The purpose of Client Tell is to spotlight the incredible work of our clients, and to help businesses learn from and connect with each other. We sat down with entrepreneur Cameron Hardesty, the Founder & CEO of Poppy, to learn how this Washington, D.C. startup is revolutionizing the floral industry, from farmer to consumer.

When you spend five minutes with entrepreneur Cameron Hardesty, you can’t help but notice her enthusiasm for sparking creativity and spreading joy with the beauty of flowers. The founder’s heartfelt mission and passion to reinvent the floral industry is both inspiring and contagious!

Cameron studied floral design with the best of the best, learning under her mentor in the White House flower shop as well as a Master Florist in Germany. She went on to help scale one of the biggest floral e-commerce gifting start-ups in the country, overseeing farm-direct procurement and product development.

A New Idea is Planted

As Cameron’s friends began getting married, they asked her about the extravagant quotes they were receiving from the D.C. area floral vendors. They were left frustrated by high minimum orders and low transparency about the outrageous prices. As she designed the florals for her own big day in 2017, she realized it was possible to combine farm-fresh flowers, talented designers, and on-trend floral designs, while still staying within a reasonable budget. She recalled:

“I knew there had to be a way to create a more authentic and joyful way to do wedding flowers, and I knew I could help fill that gap. I started Poppy with a new, transparent model in mind.”

In July of 2019, Poppy was founded as the florist for the “anti-Bridezilla.” Today’s brides can’t always splurge on lavish floral packages, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want their flowers to be stylish and beautiful. Poppy meets this need by providing tailored packages, low order minimums, and pricing integrity, without sacrificing quality and customer service.

With a growing network of work-from-home floral designers around the country, the startup takes a new approach to event florals. Cameron personally vets each designer, partnering only with the most highly-trained, skilled, and experienced. When a new wedding contract is signed, the best designer for the job is selected according to their location and strengths, and then set up with everything they need to serve the customer successfully. Whether her nuptials are taking place in New York City or Austin, Texas, a Poppy bride gets the on-site care and service of a boutique florist.

Hitting Rocky Soil

The innovative business model was an overnight success, and Poppy quickly booked up for its first wedding season of 2020. Then the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe and changed everything for the new startup. Cameron remarked:

“When COVID hit, it was clear that big events like weddings weren’t going to happen for a while. One by one, my customers began cancelling and postponing their weddings, or turning them into virtual events. I watched my flower farmer partners who were already struggling face the possibility of shutting down their operations. All their gorgeous flowers were about to go to waste. I knew I had to be creative and flexible if I was going to keep my business going during this uncertain season.

The florist immediately began offering a micro-wedding package for couples who still wanted to say their “I dos,” but on a much smaller, socially-distanced scale. “Our team was nimble, quickly adjusting our operations to meet our customers’ needs,” explained Cameron.

As stay-at-home orders went into effect around the country, Cameron noticed another need in the marketplace. Since people were stuck inside, they were looking for ways to bring nature and beauty indoors. The entrepreneur responded by launching Poppy at Home, enabling customers to buy premium flowers directly. They can purchase kits of loose stems at a bargain price, giving them everything they need to do their own flower arranging from the safety of their homes. Instead of just getting flowers, they’re getting a unique, crafting experience.

The idea took off like wildfire, and as the kit orders flooded in, Poppy’s revenue more than tripled in April of 2020. “When most businesses were trying to figure out how to keep their doors open, we added a whole new revenue stream,” said Cameron. “We received hundreds of Mother’s Day orders, as people were looking for creative ways to recognize the holiday even if they couldn’t be together in person. I was thrilled to be able to meet another customer need and support farmers at risk of going out of business.”

Flourishing In the Storm

Less than one year after its launch, Poppy is quickly growing its team as well as its floral designer network. Cameron plans to grow Poppy at Home and take her event work nationwide in the years ahead. When asked about her advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Cameron replied, “Make sure you aren’t trying to do it all yourself. Select your team of advisors, investors, and employees carefully, surrounding yourself with people who will support you, actively help you with strategy, and give honest feedback.”

The founder also had some words of wisdom concerning leading a new business during a crisis like the Coronavirus pandemic: Times like this provide a lesson for all of us. Maybe it’s patience, or flexibility, or learning to be still. Be open to the lesson this experience is giving you. For Poppy, the crisis gave us the nudge we needed to unleash our potential, and to bravely do all the things we knew we could do.”

The Business Behind the Blooms

When it comes to legal counsel, Poppy has partnered with Fourscore Business Law from day one, as the startup conducted friends and family and angel investing. Cameron explained:

“My team at Fourscore has been integral to our success, particularly in the area of investor negotiations. Jesse and Sean are true partners, and they care about me and understand my business. They don’t just give me advice, they look out for me. It’s so valuable to have a lawyer that gives help and perspective even when you don’t think to ask for it.”

As Cameron prepares to head into the next round of seed investing, she’s optimistic about all the opportunities our “new normal” will bring.  “This pandemic has shaken up the industry, but I see an opportunity for a whole new flower company to emerge,” she said. “I think Poppy will be at the forefront!”

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