Episode 486: Slow Flowers’ 2020 Year in Review
December 30th, 2020
Welcome to the final episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast for 2020. As I have done since the beginning of 2014, I’m turning the spotlight on our year of Slow Flowers. Next week, on January 6th, I’ll bring you the annual report for our 2021 Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast.
Last year at this time, we celebrated a successful 2019 with more members, more participation and more Slow Flowers blooming in the marketplace. Speaking for myself, there was a definite feeling of anticipation in the air, as we turned the calendar to a new year and a new decade. We felt optimism and creative inspiration.
The year kicked off with some exciting opportunities to connect with members, including speaking twice in Oregon — first, for the PNW Cut Flower Growers Meet-Up in Corvallis, and next at the Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show in Eugene.
In late February, I returned to the fabulous Northwest Flower & Garden Festival to produce the floral stage for the third year in a row. I welcomed six Slow Flowers Members to teach sold-out, hands-on floral design workshops called “Blooms & Bubbles.” We welcome the beautiful Fleurs de Villes floral couture installation with eight of the fashions created by Slow Flowers members who showcased their talents. Slow Flowers sponsored Melissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers, for an all-domestic floral gown — Here’s my interview with Melissa in which we discuss her studio, art practice and floral fashion!
Also at the flower festival, I joined a panel presentation moderated by fellow podcaster Jennifer Jewell, author of the new book: The Earth in Her Hands, profiles of 75 extraordinary women working in the world of plants, as one of those profiled (PS you can hear that full conversation moderated by Jennifer on Episode 443).
A few weeks later in mid-March, the reality of the Covid-19 Pandemic began to sink in. I was in Vancouver, B.C., at Hitomi Gilliam’s Trend Summit, and at the time, I had no idea it would be my last in-person opportunity to speak to a floral audience. Here we are, nine months into it and we’ve all accepted the new norms required to fight the pandemic, keep ourselves and others safe from infection, and use our energy and resources to hang onto our livelihoods.
In response, we found ways to stay connected this year. I sought and invited you to share your personal “Stories of Reslience” for our Slow Flowers Podcast and Virtual Member Meet-Ups. Learning how you personally tackled and creatively addressed such huge challenges has been a major source of inspiration to me and other. And similarly, our definition of thriving has greatly changed.
Month by month, we forged ahead. We forged ahead through the Pandemic, through a racial justice awakening, through the increasing threat of Climate Change. We looked in the mirror and asked ourselves: “Are we doing enough to walk the talk?” “Are we communicating our values through our actions?” We also found and nurtured community in new ways. We spent more time at home than ever before. We re-evaluated what’s truly important.
And in doing so, I believe we have gotten stronger. In late October, I gathered with Karen Thornton, our operations/membership and events manager at either end of a huge conference table and we were joined via Zoom by Niesha Blancas, our social media manager and Becky Feasby, our new Slow Flowers Canada associate, for our 2021 planning retreat. We started the day discussing the Year in Review. You know, that exercise was so affirming. It was so valuable to not only itemize the accomplishments I felt were important, but to hear from my colleagues about the highlights that excited them.
And we came up with a pretty amazing list. It is essential to stop and take stock in the year that’s coming to a close. This year it’s especially important! I’d like to walk you through our list and invite you to join me in celebrating what the entire Slow Flowers Community has accomplished together:
SLOW FLOWERS SUMMIT
Last week, I sent out an email to our registrants, members and followers with a Slow Flowers Summit update — you can find it here. Top items of note:
We know for certain that the management at Filoli Historic House & Garden are taking the utmost precaution in making it safe for guests to visit their grounds, despite ever-changing policies for public gatherings in their county and state. For the Summit specifically, we are shifting plans to have an all-outside conference, made possible by Filoli’s incredible gardens, and infrastructure such as an outdoor meeting space where seating is socially-distanced, an outdoor stage and boosted Wi-Fi, among other logistics being attended to, as well as all accommodations for outdoor catering and service.
The other big news is that we’ve invited two additional speakers to join our expanded educational program, rounding out an already amazing lineup. That means author and speaker Abra Lee of Conquer the Soil and floral designer Max Gill will be part of the program when we all gather June 28-30, 2021. I truly cannot wait!
Member and Social Media COMMUNICATIONS
Thanks to the talents of our social media manager Niesha Blancas of Fetching Social, our engagement hit 98 million impressions, with a 13 million reach in 2020. One of the most meaningful things Niesha has done – and this requires a serious investment of time – is to find ways to highlight as many members as possible, by showcasing your flowers and designs in our social media posts and stories. I am in awe of the attention to detail that Niesha brings to this effort. For example, each month, we highlight new and renewing members, usually 40 to 50 of you, and that means Niesha digs deep into your social media feeds or websites to find just the right photograph to represent you and your brand. We just surpassed 30k IG followers — all organic growth thanks to the time and attention that Niesha takes to showcase and engage with you!
