A new flower delivery service is blooming in New York City.
UrbanStems offers free one-hour deliveries of bouquets of flowers from sustainable farms in South America. Originally based in Washington, D.C., the company expanded to Manhattan in December 2014 and Brooklyn this week. Bouquets can be ordered online at UrbanStems.com or through the iOS app.
Ajay Kori and Jeff Sheely, two of UrbanStems' five founders, became friends in college. In the years after graduation, Kori was living in New York City and frequently sent -- or tried to send -- flowers to his girlfriend in Philadelphia. However, he often ran into problems, which culminated when his girlfriend never received a bouquet he ordered on her birthday.
The problems, Kori said, stemmed from the bureaucracy in the traditional flower business.
"We took a deeper look at the industry and found that it hadn't been changed in close to 100 years," he said. "Typically, flowers go from the farms to a wholesaler and then to the local florist where they sit" and wait to be arranged in bouquets.
Numerous hands involved in the production and distribution of flowers result in several consequences, Kori said. So many people needing to make a profit drives product prices up, the more people that touch the flowers the more wilted they become, and the long length of time between being picked and being delivered reduces their freshness.
To combat these issues, UrbanStems has its flowers sent straight to its storage sites in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. From there, they are delivered to customers via bike messenger, making the time between cutting and delivering the flowers roughly 48 hours.
Instead of storing hundreds of flowers and throwing away the ones that never get selected, the company designs four bouquets a month for customers to choose from, so only those flowers are stored. The flowers are delivered in a unique burlap sack, though Mason jars are available for those who prefer vases, which provides a cute aesthetic and allows for customers to easily take them home from work, Kori said.
Cutting out middleman and storing only the flowers needed for its bouquet designs saves UrbanStems money, which is reflected in their low prices, Kory and Sheely said -- UrbanStems bouquets start at $35.
The flowers come from Rainforest Alliance and Veriflora-certified farms in Columbia and Ecuador. The farms use a technique that allows the soil to remain fertile year after year, and Kori added that 90% of the workers they employ are women and are all paid livable wages.
"One of the things that was important to us was doing good in the world as well," Sheely said.
UrbanStems expanded to Brooklyn based on demand they saw there, and its founders said they plan to grow into the other boroughs soon, along with launching an Android app.