Coronavirus Pandemic: Your Insight: Virtual florist works through the shutdown

Bonnie Arnold of Bonnie’s Floral Designs says attitude and technology are the keys to persevering through personal and business challenges.

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, business still is blooming for Bonnie Arnold.

She opened Bonnie’s Floral Designs Inc. in 2004 in a storefront with the slogan, “where business is blooming.”

Arnold created and delivered arrangements for occasions like anniversaries, weddings and funerals and sold flowers to people who came to the store.

After a few years, the shop succumbed to the cash flow vs. expenses challenge that comes with supporting the monthly lease for a brick-and-mortar operation. 

Arnold reinvented the business, moving it into a small building behind her home where she could store the perishable inventory in a refrigerator and where she could design floral arrangements.

That made it a little easier to weather the recession that began in 2008, she said.

Then Arnold’s home and her business were flooded in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. Overnight, she had to find somewhere to live and a way to stay in business.

“This is not my first go-round with a major calamity,” Arnold said March 25.

She said there are two keys to persevering through personal and business challenges: attitude and technology.

“I tend to look at my cup as half full. I take on adversity and find ways to do things differently. I’m not afraid of it,” said Arnold, who was JAX Chamber’s Overall Small Business Leader of the Year in 2009.

Part of her business plan from the beginning is using technology for marketing and taking orders.

Arnold said she has clients who purchase flower arrangements at, on her Facebook page, via email and even through text messages.

“I’m a virtual florist. I do so much through technology, my store isn’t closed,” she said.

Perhaps prophetically, Arnold replaced her 7-year-old computer just days before COVID-19 was a headline.

“I depend on it. It’s my primary, if not only, connection with the world, so I made sure I have the technology I need,” she said.

After the hurricane destroyed her home studio, Arnold moved the business into a small warehouse space where she has a walk-in cooler and an area where she creates her floral designs. She pays for the design space by the hour and only when she uses it.

That, and the way she designed her service, makes it easy to comply with social distancing without negatively affecting business.

“I’m still getting orders. I pick up the fresh florals and take them to the warehouse. There aren’t many people there, so I don’t interact,” she said.

“Then I deliver the flowers to the customer’s home and leave them at the door, so there’s no contact there either,” Arnold said.

The shutdown’s timing didn’t hit Arnold’s business as much as it could have. For example, she said only one wedding party has canceled its order.

She anticipated fewer orders in March, followed by at least two busier months.

“I did very well on Valentine’s Day. March is a slow month anyway, but April is Administrative Professionals month. Then Mother’s Day is in May,” Arnold said.

Her advice for dealing with the shutdown is to maintain a positive attitude and continue to take care of business.

“I believe you have a choice in how you react to things. Instead of ‘woe is me,’ take that energy and figure out proactive ways of doing things differently,” Arnold said.

“I may be the old lady on the block, but I’m never afraid of new things.”