A brief history of Petalon
Petalon was founded in 2014 by Florence Kennedy. Florence studied architecture at university, realised it wasn’t for her and after stumbling through a series of entirely unrelated jobs, found herself in a bit of a rut.
Watching her husband start his bicycle manufacturing business left her with an entrepreneurial itch that she had to scratch. She just needed the right idea.
Then one day, the aforementioned husband sent Florence’s boss what can only be described as an ugly bunch of flowers. Chatting to him about it afterwards, they agreed that at the kind of price a fledgling bicycle entrepreneur could afford, it was pretty much impossible to send something that wasn’t embarrassing.
The pair got their thinking caps on and reconsidered the entire process of sending flowers, starting with the person who wants to send them. Combining the bicycle culture they were so immersed in, their belief that businesses should give back to the environment as a default, a love of fresh, seasonal flowers and a desire for their business to retain a personal touch, an idea began to coalesce. Petalon was born.
The premise of the business was to offer fresh, seasonal flowers that were good value, wild in style and sustainably delivered. Every bunch included a donation to bee charities. The materials used to wrap the bouquets were all biodegradable, down to the plastic sheath that held the small water source, and everything was done by bike.
Every week, we design two fresh bouquets using seasonal, interesting flowers. We deliver these throughout the week before designing another the following weekend and starting again. This means we have a constantly changing offering, keeping things seasonal while making sure our wastage stays low. We offer a constantly evolving, beautiful product at a low price.
To start with it was just Florence, her bicycle and a trailer she and James built from plywood and stickers. She would ride down to the flower market at 5am each day (about 10 miles from their Hackney home), fill up with fresh flowers and ride home. She would then spend the morning putting together bouquets, wrapping them and packing them back in to her trailer. Afternoons were spent riding around London doing deliveries, personally handing her creations over to Petalon’s customers.
Business started slow. She didn’t have a budget for marketing (we still don’t!), relying on word of mouth and the quality of the service for things to grow. There were definitely moments where she wondered whether Petalon would become financially viable or if she might just collapse from exhaustion, but as the months passed, things began to pick up momentum. After a year of pedalling London’s streets, she was able to get some help with deliveries.
Word began to spread. The journalists we had been sending bouquets to back at the beginning started to take notice. Over a fairly short period of time, Petalon was featured by Vogue, Vanity Fair, Time Out and the Evening Standard to name just a few. Bicycle delivery made for a novel twist on the flower industry but the reality was that for us, it was simply the most practical way of getting our bouquets out there quickly and with care. The increased profile of the business and Petalon’s wild, seasonal style led to requests to do workshops and weddings, two things that quickly became a core part of our business.
As our reputation grew, Florence was invited to write her own floristry book. After a lot of fun, nearly as much procrastinating and several writing retreats to beautiful patches of England, her book Flowers Every Day was published with Pavilion.
Along came a new workshop and a baby. Florence and James’s daughter Clover arrived and Florence taking a bit of time off precipitated a more formal business structure. Becki became the business manager (and general captain of the ship “Petalon”), James took over operational stuff and we hired dedicated florists and riders.
People continued to write really nice stuff about the business and we began to expand our delivery area further and further from the centre of London. As we reached the limit of destinations we could realistically reach on a bicycle, we began to explore other options to get the flowers further afield. We started designing a box to deliver our bouquets using an overnight, carbon neutral courier service. After some vigorous testing of flower delivery boxes, most memorably involving Becki drop-kicking one full of flowers around the studio, we launched our postal service to the rest of Britain.
These days we’re based in a converted warehouse in E2 and provide the triple (floral) crown of flower delivery, workshops and weddings. Our focus remains on providing the best service we possibly can while minimising our impact on the environment. We’re continuing to grow organically, without the inflated marketing budgets and external investment that characterise our competitors. We try to remember where we’ve come from, hence this page on our website, but also to constantly evolve what we offer in an effort to provide for people who want flowers that don’t cost the earth.
Thanks for taking the time to read our story so far. It’s been an amazing ride and though we feel very lucky to have gotten where we are we’re also determined to make Petalon the absolute best it can be. The best way to keep up with the flowers we offer from week to week and our latest news is via our newsletter (you’ll even get a discount on your first order when you sign up), but it’s also worth checking out the Petalon Post, our dream journal, for a more in depth look at what we’re up to.