At the end of March, I upgraded our Zoom account to accommodate longer meetings and a larger group of participants. It felt like a desperate act at the time – we just had to DO SOMETHING, right? Like you, I was in a bit of a fog, trying to figure out how to navigate the new COVID landscape while running a floral enterprise. That Zoom tool allowed us to host the first “Virtual” Member Meet-Up on Friday, March 27th, with more than 60 of you in attendance. We attempted to give everyone a chance to say hello and check in with our community.
As Karen, Niesha and Lisa Waud, who helped us with membership for the first half of 2020, and I learned more about virtual meetings, and as we heard from you about the state of your floral enterprise, we continued to improve and refine those meetings. We met weekly as a community, each Friday, through the end of May.
We hosted a series of guests, from members who shared their strategies for contact-free deliveries and product sourcing to outside experts on wellness and mindfulness. And we dabbled with break-out rooms, which is a more manageable for smaller groups to converse and connect. After eight weekly meet-ups, by the beginning of June, we shifted to monthly sessions — to date, there have been seven monthly Meet-Ups attracting more than 350 members.
You seem to love our floral design demos and crop-specific topics, as well as our speakers, our giveaways and the important lifeline to connect with kindred spirits. Most of the Meet-Ups were recorded and you can find the playback videos on YouTube where there have been hundreds of views, reaching those who couldn’t attend in real time. The Virtual Meet-Ups will continue into 2020 — our first of the year is scheduled for Friday, January 8th – so stay tuned for more details in the January newsletter and on social media. Hope to see you there!
AMERICAN FLOWERS WEEK
American Flowers Week, June 28-July 4, took place against the COVID backdrop but you were not deterred in participating! We showcased five beautiful botanical couture fashion looks for 2020 featuring orchids from Hawaii, peonies from Alaska, local flora from South Dakota, dahlias from Washington State and annuals from Maine.
Florists’ Review published the photography of these incredibly creative floral stylings in the June issue and we picked up some local press, interested in telling the story of locally-grown flowers in their markets.
Several of you joined the momentum led by Lisa Waud to use local flowers for public installations in their community– from Milwaukee and Detroit to Portland, Maine, with the goal of raising awareness, supporting flower farmers and celebrating beauty at a time when everyone so needed it.
Plans are already underway for 2021 and we have just unveiled our new branding by illustrator Jeanetta Gonzales, so please save the dates. During June 28-July 4 we will be celebrating our seventh annual American Flowers Week campaign. You can order bouquet labels anytime in our Slow Flowers Mercantile Shop — find the link here.
We had excellent growth in Slow Flowers Society membership for 2020 — truly inspiring and an indication that more flower farmers and floral designers want to align with our mission and values as a way to communicate their brand identity to customers.
I’m grateful to both Lisa Waud and Karen Thornton who have invested quite a bit of time in building our member database and outreach programs. It sounds like a minor “win,” but I find it so incredibly valuable to use one dashboard to find out about each one of you, where you’re located, how long you’ve been a member, and more!
CAUSES AND COMMUNITY
In June after the nation witnessed the senseless murder of George Floyd and after feeling so many other waves of sorrow, grief and shock about unaddressed racial injustice, I was moved to take personal action. On behalf of Slow Flowers Society, I donated $5,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that fights for law enforcement reform and improvements to the legal system on behalf of underrepresented persons.
I called on our members to take their own steps to fight racism while also fighting for inclusivity, representation and equity in our profession. And so many of you shared your actions and steps. We launched the Professional Development Fund for Black Farmers and Florists to join the Slow Flowers Society and in doing so, we’ve used those funds to sponsor six new members to join. It’s a start – and one we hope to continue in the future, until the Slow Flowers Society looks more like the communities we live and work in. Thank you to those who joined this effort.
ANNUAL MEMBER SURVEY
It was a year of ambition, to be sure. If you took our 2021 member survey, you will know to what I refer.
More than 216 of you took the survey during the month of October; that was triple the previous year’s engagement. We learned so much about you and I’ve been posting the insights by category – as a series, which you can find a Slowflowersjournal.com.
Of note: 74% of you rate the value of your Slow Flowers membership as high or very high! I’m so grateful for your support.
There is definitely an opportunity to grow that percentage and demonstrate to you the value of your membership investment. I believe that the more you engage, the more value you enjoy, so please put in the time and effort to participate in the many opportunities and programs we offer!
Slow Flowers Society is growing up as an organization and that is reflected in the programs and systems we have in place to run things more smoothly — and improve our responsiveness to you! With a COVID scale back of Karen Thornton’s consulting for her corporate event clients, we took advantage of her talents and time to bring her onboard as our Operations and Membership manager, on top of the Event management she’s handled since 2018. Thank you, Karen! You have improved and streamlined so many processes, moved us to Google for Business, taken the lead on finance and budget management, and run so many behind-the-scenes details that the list is too large to share here. Our team also includes Niesha Blancas of Fetching Social, whose responsibilities have expanded to include managing our FB Community and the addition of Becky Feasby of Prairie Girl Flowers in Calgary, Alberta, to manage our growing Slow Flowers Canada membership program. Wow! All so cool, right?!
