Nearly 500 gather to reconnect at WF&FSA’s 2021 Floral Distribution Conference

MIAMI, USA: As dawn broke over Miami on the morning of Monday, June 9, flower-packed vans and trucks began converging on the storied Doral resort. Their mission: transform a hotel ballroom into a wonderland showcasing the best that growers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors have to offer. The highly anticipated return of the Table Top exhibitions was just one highlight of the Wholesale Florist and Florist Supplier Association’s (WF&FSA’s) 2021 Floral Distribution Conference.

The 2021 three-day conference is considered the nation’s first post-pandemic floral event. Almost 500 attendees gathered at Miami’s Doral resort to display products, engage in educational programming, and reconnect for the first time for many since the last in-person conference held in November 2019.

“We did it, you did it. We collectively made this event happen,” said DVFlora Vice President and 2019-2021 WF&FSA President Tim Dewey in his welcome to conference-goers. “I am confident you will be working toward making us all stronger together and better than ever.”

Table Top exhibits

Monday’s signature event was the opening of the 83 Table Top exhibits, which also served as the location for an opening night reception. Attendees laughed and reconnected, while also showcasing products and services to hundreds of wholesalers in attendance.

Networking and reconnecting were critical elements in planning the conference’s schedule. Plenty of time was set aside for casual discussions, whether on the hotel’s grand patio or in the Table Tops space. In the post-conference survey, an overwhelming majority of conference-goers (97 percent) found the opportunities for networking good or excellent.

Augusto Solano receives Leland T. Kintzele Award

WF&FSA President Dewey also provided his welcome and remarks at the Tuesday, June 8 luncheon. In another return to tradition, Dewey unveiled the winner of the Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award. The award recognises individuals who have made substantial contributions to the floral industry and have shown distinguished service exemplifying integrity, fairness, perseverance, and decisiveness. Dewey announced Asocolflores Executive President Augusto Solano as the recipient of the 2021 award.

“This is a real big surprise,” Solano said as he accepted the award. “It’s been a long journey with a lot of challenges. Working for this industry with all the great people is a joy and privilege. This is something that really touches me, and I will keep this moment in my heart forever.”

Logistical challenges

After the award presentation, WF&FSA Executive Vice President Molly Alton Mullins introduced Armellini Logistics’ David Armellini and Prime Floral’s Brad Quinn to the luncheon stage. Both gentlemen provided a brief overview of the state of the nation’s trucking industry and the logistical challenges across almost all supply chains. Their insights provided background as Dewey and Alton Mullins moderated an interactive, casual discussion with members on the challenges (and opportunities) they face in today’s not-so-normal business environment. During this exchange, attendees provided their solutions on moving their businesses forward, which includes utilising WF&FSA Institute, an online workforce training and development tool.

After the luncheon it was back to networking, checking out the floral exhibits, and getting ready for WF&FSA’s Together Again Party. The party was a wonderful opportunity for the WF&FSA community to network with each other, with entertainment all around including carnival games and fun mementos like a vintage photo booth.

Gabriel Becerra is WF&FSA’s new president

Gabriel Becerra is WF&FSA’s new president.

The final day of the conference began with an attendee breakfast and WF&FSA’s business meeting. During the business meeting, Dewey thanked outgoing board members Jeff Stoppenhagen (Gassafy Wholesale), Janson Lenz (Len Busch Roses), and Wendy Fowle (Staalduinen Floral) for their service to the association and its members. Additionally, two Executive Committee members terms also ended, Dave Legge (DWF) as treasurer, and Ben Powell (Mayesh) as immediate past president.

Attendees unanimously approved the addition of five candidates to the board: Patrick Busch of Len Busch Roses (who will also serve on the Executive Committee), Karen Oie of Smothers-Oasis, Eric Fernandez of Continental Flowers, Scott Cheeseman of Kennicott, and Alice Givens of Carlstaldt.

Dewey then introduced Gabriel Becerra as WF&FSA’s new president. Becerra, president of Miami-based Golden Flowers, accepted the gavel and provided brief remarks to the audience. Becerra — no stranger to WF&FSA and the Floral Distribution Conference — is known for his colorful “Helping People Express Feelings with Flowers” button.

“There is no doubt that we are living in a special moment. Now is the time to think about the future,” Becerra said. “We have confirmed that what we do and what we offer every day is very relevant… We have seen all the challenges. We have overcome as we accomplish our purpose and mission as an industry.”

Following Becerra’s remarks, Dwight Larimer and Laura Shinall with the American Floral Endowment shared AFE’s celebration of its 60 years in operation and its campaign to raise $60,000 in 60 days. The endowment funds research into a range of areas, including temperature-controlled supply chains, plant breeding, and pest and disease management. AFE also provides educational grants, scholarships and internships.

The conference’s final (and very popular) presentation, “Helping Leaders Perform Better,” was given by leadership expert Mike Staver. He led WF&FSA members on an insightful and inspirational exploration on how to lead companies to success by focusing on three key points: living what matters most, getting the support you need, and taking back control.

After a few more hours of Table Tops, WF&FSA’s 2021 Floral Distribution Conference came to a close. A brief survey of attendees found the conference to be of tremendous value; more than 95 percent found it to be good or excellent, and 80 percent say they are all in for next year’s Floral Distribution Conference in early spring 2022.

This article was written by WF&FSA’s Jason Vaughan.


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