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Zinnia’s Andy Holz on the many trials of startup life

Zinnia has completed over 700 orders in the last year, and they’ve learned major lessons along the way. Since SPN first profiled Zinnia last August, the online floral marketplace team has been hustling. The team is currently working with one florist in Omaha. Zinna co-founder Andy Holz explained that they plan on expanding to Lincoln…

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The Zinnia team at the Flywheel headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Andy Holz.

Zinnia has completed over 700 orders in the last year, and they’ve learned major lessons along the way.

Since SPN first profiled Zinnia last August, the online floral marketplace team has been hustling.

The team is currently working with one florist in Omaha. Zinna co-founder Andy Holz explained that they plan on expanding to Lincoln and Kansas City once they secure their business and quality control plans.

Quality control has been a challenge since the team presented their pitch during last year’s Straight Shot Demo Day, according to Holz.

“The judges, who were business experts and investors, asked us how we were going to find the right partner in each city and how we were going to maintain quality control,” said Holz. “Those two things have been what we have strived to learn and grow into this past year.”

Finding “The Zinnia Way”

In November Zinnia announced their plans to expand to Kansas City. Holz explained that the team originally backed out of plans to partner there because they wanted to create training resources for all of the florists that they were going to partner with.

“We want to have more quality control,” said Holz. “Our materials will train our partner florists on what we call ‘The Zinnia Way.’ We want to make sure that whether you’re getting your flowers in Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis or St. Louis that we are consistent on what the Zinnia product looks like.”

Holz explained the pains of trying make sure that every bouquet looks like the photos pictured on the website.

“It’s a real problem because it’s not easy,” said Holz. “The colors can look different depending on the season, as well as how the flowers may be wrapped. We really had to button up those processes by creating training materials and resources for our florists.”

Holz added that the team plans on getting back in a partnership within Kansas City within the next few months.

Discovering the right partners

Finding specific partnerships with florists has also been a challenge for the company. Holz said that they learned quickly that many florist specialize in events or day to day arrangements, and not every florist operated the same way.

“We had to realize the very specific type of florist we needed in each city,” said Holz.  “They have to have the capacity and technical skills to handle our orders.”

Holz said that coordinating seasonal marketing efforts with the expertise of local florists was a challenge, but the effects validated that they made the right partnership decisions.

“That’s why we partner local florists, because they’re the experts on the logistics,” said Holz. “We learned that we’d rather have 100 orders made that the customer loves, rather than 150 orders that are subpar.”

Rethinking the product

The team has also made some major efforts with quality control by making it easier for the florists to package the flowers.

“The water tubes we were using previously were sort of cumbersome for our florists to use,” said Holz. “You had to fill each tube up with water and squeeze them onto the stem. It was just a time consuming process.”

Holz explained that the team fixed the issue by introducing a new product for florist to use called “Arrive Alive.”

“It serves the same purpose, but it wraps around all of the stems,” said Holz.

Experimenting with gift boxes, bigger sizes

During the last year the team also experimented with partnering with local artisans to add gift boxes to the customer’s order options.

“We were really excited to work with other partners, but we realized quickly that people were mainly coming to our site just to buy flowers,” said Holz. “We learned that we just wanted to focus on flowers for the time being.”

Since August the team also realized that sometimes people like to spend a lot of money on flowers.

“We realized that no one really wants to buy the cheapest arrangement of flowers for their 45th wedding anniversary,” said Holz. “Now you have the option for different sizes for each type of bouquet we offer.”

Holz explained that with this tweak upon checkout, the business is now able to capture the attention of multiple target audiences.

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Launching Zinnia 2.0

Holz explained that soon Zinnia will be launching their new site and it will feature customer accounts so that customers can sign in through Facebook, save credit card information and save specific dates so that they are reminded of holidays that they may want to buy flowers on such as anniversaries or birthdays.

Holz explained that with Zinnia 2.0 customers can also subscribe monthly, bimonthly or quarterly for flower delivery.

“Our previous site was just using Squarespace so it wasn’t directly tailored for flower shipment,” said Holz. “The language, personal messaging and delivery dates are just a lot more simpler for flower buyers.”

The new site will also feature a much easier check out flow for customers including ZIP code filters so that the site can tell a customer right away if Zinnia delivers to that area.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a substantial improvement,” said Holz.


Mel Lucks is a regional freelance journalist and former intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM.

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