Rene Rodriguez is a life-long entrepreneur and the President, CEO and Founder of Speaking Roses. Here he talks about what attracted him to his current industry in the second part of his Entrepreneur Exchange feature:
What is it about the business/industry that you are in that made it attractive to you?
The possibility of entering into an old, $20-billion-dollar industry with many traditions and challenges also presented opportunities in that I saw we could change it, combine it and expand it into a potential $80-billion-dollar market with personalized flowers. This whole new concept expands the industry in a way that the floral industry alone would have never been able to.
Also, I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. I realize that most people in any industry truly believe that the way they do things is the only way to do things. What intrigued me most about this industry is that, in many instances, I could see quite clearly how things could be done differently.
I learned a long time ago that every time you see a very old industry, it can be changed. You can do something with regard to that industry that will impact it in a way that is measureable. It doesn’t matter what it is ― funeral, real estate, jewelry, you name it ― there are always a number of ways you can impact an industry.
Coming from the relatively young promotional and marketing industry, I viewed the flower industry as one of the oldest in the world. So I thought to myself, “Flowers are one of the greatest products in the world, one of the top gifts in the world, and they’re perfect in combination with other products like jewelry, chocolates, perfume, etc.” I realized that, most of the time, the real reason people use flowers is to acknowledge life’s special or big events. My background in the promotional industry also caused me to ask myself, “What if I can create something that will combine messages and flowers?”
After all, in the 1800’s someone broke out of a paradigm and created a new way of expression ― the greeting card. Now we all know the greeting card today is everywhere. Everybody uses it, and it was literally a NEW WAY OF EXPRESSION at one time, a new industry that changed the way humans expressed their feelings.
I thought to myself, “What if I can do something like that?” If somebody can grab a piece of paper, put graphics, emotions and sentiments with it and give birth to one of the most popular industries in the world, I can do the same thing, but with flowers!
Another thing that really intrigued me was the flower industry’s slogan ― “Say It with Flowers!” It occurred to me that flowers never really “say” what you really want them to; it’s always implied. The reality is that their slogan should say, “Mean It with Flowers!”
So when I created the Speaking Roses concept, I thought, “Wow, this could be a huge, amazing deal because now we’re creating another “NEW WAY OF EXPRESSION” ― a totally different way for people to actually say what they mean, which brings to life that old slogan.
Knowing that the rose is the national flower of the United States and that the average American buys flowers two to four times a year, I saw this huge opportunity. In addition, most shop owners simply do things the same way their parents did before them. The ones that are doing things differently are making huge money. So I thought about combining flowers with expression, combining human emotions with Mother Nature to really personalize flowers.
I also saw the potential for personalized flowers to be deemed appropriate for virtually any event, not just for corporations, but in any business, for fund raisers, for recognition and for a lot of things that really mean something! I realized that they can be sold in a lot of different places, not just in the regular flower shop. There’s so much technology available today that flowers can now be sold through affiliate programs in jewelry shops, malls, gift shops, practically anywhere without even having to have the flowers physically in that location.
And our product can be combined with so many different industries! Given my own background, I knew that this product would be a huge tool for companies to use in their marketing programs in a way that flowers without messages just can’t.
In the early days we met with the owner of a very nice hair salon, and we gave her six roses so she could give them to her customers. Each one had a phrase like, “You look beautiful”, “Thank you for coming”, “Thank you for your business”, or “We appreciate your being one of our customers” ― each rose had a sincere phrase. When we returned the next day we were told that one of the customers began to cry upon receiving a rose because she was having a really bad day and the shop owner had given her a rose that said, “You are special to us”. The customer’s reaction made the shop owner realize that giving something back to the customer like a flower with a message can really make a huge difference. It set her hair salon apart from all the others, and she felt right away would get her shop more business.
Of course it was not a huge deal, but it was between 8 to 12 roses per day. The margins are pretty good in this business, so I knew that if I could go to 20 to 30 different hair salons, I’d be in business. It then occurred to me that anybody can replicate the model for how this is done. From there, we approached marketing companies. In less than six months, we got a big deal ― a company wanted to use our flowers for a promotional campaign, and it turned out to be a $45,000 order. How many flower shops can sell a $45,000.00 order? They can’t!
And that was the beginning of the incredibly successful strategy we have in place today.
Rene Rodriguez started his first small business at age 14. Since then he has started and sold five successful businesses across different industries. An entrepreneur for more than two decades, Rodriguez is currently the President, CEO and Founder of Speaking Roses, which started in 2002, went worldwide in 2008 and is currently operating in more than 25 countries.