On the job: Alexandra Thune of Honeysuckle Hill
We asked Thune, who founded the Brooklyn flower-delivery service Honeysuckle Hill, about her job. Here's what she had to say.
Tue Sep 17 2013
Photograph: Courtesy Alexandra Thune
Instead of running out to the bodega for some flowers, wouldn't it be nice to just wake up and find a beautifully arranged bouquet at your doorstep every week? Alexandra Thune thinks so, which is why she started the floral-delivery service Honeysuckle Hill (honeysucklehill.us) this summer. It's sorta like Birchbox for flowers: Thune creates custom arrangements in her Ditmas Park apartment, which are then delivered throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan (the latter is restricted to the area between Wall Street and Union Square, and a $10 delivery fee applies.)
The 34-year-old entrepreneur was inspired by, of all things, Three's Company—she wanted to emulate the character of Janet Wood, who owned a flower shop. She made her first floral arrangements in 2007, when a coworker at Barneys asked her if she'd tale care of his wedding flowers. "I just dove into it, and started researching online," she says. "This was before Pinterest and all that stuff, so I had to actually look at magazines and do my research. I said, 'You know what? I can do this.' And I did it. And it's been a continuous part of my life since then."
We asked Thune what it's like to run a flower-delivery start-up—here's what she had to say.
Can you explain the idea behind Honeysuckle Hill?
It's flowers by subscription: You can get flowers once a week, once every other week or once a month. I have three different sizes, so if you wanted a smaller, more demure bouquet, I could do that. Then there's our lush bouquet, and that's like a big grand bouquet that you would put in a front entrance. If you have requests for a certain flower or color schemes, I'm able to accommodate a lot of that.
What made you want to start the company?
When you buy flowers at the deli, you don't know where they're coming from. The flowers don't last very long. Usually, for the price you would pay for a bouquet that I would do, you get one or two varieties of flowers at the deli. Then you're like, "What do I do with these things?" Whereas I get a wide variety of flowers: They're totally fresh, they're picked by me, a lot of them are locally sourced, and they're interesting. I want the flowers to be fun and a surprise and not stressful at all. It's not like on Pinterest; you see all these things and they're so aspirational, you don't think you could do it yourself or have that for yourself, but I think you can.
What was the final push for you to make Honeysuckle Hill a reality?
It actually came together really quickly. I started brainstorming about it and went on a trip with my family to Bermuda. There's just flowers everywhere and it just spoke to me. So I started really working on it. When we got back, I said, "Let's make flyers, hang them up, make a website, do this, do that," and we did it, so we're doing it.
Describe what a typical day might be like for you.
I wake up at about 4:30am and go to the flower district. I usually take the subway, although if I know I'll be buying more flowers than I can comfortably carry, I'll drive in with a friend—I don't drive, I'm from Brooklyn. Then it's the best part of the day: picking out all of the flowers I'll be using for my bouquets. I like 28th Street Flowers (107 W 28th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, 212-967-5610) because they have a lot of locally grown flowers, and interesting greens and branches.
Then, I heard back to Ditmas Park, and put together that day's deliveries. I usually put together between two and five bouquets a day. Once the bouquets are perfect, I snap a few pictures, wrap them up and start with the day's deliveries. At this point, it's manageable to where I can make it when the customer wants. Ideally, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are my delivery days. But if someone needs them on Saturday mornings, that's fine. You have a job and you need me to deliver later? I can do that as well.
What's the most exciting or coolest thing about your job?
I love going to the flower market and being there that early in the morning. You see so much stuff—there's a couple that does rare flowers and plants. I love looking at and taking pictures of that stuff. Working with clients and helping people, when I do events and make bouquets as gifts, I love. It's very sentimental. Making people happy is so gratifying. Ultimately I just feel most comfortable and at peace when I'm around nature. Being able to use flowers to express myself creatively brings me so much joy.
What are the challenges of running the business?
Logistics, just because I have a toddler that I'm home with. Getting someone to care for him and getting up really early in the morning and making sure the deliveries go out and make sure everyone gets what they want. It's that kind of stuff. The actual putting the bouquets together is my joy and brings me so much happiness. It's challenging in terms of just making sure the composition is right but that's part of it.
Between conditioning the flowers, trimming them and arranging them, it usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes [per bouquet]. I'm always stepping back from the flowers to see where the next stems should go. I once had someone, who wasn't a customer, request several arrangements that had to be a very specific dimension, something like 28 inches by 37 inches, for a wedding that was happening three days later. It was very bizarre and not at all possible. I had to turn them down.
Contact Alexandra Thune at 917-348-6080 or honeysucklehill.us. Bouquets $25–$55; free delivery in Brooklyn, $10 delivery charge for Manhattan.
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