous, but attending an SAF convention has a fun element to it that makes it very worthwhile.”
In Thornton, Colo., Gary Googins, owner of Bloomfield Florist has been itching to attend an SAF convention for 13 years, but he always had to put it on the back burner due to time or money. “But this last year, business has been very good and I finally feel like I have the time to work on my business instead of in my business!” he said.
Check out the full convention schedule and register today at www.safnow.org/annual-convention