April 25, 2016

A florist with a twist, Petalon delivers adorably assembled seasonal bouquets by bike. Founded two years ago by Florence Kennedy, the London-based delivery service was inspired by her husband’s bicycle-making business. We visited Florence at her dreamy studio, housed in a refurbished victorian tram depot, to talk all things floral.

UO: Where did the idea for Petalon come from?

My husband James had just started his bicycle brand, Kennedy City Bicycles and as exciting as it was, I found it hard living with someone who was following their dream when I didn’t have a dream of my own. I loved the bikes, but it wasn’t my passion.

Around that time, the first shipment of bike frames arrived and James had arranged a birthday surprise trip to Paris for me. He had been in cahoots with my boss at the time so that I thought I had a sales training day in Kings Cross. As a thank you to her, he sent her a bunch of flowers and when I saw them on her desk I really felt for James as the flowers were a bit rubbish and didn’t convey how thankful he really was. Although there are lots of beautiful florists in London, a lot of them have high minimum spends and it was too much for a small gesture of thanks. The idea was staring me in the face: to create a service that would provide beautiful flowers at a lower price and to deliver them using James’ bikes.

UO: What do you love most about owning your own business?

It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done with my working day starting at 3.30am and not finishing until 6pm; it can be pretty tiring and stressful, but I love the flowers, I love my team and I love building a company that our customers enjoy using. I’m really proud of Petalon.

UO: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced with Petalon to date?

When I started Petalon I did everything myself, from the market runs, to the arrangements, to the delivery, the emails, the accounts, the website, everything. I started on a shoestring so I couldn’t afford to get in a designer or a delivery cyclist; it had to be me and I’m so pleased it was because I know every aspect of my business inside out. If something breaks I know I can fix it, if someone calls in sick I know I can fill in.

The hardest time for us was when we needed to scale the business: it was fine for me to do everything when we had ten deliveries a day, but now that we have 30 deliveries a day it’s not physically possible. It was incredibly hard to take a step back and alter the processes and logistics we’d worked so hard to set up. We had to accommodate our growing customer base and that required having the flexibility and courage to do things differently.

UO: What does a typical working day look like for you?

If it’s a market day then I get up at 3.30am and drive the van down to New Covent Garden Market to get the flowers. If it’s Monday I’m choosing the flowers for the week, if it’s later in the week I am replenishing our stock. I leave the market just after 6am and drive up to the workshop in Clapton with all the flowers, picking up one of our florists on the way. We unload all the flowers, get everything in fresh water and condition all the flowers ready to be bunched up. The riders arrive at 10am for the first set of deliveries and then there’s a second round after midday.

We now have a lot of events and weddings to do on top of our usual flower deliveries, so my day is spent organising, making and installing these as the team gets on with making up all the Petalon bouquets.

UO: What inspires your floral designs?

The flowers themselves really. The shape and character and colour of a certain flower will often dictate the mood and appearance of the whole bunch.

UO: Which arrangement of flowers would make up your perfect bouquet?

That is a constantly changing list. It’s very hard to have a favourite flower when you get to play with so many. The joy of using seasonal flowers is that you’re always pleased to see the new ones coming in as the months roll on. Peonies are just starting now, and I’m over the moon as I haven’t used them for over nine months. I love Ranunculus, and use them every week. They come in so many shapes and sizes that they’re always fun to use, but they’re just coming to the end of their season. I’ve been using a lot of fritillaries in our event and wedding flowers and am in love with their curving stems.

UO: Cycling across the city every day, you must have discovered so many hidden corners – can you tell us any favourite spots you’ve discovered since starting Petalon?

Cycling around town is a great way to knit together all the different areas of London and be able to really understand your city. I don’t have much time on delivery for exploring as we’ve got flowers to deliver, but I have great little shortcuts and scenic routes that I love to take.

UO: What’s your favourite Petalon memory to date?

Moving into our dream workshop after a stint in a very dingy little railway arch with no natural light was a pretty special, ‘we’re a real company’ moment. My husband James has the workshop upstairs and the ground floor is flowers central. It’s beautiful.

UO: What do you want to achieve next?

The business is growing and that’s really exciting. I just want to get Petalon bigger and more established so that we can spread the flowery love to more and more people.