Global Matters

Camelback Flowershop keeps business in bloom, despite COVID-19

NFL’s Larry Fitzgerald recognizes one of his favorite local businesses in national ad

April 23, 2020, 6:49 PM Eastern Time
Left: A florist at Camelback Flowershop in Phoenix Arizona arranges flowers while wearing a protective mask and gloves. Right: Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals supports one of his favorite community businesses in a Visa ad running during this week’s NFL Draft.

Business was going well for Teresa Wilson. Eighteen years after opening the doors to Camelback Flowershop in Phoenix, Wilson had 26 employees, three delivery vans and the phone rang off the hook from 7am until 7pm most days. Peak season was just beginning as brides were filling orders for the year. “It was wonderful. We had big plans for growing and for expanding. And I was totally debt-free,” says Wilson.

And then COVID-19 hit. Within two weeks, she had to lay off half her staff, rework her shop to accommodate social distancing guidelines and rethink how to run a her business during a global pandemic. It hasn’t been easy, as most small business owners will attest, but she has persevered with a little patience, ingenuity and hope. Here’s her story.

 

Hi Teresa, so tell us about your shop.

Well, we're more than a flower shop. We have a ton of gifts. Everything is local from Arizona with some hard goods from small businesses in LA and a couple in Brooklyn. On the website, you can build your own box, a handmade wooden box that one of my employees makes at home. You can pick and choose so it’s a gift that is totally customizable. We sell art and beautiful vases that range anywhere from $30 to $350, so there's something for everyone.

 

How have things changed for your business since Arizona issued a stay-at-home order?

Our numbers have dropped substantially, probably 40 percent or more. I would say 95 percent of our brides wanted their money back. To refund money on top of the dropped business, that was rough. We’d get some flowers shipped in from Miami and all over California. Most of the ports have closed for fresh flowers and the prices to ship have gone way up. I've been driving out to Northern Arizona, which is a five-hour round trip, to pick up locally grown flowers.

 

 

Left: Camelback Flowershop’s owner Teresa Wilson. Right: Employees in the shop practice social distancing while fulfilling orders.

 

 

Has this setback forced you to think differently about how to run your business?

Oh my goodness. Yes, 100 percent differently. I mean, my wheels have been turning. It's kind of an exciting time for an entrepreneur. While I have an incredible amount of empathy for what's going on around the planet and for people who are sick and I wish it could be different, the business side of things, it's like, ‘Okay, what do we do now?’ You can find ways out in the midst of chaos in a completely different way.

For me, online sales have gone way up, which is great. Even just the way we handle people on the phones, the way we make things. We've always tried to make things really user friendly and very easy.

 

How have you collaborated with other small business owners in your community?

This weekend we're doing a pop-up shop with a local coffeehouse. The owner called me and he's like, "Let's do something together." We're now offering their coffee in our gift boxes and we are dropping off buckets of freshly wrapped flowers to their place because you can walk up to the window and get flowers. There are a bunch of us getting together and cross-marketing and helping each other out. There is this overwhelming sense of we’re in this together.

 

 

Left: A beautiful bouquet of flowers is ready for delivery. Right: An employee of Camelback Flowershop wears personal protective equipment while delivering orders.

 

 


In what ways have you been helping your community too?

I think it's just the way I was raised, but anytime I'm in a tough place, whether it's emotionally, financially, physically, my go-to is to give, even if I don't have anything to give. I find something to give because there's such incredible energy within that. We’ve teamed up with several local charities, sending flowers supporting neglected kids and homes for the elderly.

 

Have you had a chance to think about the future and what recovery might look like?

Every time I think about the future, I think of nothing but goodness really. I'm excited about the future. I think that our planet has just sort of been on a rat race for a long time. And to be able to be home with my family more and to take walks every day. To have clients that come by and they're talking to us through the window and they hang out for a while and they just want to sort of connect. Everything was so driven by e-commerce, which is still awesome and amazing. That's how I shop. But to have these little moments of ...real life. It's really refreshing and beautiful. You realize you can do with a lot less.

 

 

 

 
Check out Camelback Flowers in a new Visa commercial running during the NFL draft that features a “shout-out” from their friend and NFL star Larry Fitzgerald.

 

 

You can support small businesses facing COVID-19 by visiting the Visa Back to Business Project on Visa.com. Got a small business of your own? Check out these small business resources on the Visa Blog and learn about recent initiatives supporting women businesses and more ways Visa is helping support the COVID-19 response.

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