‘There is so much good to share about our industry’

Blue skies and warm breezes welcomed members of the Wholesale Florist and Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA) for their 2022 Floral Distribution Conference (FDC), writes Jason Vaughan, WF&FSA Communications Manager, in the April 2022 FloraCulture International.

On March 7-9, nearly 600 people met at Miami’s Doral resort for three days of networking and forging new business relationships. The 2022 event marked the second in-person gathering for the association, with the packed exhibit hall and arrival of international members reflecting a return to business as usual.

Early on Monday, 7 March, WF&FSA wholesalers and suppliers flooded the Doral’s ballroom with elaborate displays of flowers and greenery and exhibits of the latest innovations in floral accessories. Within six hours, 100 Table Top exhibits along five aisles were overflowing with products sourced from the United States, South America, and Europe.

Discussing hot industry topics

While the Table Tops were coming together, wholesalers met for an informal discussion on hot industry topics, including labour, transportation, logistics, and holding margins. It was an opportunity for industry peers to share strategies and innovations to break through the barriers of today’s business clients.
Monday morning and afternoon were also an opportunity for members to contribute to a floral display symbolising WF&FSA’s new initiative: The Flower Movement. The movement is a catalyst to promote community activism, using flowers to change mindsets and uplift feelings. Within hours, an arch framework, provided by Syndicate Sales, was covered in flowers and greenery to celebrate WF&FSA and the #OneFlowerFamily.

Speed networking

Before Monday evening’s opening party in the Table Tops, WF&FSA members participated in another new event: speed networking. The one-hour afternoon programme allowed floral industry colleagues to exchange information and make meaningful connections. “The speed networking was great,” said a participant. “It was fantastic and one of my favourite parts of the conference.”

After a busy Tuesday morning in the Table Tops, FDC attendees sat down for lunch and the FDC general session. WF&FSA 2021-2022 President Gabriel Becerra opened the session with a thoughtful address reflecting on challenges to the industry over the past two years and its perseverance.

“To see so many customers, vendors, and friends together all in one place means so much to me,” Becerra said. “You know that I truly believe we express feelings with flowers. There is so much feeling at this year’s conference and so much good to share about our industry.”

(Left) The Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award winner Dave Garcia, (right) Past President Gabriel Becerra.

Becerra reiterated WF&FSA’s commitment to The Flower Movement and the progress in launching the initiative. “We have a website and a marketing toolkit, and many of our companies are participating — showing the world and all industry members how meaningful is the work we all do.”

After his opening remarks, Becerra revealed the Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award winner. The award recognises individuals who have made substantial contributions to the floral industry and have shown distinguished service, exemplifying integrity, fairness, perseverance, and decisiveness. Becerra announced Pete Garcia Company’s Dave Garcia as the recipient of the 2022 award.

“Our family has been so blessed by the floral industry,” Garcia said as he accepted the award, joined on stage by his wife and family. “This is an incredible honour.”

Panel discussion

Following the award presentation, Becerra introduced the moderators of the panel on how floral retailers have adapted and reinvented their businesses. He welcomed WF&FSA First Vice President Patrick Busch and Melanie Spilbeler of FreshPath Marketing to the stage. Over the next hour, Busch and Spilbeler moderated an interactive, casual discussion with three retail florists on their innovations in sales and consumer flower consumption. The insights from Allie Enge of Minnesota, Amy Morgan of Illinois, and Rhonda Bullington of Iowa allowed the wholesale community to understand better what they can do to support their customers and see emerging consumer trends.

FDC attendees at the Miami-style White Party.

After the luncheon and general session, it was back to networking, checking out the floral exhibits, and getting ready for the evening’s Miami-style White Party. The Doral’s Crystal Ballroom was rocking with a DJ spinning and stunning performances by hora loca dancers and drummers. The party was a delightful end to the second day of FDC.

Welcoming new board members

The conference’s final day began with an attendee breakfast and WF&FSA’s business meeting. During the business meeting, Becerra thanked outgoing board members Alejandro Perez (Komet Sales) and Mark Berglund (Washington Floral Service) for their service to the association and its members. Becerra also acknowledged the service and work of Immediate Past President Tim Dewey of DVFlora.

Becerra welcomed nominations to the Executive Committee: Darin Dewberry (Pete Garcia Group) as First Vice President and Karen Oie (Smithers-Oasis) as Treasurer. Also introduced were two new directors: Melanie Spilbeler (FreshPath Marketing) and Alex Shibata (Mt. Eden Floral Company). Attendees unanimously approved the slate of candidates for WF&FSA’s 2022-2023 Board of Directors.

(Left) WF&FSA 2022-2023 President Patrick Busch recognised Immediate Past President Gabriel Becerra (2021-2022) with a plaque and (of course) flowers.

Becerra then introduced Patrick Busch as WF&FSA’s new president. Busch, CEO and Visionary of Minnesota-based Len Busch Roses, accepted the gavel and provided brief remarks to the audience. “Staying connected, learning together, and openly sharing is our greatest opportunity,” Busch said. “By working together and learning from each other, we can overcome challenges. Congratulations for choosing to attend this conference, share with each other, celebrate the impact we make on this nation, and embrace the future with optimism and openness.”

The conference’s final (and very popular) presentation, “Connect More, Convince Less!,” was given by Emmy-winning journalist and best-selling author Ryan Avery. He led WF&FSA members on an insightful and inspirational exploration of how to weave communication threads and build relationships with customers and clients.

After a few more hours of Table Tops, WF&FSA’s 2022 Floral Distribution Conference came to a close. A brief survey of attendees found the conference to be of tremendous value; 98 per cent found it to be good or excellent, and nearly 80 per cent said they would return for next year’s FDC in spring 2023. Next year’s event will be at Miami’s Doral resort on March 6-8.

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