One of the cool things Karen has built is our online Slow Flowers Mercantile store. It began as a place where you could purchase signed copies of my three most recent books, and it has expanded to include American Flowers Week bouquet labels, Slow Flowers Society items including plant tags, our book mark and blank journals, and some special artwork from friends of Slow Flowers. We hope to grow the shop to feature our favorite makers and vendors as we move into 2021!
The year 2020 witnessed the expansion of my teaching and publishing, all designed to encourage, support and showcase the amazing people involved as Slow Flowers members. In June, we celebrated the publication of Slow Flowers Journal – Volume One, which is a compilation of the best Slow Flowers Journal articles, features and profiles that appeared in Florists’ Review from 2017 to 2019. One hundred twenty eight pages are filled with the talents of more than 80 Slow Flowers growers, farmer-florists and floral designers. And we can’t wait for you to see and read what’s inside. Thank you to Florists’ Review and Wildflower Media for publishing this lovely book and thank you to the amazing team, including creative director Robin Avni and book designer Jenny Diaz.
This project was so rewarding and demonstrates a tangible opportunity to share stories of our Slow Flowers Community, so I am here to announce that Robin and I have formed a joint venture to develop more books to continue the mission of Slow Flowers. Our project is called BLOOM Imprint and it serves as the publishing arm of Slow Flowers Society. We have five books in development and we hope to announce those titles and authors in early 2021. Some of you already may have seen our call for submissions for our first book: Where we Bloom, which I will be writing, which will showcase more than 30 Slow Flowers members and their studios, workshops, greenhouses and flower stands. That book will be published in March 2020 and you’ll be able to pre-order it soon.
And to support everyone from aspiring writers to floral professionals who desire to improve their own content through the written word, I launched the first Slow Flowers Creative Workshop: Floral Storytelling as an online course in early November. Sixty of your registered for the online course and spent the month of November working through the modules, lessons and worksheets at your own pace. A highlight for me were the weekly “Office Hours” sessions – of course via Zoom – when students and I met to discuss writing challenges and achievements. Thank you to all who participated.
The next session of Slow Flowers Creative Workshop begins January 6th and I’ve created a coupon code for Slow Flowers members to enjoy $100 off the $297 registration. If you’re not a member, I have a $50 off coupon code for you — so take advantage of those benefits and join in!
Slow Flowers Society Members: Save $100 off regular tuition of $297 with this Coupon Code: SFMEMBER100
Non-members save $50 off regular tuition of $297 with this Coupon Code. SAVE50
And speaking of online courses, I want to share details about a new free course — my year-end gift to you: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead. How to Write a Year in Review and Future Forecast for Your Brand
For the past seven years, I have turned the calendar page to the New Year by first revisiting the one coming to a close. This ritual has becomes my regular “Year-in-Review” practice as I take stock of what has happened in the prior 12 months, how my efforts supported my mission and the relationships I developed along the way.
This exercise becomes the springboard for my second ritual of the season: Writing the Slow Flowers Floral Insights & Industry Forecast Report.
Now, I’ve created a FREE online course sharing my process and methods for both of these valuable tools. After you take this mini-course, you’ll have the building blocks to write your own YEAR-in-REVIEW and FLORAL FORECAST.
Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll have two new narratives that you can use for blog posts, newsletter articles and other content to support your brand. By reflecting on highlights of the past year, you can learn so much about your true priorities, passion, purpose and (one hopes) what’s most profitable in terms of trading your time for income.
Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, as this year comes to a close, I encourage you to take time to write a creative Year-In-Review. When you do this, a narrative emerges, one that can guide your insights for next year’s Floral Forecast.
You’re hearing my year in review right now — and I encourage you to sign up for the FREE course so you can write your own year in review.
And next week, we’ll talk about what’s in store in 2021. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have a process and method for assessing the cultural shifts that help me forecast floral themes and topics we’ll experience in the year to come.
Thank you to our Sponsors!
This is the weekly podcast about Slow Flowers and the people who grow and design with them. It’s all about making a conscious choice and I invite you to join the conversation and the creative community as we discuss the vital topics of saving our domestic flower farms and supporting a floral industry that relies on a safe, seasonal and local supply of flowers and foliage.
This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms. It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.
The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 673,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.
As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. The year 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us.
Not counting all of the time invested in developing the topics, guests and content, we spend more than $10k annually to bring you this award-winning internet radio program. Your financial support can ensure we continue into 2021. If every listener contributes just $2, those funds would add up quickly to cover our out-of-pocket costs to record, edit, host and promote the Slow Flowers Podcast. Would you consider making a year-end donation? I value your support and invite you to show your thanks to support Slow Flowers’ ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.
The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at soundbodymovement.com.
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