Floramama: A blooming business
Chloé Roy’s Story
An idea takes root
Chloé Roy didn’t really start to consider becoming a horticulturalist until adulthood. Like many people, she had a few job experiences under her belt that were more or less satisfactory, then she got a job as a vegetable grower with Grelinette, a micro-farm located in Saint-Armand in Montérégie. While working in that environment, which was “as enriching personally as it was professionally,” she says, she came to the clear realization that what she really wanted was her own farm.
“I wanted to accomplish something by launching a viable business that would serve both my community and my family. An organic farm doesn’t require a big initial investment. Those were just the right conditions for breaking into entrepreneurship.”
The entrepreneur first considered growing vegetables. To this end, she started searching for possible products that would allow her to stand out in the market—something other than the usual cucumbers and tomatoes, yet at the same time without having to “introduce some new unknown root vegetable from Zimbabwe that I would need to promote and teach people about in order to sell it successfully.” Instead she opted to produce flowers, in a similar vein to the farm Floret in the state of Washington, launched by Erin Benzakein, a pioneer of the alternative, local flower-production market. “When I saw what she had accomplished there,” explains Roy, “it was clear what I would do: Instead of feeding people’s bodies, I would feed their souls.”
As of 2018 Floramama is in its fifth year of production. The flowers are cultivated with the help of a biointensive method of micro-agriculture Roy learned while at the Grelinette farm—a proven technique that is both profitable and requires little space in terms of land. To wit, this year Roy, her partner and a trainee (who will become a full-time employee next season) produced all their flowers using only three-quarters of an acre, which is only a fifth of the land rented by Floramama.
Roy’s farm produces over 50 different varieties of flowers. In addition to the new varieties introduced each year (between five and 10), new colours and new forms of these varieties are added every season. “Our bouquets are composed mainly by colour,” explains the entrepreneur.
Having several varieties allows the horticulturist to be prepared in case one particular species is ravaged by insects or inclement weather, plus this diversity ensures that plant diseases can be controlled, an aspect that Roy sees as being sort of poetic. “It’s beautiful to see that every farm is capable of a sort of freewheeling carelessness.” She also explains that organic production necessarily means its produce will have a certain “natural” aspect, which clients need to accept. “Sometimes the leaves may be a bit spotted. But the flower is still really beautiful. It’s a good learning opportunity for clients to see that the product they’re receiving is still beautiful in its natural state, and is even quite unique.”
Floramama flowers are sold through seasonal subscriptions and distributed at the farmer’s market at Laurier metro from mid-May to the end of September, as well as at pickup points in Villeray, Bromont, Frelighsburg, St-Lambert and Westmount starting in 2019. They’re also distributed at Marchés Tradition in Frelighsburg and in all Avril supermarkets in Quebec. Roy also supplies some wedding florists, and this year she even sent some surplus flowers to wholesalers, although she does not intend to rely on this supply chain.
“We’re experiencing a nice little period of growth,” Roy states candidly about her company. “I like change, so I’m looking for new ways to keep growing. There’s always room for improvement in terms of production, but focusing solely on that is a bit much. So I’m looking out for new avenues.”
Extending her field of expertise
For next season, Roy will continue to promote her existing products (beautiful products that are “easy” to showcase, she specifies) and intends to add one or two new components to the farm, such as selling seeds. In any case, Roy wants to keep things small while continuing to develop high-quality products and indulging her passion. “I really like being the person in charge. For me, being an entrepreneur means being able to practise all the little professions that are encompassed by this particular one. I’m responsible for production, planning, marketing, plus I handle customer communications. And I do floral arranging—for me that’s essential. I need novelty, it’s what keeps me sharp.”
Floramama in Numbers:
Over 50: Number of flower varieties produced
8: Points of sale
150: Number of subscribers in 2018
20: Number of production weeks in a year
Between 200 and 400: Number of bouquets produced each week
3 (4 in 2019): Number of full-time employees
6: Number of greenhouses
70%: Percentage of total production that takes place in the field
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Visit Floramama’s website