A startup florist worried the pandemic would kill her business; delivering surprise bouquets helped it thrive

Lisa Wiencek arranges flowers in October at her FloraLore booth at the Oak Lawn Farmers Market. The Tinley Park resident launched a Community Uplift Project during the pandemic, taking nominations and donations to deliver small, surprise arrangements to people. When the COVID-19 pandemic really started to take hold in March and the first stay-at-home orders went into place, like many small business owners Tinley Park’s Lisa Wiencek felt blindsided.

“At the beginning of COVID, I was like, ‘I want to chill out. I don’t know what I’m going to do,’” Wiencek said. “I just shut down.”

Wiencek, 34, had just started FloraLore, a floral design company, out of her home studio roughly a year and a half ago. But 2020 marked the first full year for her, when she expected to get the business off the ground and truly up and running.

COVID-19, and the restrictions and anxieties that came with it, quickly changed her expectations. She was trying to regroup.

“Then, I got three calls wanting flowers in the span of maybe two days,” Wiencek said. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe I need to come out of hiding.’ But then I was realizing to fulfill those orders, I was buying more than I actually needed, because I buy wholesale bunches. What can I do?”

That is when she remembered posts she saw in a Facebook group, where some fellow florists mentioned they had started programs during their slow months. They would take nominations and send surprise flowers.

“It wasn’t called Community Uplift, but it’s basically the same thing,” Wiencek said. “I was like, ‘That sounds really beautiful.’”

She saw an opportunity to help some folks through the trying times ahead while using flowers she had bought in bulk. FloraLore’s Community Uplift Project was born.

She was about to make a connection through one of those deliveries and turn the effort into something much bigger.

“I got a call from somebody who owns a pizza parlor a little bit south of where we live,” Wiencek said of Tony’s Villa Rosa Pizzeria in Frankfort. “He was like, ‘I just wanted to say thank you. You delivered one to my mother.’

“So we started exchanging flowers for pizzas. I sent out some from his shop, actually. I brought about 20 to his shop that he then distributed to his customers. It started taking off.”

People started posting about the flowers they had received. And FloraLore was getting more nominations and donations on her website on a page set up for that purpose.

“I think overall I delivered 262 arrangements,” Wiencek said, with her site noting she received $1,820 in donations for the program. “I guesstimated $10 per, which covers the cost of delivery and flowers, but it’s not quite the retail price. ”She took a hiatus from the program in the warmer months while she was doing farmers markets in Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Mount Greenwood. Lisa Wiencek talks with a customer in October at the Oak Lawn Farmers Market. Wiencek said one of the things she enjoys most about floral design is […]

Source: A startup florist worried the pandemic would kill her business; delivering surprise bouquets helped it thrive