Many entrepreneurs will agree that “collaboration is the key to innovation”. This maxim certainly rings true when you see the positive changes Sahid Nahim, founder of New Bloom Solutions (NBS), and David Kaplan, the founder of Above All Flowers (AAF), are creating in the floral industry, writes Rachel Anderson.
The dynamic duo began to collaborate on NBS & AAF a few years ago when they got chatting and realised they had complementary skills. They also had the shared ambition of wanting to help the floriculture industry through innovation, collaboration, and networking. As business partners, they have therefore been sprinkling their magic across the sector by offering businesses a range of solutions, including branding, marketing, SEO, websites, product sourcing and development (to name but a few).
Kaplan, whose 40-year career in horticulture began in high school when he would earn extra money by selling flower bouquets on the street, often goes by The Flower Wizard. This moniker is a nod to his ability to conjure up the in-season flowers that his clients are looking for and “magically” connect growers to these customers.
After many years working as the COO of a large flower wholesale company in New England, Kaplan set up AAF – a consulting and market facilitation company that connects floral products to those who need them. Within a short time after setting up the business in 2007, and despite the challenges of the 2008 recession, AAF had more than 80 suppliers. Largely, AAF’s partner suppliers have been growers of speciality products who do not necessarily have a large sales force. He explains: “We have connections, we have a strong audience and customer base, and we can create a lot of brand awareness for these companies to help them sell their products and grow their market share.”
Kaplan has, for instance, been responsible for setting up trade links between Ethiopia and North America (Canada and the US) – shipping to four airports multiple times a week. But he states that the highlight of his career to date has been pairing up with Nahim, “putting his side of the business with my side of the business.” Arguably, Nahim‘s many skills are also the stuff of enchantments – such as how he captivates and engages with new audiences with colourful, creative and thought-provoking online content.
Nahim started working in the floral industry some 17 years ago – in sales roles for Esmeralda Farms and Royal Flowers. He recalls: “In 2010 and 2011, I started realising that e-commerce was coming into the industry, and so I began to get more involved in web technology and design and understanding start-up industries.
“I was consulting my existing wholesale clients pro-bono on how to design their websites, how to improve their social media, or encouraging them to get into social media – and when they did, they brought in new potential customers.”
The entrepreneur set up NBS two and a half years ago after deciding to go it alone to focus on helping companies in this way. Then, he contacted Kaplan, someone a late, mutual friend had advised Nahim to get in touch with if he ever decided to set up his own business.
Nahim recalls: “David and I were so aligned without really realising it – I had the innovation, website, digital marketing and start-up knowledge aspect of it, and David had the connections, the brand, the bandwidth, and more than 40 years of industry knowledge.”
Kaplan adds: “One side of the team helps the other side of the team. It’s a unique style, and I’m not sure anyone else in the US is doing it. If they are, we hope they reach out to us.”
AAF & NBS work with everyone in the floral supply chain, including growers, importers, wholesalers, distributors, start-ups, breeders and more.
There have already been great success stories, but one such case occurred in 2020, near Mother’s Day, in May, and two months after the lockdown began. Then, Nahim and Kaplan were working with a small-to-medium-sized wholesaler who, through SEO [search engine optimisation] and social media methods, sold more that year than they ever had and beat some of the national distributors’ volumes.
“They had people waiting in line to get flowers for that Mother’s Day. It was a total turnaround for them; they didn’t want to invest in that technology for years, but then when the pandemic came along, everyone invested in something different,” recalls Kaplan.
The pair asserts that, even though we all live in an age in which retailers are better able to work directly with growers, wholesalers remain an extremely important part of the supply chain – particularly those who accommodate the notoriously tricky last mile.
Nahim also opines: “Like everyone in the supply chain, the wholesaler who is doing business the same way he did 30 years ago is getting the same results he did 30 years ago. But if you create a good website, invest in SEO, start a blog, add value for your customers, and add a strategic call to action on that website, you will build a community around your business – and you are going to grow.”
Certainly, NBS & AAF are cleverly utilising a combination of online sales channels, social channels and old fashion networking. The company will help their customers in their network, for example, drive potential customers to them through various digital media channels and connect them to their network directly. The main goal for NBS and AAF is to help build brand awareness for their customers’ products while increasing business opportunities and customer base.
Furthermore, NBS & AAF generates awareness through collaboration, networking and creating a sense of community. It arranged, for example, an “after-party” networking event that followed WFFSA (Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association)’s Floral Distribution Conference in the summer of 2021. A second such after-party is due on 7 March at 7pm – 11pm at a local Doral brewery, with a percentage of the contributions going towards a floriculture scholarship.
NBS & AAF’s The Bloom Show (on YouTube) live discussions with high-profile floral industry members are further heightening the sector’s sense of community. One such discussion (which took place in January 2022) saw Chrysal USA’s chairman of the board, Jim Kaplan, and FloraLife director Steve Daum, share tips on how the floral industry can improve floral care handling and other solutions when it comes to logistics and flower care products.
Nahim admits that he purposely pairs up competitors for The Bloom Show because then “the message comes across better because the viewer understands that we are a unified voice. For years, we’ve been saying that we are a community, and it’s a blessing to have that. And it’s a drive to continue to see it – because that’s what our intention is. We are trying to help the floral industry bloom through community, innovation and networking.”
Admittedly, these three ingredients certainly sound like the right mix for a potion whose spell is successfully revitalising the global floriculture sector and captivating clients.
This article was first published in FloraCulture International in March 2022.