With sky-high pricing and low tech adoption, the wedding floral industry is ready for a new approach.
Hi, my name is Cameron Hardesty, and I’m the CEO & Founder of Poppy. I started Poppy in 2019 to re-invent wedding flowers from the ground up. I spent four years helping scale one of the biggest contenders to 1-800-Flowers in 25 years. I had trained for a career in the floral industry in a highly unusual way; while working in the Executive Branch of the government as a speechwriter and digital strategist by day, I learned floral design on weekends at The White House flower shop. Laura Dowling, the former Chief Floral Designer at The White House, introduced me to a world of floral design I could have never imagined before.
I’ve traveled to Germany to learn floral design from one of the world’s best floral artists, Gregor Lersch. I’ve traveled to the world’s best flower farms in Holland, Colombia, and Ecuador to find the most beautiful flowers at the best prices. Now, I’m combining my passion for floral design with my supply chain know-how to deliver on-trend, lush florals at historically low prices to customers in the know.
Along the way, more than a handful of people asked me to help them with their wedding flowers. They’d come to me frustrated with the high price tags on the proposals they’d gotten back from floral vendors, and looking for a better way.
Then, in 2017, I managed the florals for my own wedding in Dripping Springs, Texas. When I realized how much money I saved planning, procuring and coordinating the florals myself, I distinctly remember pacing the floor of the warehouse where my design team was working, and a lightbulb went off in my head: “I think there’s a business here.”
But, at that moment, it was two days before my wedding and I thought it would be better to wait until after I got married that weekend to figure out what the business would look like.
As I researched the wedding floral industry, I discovered something surprising: the tech-enabled convenience that had already infiltrated the floral gifting industry, starting with 1-800-Flowers and FTD 25 years ago, and later, with The Bouqs, Farmgirl Flowers, and UrbanStems, never quite made it to the wedding and event side of the industry.
Sure, you can buy your wedding flowers online from Sam’s Club or Costco, have them shipped to your door two days before your wedding, and cross your fingers, but The Knot’s annual wedding survey shows that nearly 70% of people having a wedding opt to have a florist manage their flowers.
I second that notion -- even for an experienced designer like myself, doing your flowers the week of your wedding can become an overwhelming and exhausting task. But as people planning a wedding know, DIY wedding flowers can seem like a good option once you start receiving florist proposals 3x your stated budget.
Today’s brides and grooms have demanding, full-time jobs. They have a million things on their to-do lists, and most don’t have the time to spend countless hours on the phone or meeting in-person with multiple florists, only to discover all are out of their budget. So many people planning a wedding have told me they wish there was an easier, more straightforward way to handle their wedding flowers.
There’s one more piece to the Poppy puzzle: the talented people who bring our customers’ florals to life.
Nine years ago, I was working in crisis communications at a large PR agency. I knew I wanted to spend my days differently, to use my hands and my love of beauty. I wanted to put creativity at the center of my day, but I didn’t know how.
I started sending flowers to myself -- an “arrange your own” subscription of loose stems that I would turn into flower arrangements when my comms work was done. At my junior-level salary, it was a luxury I could barely afford, but it was one I felt I couldn’t live without.
For years, I grappled with the pull toward a creative life and its conflict with the “normal” career path I felt I should want, but never did. Flowers were my pathway out of a day-to-day office job that never really filled me up.
As I gained confidence in my abilities, friends started asking me to do their wedding flowers. I learned a lot by trial-and-error, and, at times, felt overwhelmed. But so many generous designers shared expertise and guidance with me at the moments I needed it the most.
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever felt stuck in a corporate career path that, at times, can feel meaningless. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with what it means to express yourself creatively in a world that values STEM and spreadsheets over creativity and design.
That’s why I see Poppy as a platform to provide good-paying jobs for floral designers who are forging their own path. I want to create opportunities for designers who have been in the business for years, and could use a sales boost -- and for designers with only a year of experience, seeking to learn from the best.
I’m building a network of like-minded designers in our headquarters of Washington D.C. (and beyond) to help bring our customers’ wedding floral visions to life.
If you’re a customer looking for a better, more affordable way to get your wedding flowers, I encourage you to pick Poppy. If you’re a designer in search of exciting work at top-of-market rates, I invite you to join Poppy. Together, one wedding at a time, we’re going to make the world a more beautiful and creative place.