Where is our industry going and how can we change its direction?
That was one of the questions a group of women set out to answer in 2014, during an inaugural women-only trip to the European Flower Trials. The result, one year later, is the formation of a visionary industry group, Luxflora.
The women behind the organization, Rebecca Lusk and Kate Santos, happen to both work for Dümmen Orange, but Luxflora is an independent entity that’s completely separate from the breeder. The organization aims to bring women together from all areas of horticulture to collaborate on two goals:
• Identify solutions and strategies for the end consumer to promote plant usage in their everyday life
• Promote women and develop a network of women in the horticulture industry
These goals unite to define the mission statement: “Luxflora is a leading group of female professionals in the horticulture industry. Our mission is to promote the usage of flowers in everyday life.”
Industry Women Collaborate On A Common Goal
The trip to the European Flower Trials in 2014 was a good gauge for the industry’s need for a group like this. Despite the timing of the trip, at the height of the spring season, all of the women who attended said they found value in it, and were enthusiastically willing to support it.
“We wanted to try something different, and we felt that it was a good opportunity to see how a group of women in all different aspects of the industry — from marketing and research and development to production, owners and managers — could come together and collaborate,” Santos says. “Particularly in this case, in week 24, when new introductions were coming through the market, it was really insightful because we saw what new products the women gravitated toward. With their industry background, it was a nice marriage of the two aspects. We were pleasantly surprised with how well it came together.”
During the group’s think tank session on the last day of the trip, conversation ultimately distilled down to a common passion — promoting the industry’s products and making daily flower and plant purchases second nature for consumers. When the women examined where the horticulture industry is in terms of profit, and what needs to be changed to promote flowers to consumers, they were willing to put aside any notion of competition to work together for the common good of the industry.
And who better to drive an initiative to connect with our current consumers, the majority of whom are women, than women who breed, grow, market and sell flowers for a living?
“There is that point of understanding and association that women inherently can help provide in the industry, because we can relate on that level, to a certain degree, to our target customer,” Santos says. “That gives us an opportunity to leverage.”
Naming the organization Luxflora came from two words and ideas — flora, for floriculture and the tagline, women in flowers, and lux, part of the word luxury, because “most women want to be associated with luxury, and be considered stylish and smart,” Lusk says.
Women Strengthen One Another
Another common thread during the Flower Trials trip was the comfort the women in the group said they felt speaking up among their peers. Creating a group to promote women’s careers in horticulture will hopefully offer networking opportunities, provide a central place to share stories and backgrounds and increase women’s confidence to present their ideas at their own organizations, Lusk says.
“If we as Luxflora can offer opportunities that will strengthen women’s ideas through collaboration, and give them more confidence, I think that is a wonderful thing,” she says.
Strengthening women’s voices could be just what the industry needs — to hear ideas that could provide the next big gamechanger in promoting our products, Santos says.
“With any individual, you have different perspectives, and so if there are women in the industry who have great ideas but don’t feel that they have a voice or a platform to share them, maybe this organization gives them that platform to get their voices heard in a louder and more concerted way. And now we get to bring some of those ideas to the forefront that we haven’t thought of yet as an industry.”
Building The Dream; Launching The Network
Luxflora’s website will launch this month, and includes information on events and networking opportunities and will eventually profile different careers and women in horticulture.
“We want to build out the website to help tell those stories that will resonate with women, of how women in our industry have gotten to where they are in their careers,” Santos says. “We are still the minority in our industry, so our stories don’t always get out as often and as frequently, so centralizing them all in one place gives a little bit more power to that and also gives women a footpath for where they can go to find some opportunities.”
The organization will debut to the broader industry with its first event at Cultivate’15, where Luxflora will host Ketty Maisonrouge, the owner of KM & Company and an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Business School, where she teaches Luxury Strategy. The author of The Luxury Alchemist and an expert on innovative marketing strategy, Maisonrouge also serves on the board of directors for many start-up companies.
Once the foundational framework for the group is built and membership is developed, Santos and Lusk say they see many possibilities for Luxflora, including a platform for recruiting young women to careers in the industry.
“Networking will be a big aspect of this group; a lot of good can come out of networking,” Lusk says. “When you get a group of women together and they have the opportunity to talk, they naturally connect and share ideas and from there, it catches fire. We want to identify and focus on strategies that will help solve some of our industry issues with women, and one of those being bringing women into horticulture. At some point, this group could have the opportunity to sponsor a mentorship program.”
Ultimately, Lusk and Santos say they hope their enthusiasm about Luxflora catches on among women and men in the horticulture industry.
“We are really excited about Luxflora and what has inspired us to build this is the opportunities for women. One part of it is building a network or platform for women to connect and inspire one another, but then it’s a bigger picture than that,” Santos says. “It’s about focusing on getting people inspired to garden and decorate with flowers. And while it’s a women-led group that’s helping to push that, at the end of the day, this isn’t something any one singular person or company can do alone. This needs to be a large-scale effort, with many different directives and efforts to accomplish it.”
If you are a woman currently working in horticulture or pursuing a career in horticulture, you are invited to join Luxflora for its first event during Cultivate’15, on Monday, July 13 from 10 to 11 a.m. in Rooms C-223-225 at the Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Speaker Ketty Maisonrouge, owner of KM & Company, adjunct professor of Luxury Strategy at the Columbia University Business School and the author of The Luxury Alchemist, will present her ideas and expertise on luxury strategy marketing, and how it applies to horticulture.