/How to start a floral-design business from scratch

How to start a floral-design business from scratch

  • Julia Testa launched her floral-design company in 2014, landing Revlon as her first major client.
  • COVID-19 hurt the industry, but Testa’s innovative marketing strategies helped her thrive.
  • Here’s how she’s sustaining her business with online sales, smart spending, and bubble machines.

Julia Testa was walking through Times Square in 2014 when she spotted an ad for Revlon’s new lipstick. 

Inspired and eager to grow her newly launched floral business, she sent Revlon a picture of a sample flower arrangement with its lipstick nestled inside. She encouraged the company to buy her arrangement and send it to influential people. Revlon ordered 50 units and sent them to the editors of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Martha Stewart Living magazine. 

“The flowers matched the lipstick, and they loved it,” she said. The success encouraged her to continue searching the streets for inspiration and pursuing large clients around the city. 

Today, Testa’s eponymous business is thriving thanks to her initiative and ability to spot trends, like flower walls and decorated delivery vans — even in the pandemic. Testa’s total number of orders more than doubled and her online revenue increased nearly 300% in the last year, according to documents verified by Insider.

Testa’s success comes as the industry as a whole struggled: The flower and houseplant market shrank by 6.2% during 2020, according to the global trade expert DP World

Here’s how Testa built her business and made a name for herself in the industry. 

Leveraging past marketing experience 

Testa is a marketer by trade. With previous experience pitching to household name brands on a daily basis, she leaned into large marketing events, like Revlon’s release of the Love is On lipstick.

Once Testa landed Revlon, she used the brand’s prominence to her advantage. She’d name Revlon as a customer to establish credibility among future clients. That tactic helped her build a clientele roster of big names including the New York Stock Exchange, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Marc Jacobs, among others.

Julia Testa, OLAY Event

Testa’s Olay event.

Julia Testa


Testa shifted focus to local customer requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, when corporate events became less frequent. As a result, her Shopify store — where customers can choose from floral bouquets, pots and planters, or a weekly flower drop-off subscription service — skyrocketed.

Julia Testa, floral display

One of Testa’s floral display.

Julia Testa


Spending money strategically

From day one, Testa was a frugal spender: She paid for workspaces only when she knew she would make money. Instead of renting or owning a warehouse, she found a local florist who had extra room in his. She offered to pay him $200 a day but only on days she was hired for a job. She said limiting regular overhead is crucial for early businesses.

When she wasn’t renting space for a day, she based her business out of a van. She invested in decorating the van with her name in big letters across the side, so the vehicle doubled as flower transportation and a driving billboard.

“I was really the first one to do that,” she said of her driving advertisement. “It looked like I was this big company so that when I went into deliveries for an event, my name was driving down Sixth Avenue.”

Getting creative about self-promotion

After a year and a half of her mobile business, Testa set up shop in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. From there, she established a second storefront in SoHo. 

After the city’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Testa was eager to draw customers back into her store. She hired New York street singers to perform in front and bought a bubble machine so parents would have to stop in while their kids played, she said.

Reopening brought her more business opportunities as other storefronts returned. She created entranceway floral displays for Hugo Boss, Something Navy, and Naadam this year in an effort to also draw their clients.

NAADAM, Julia Testa

Testa’s work at Naadam in New York.

Julia Testa


Knowing what works and what doesn’t

Constantly analyzing what’s working is crucial for her business. Flower walls, for example, have been a hit. Decorating her store’s interior? Not so much.

Testa said business owners must ask customers what they want. In her case, she came to realize that perfectly curated furniture was a waste of money. Instead, customers wanted candles, which she began to sell after speaking with shoppers.

Testa has spent a decade building her business. From booking life-changing events to navigating COVID-19, it has not always been easy, she said. But being an entrepreneur is an act of passion, and connecting with clients and watching her team blossom has made it worth it.

Julia Testa

Testa.

Julia Testa


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