CEO and Founder, Floracracy
Within weeks of Sarah-Eva Marchese’s marriage, tragedy struck. As she was planning the flowers for the wedding, her grandmother became unexpectedly ill and soon passed away. “Flowers began to play a key role in both of those experiences,” she said in an interview. She explained that she began using flowers to communicate personal messages to her wedding party, and was moved by the personal significance of the bird of paradise flower at her grandmother’s funeral service.
This is the story of the heart of Marchese’s digital floral arrangement service, Floracracy’s, brand ethos.
Marchese, who has an impressive academic background in international relations and conflict resolution, said she got the idea for Floracracy when she was having trouble planning the floral arrangements for her own wedding. As she was researching, she realized how her academic work on conflict resolution could be the key to this new business.
“That’s what my thesis had been in, and that’s what I had been accepted to go study and get my PhD on in Cambridge where I did all this theory about the use of storytelling to resolve conflict,” she said. “I just realized that all of that actually could be the foundation for a very different way of helping people use flowers as a vehicle to tell stories with an ultimate goal of just transforming how we relate to each other.”
Human-to-human connection is fundamental to the company, and Marchese says it is also part of the reason for its success. “We had one woman once write to us, she had gifted her grandmother, and she said, ‘This is the first time that I thought my grandmother really understood how incredible she is,’” Marchese shared. “To me, the impact this company has and can have is that feeling that people have been heard in a way that we don’t normally feel like we’re heard on a day-to-day basis.”
Marchese says experiences like this are what “nourishes” her “amazing team.”
Unlike many florists, Floracracy sources its blooms locally, which Marchese says is in part a business decision, but more importantly, it reflects the brand’s values. “To source from our neighbors and a city where everyone who works here believes in its future and what it can do, and it can be, made it more thoughtful and transparent than if we were making other choices,” she said.
Sourcing locally also helps the company better control the quality of the product and streamlines the supply chain.
As an expert in communication and problem-solving, Marchese was better equipped than most when it came to asking for advice and choosing mentors. “I very early on made a decision that I was going to talk to as many people, ask for help from as many people as I possibly could and that opened a lot of doors and a lot of growth,” she said. Still, she warned, it’s easy to make mistakes when choosing who to turn to for help.
“One of the big things I don’t think people talk enough about in mentorship is that there is healthy mentorship but there’s also not healthy mentorship, and learning those differences,” she explained, admitting, “I have made mistakes and where and who I listen to.”
Luckily, Marchese is also a big believer in “failing forward,” and allowing yourself to make mistakes but also to grow from them. Another learning experience, she said, was in hiring. “You always hire people who are like you when you really need someone who’s not like you to fill in the gaps,” she said. “Learning how to hire and inspire great talent. I think I had a bit of a learning curve there and I’m still growing on that front as well.”
At the end of the day, it’s a balancing act. “There is this very raw vulnerable state that you have to be in constantly because you are always having to learn, ‘Okay, this served me well here and now it’s not going to serve me well. I have to completely transform how I think about something, how I believe about something, how I’m going to approach something, how I’m going to talk about something.’ That takes some learning.”