Starbright: Aggressive growth in the shadow of Wall Street

Floral shop explores an untapped market

by Robin Dalmas

Nic Faitos quit Wall Street so he could sell flowers. The former bond broker launched Starbright Floral Design in 1992 in New York and never looked back.

“I’m having the time of my life,” Faitos said.

The idea germinated while his family was living on Long Island. “At one point my wife opened up a little neighborhood flower shop because she wanted something to do when the kids went back to school. I actually fell in love with what she did more than what I was doing.”

When Faitos decided to launch his new entrepreneurial endeavor in Manhattan, he incorporated his Wall Street sensibilities. Instead of targeting typical retail customers, he sent out tendrils to explore an untapped market. “We started as a corporate and institutional florist, which is a term I got from Wall Street—institutional.” On a typical day, Starbright sells buckets and buckets of bouquets to corporate events, concierge desks, offices, restaurants, and lobbies. The business also stays competitive by keeping its doors open 7 days a week, closing only for major holidays five days out of the year.

While Wall Street rode up and down through the dot-com bubble and global financial crises, Starbright has burgeoned like a jungle full of orchids.

“From 1992 to 2016, we have never had a negative growth revenue year,” Faitos said. “We made money every year, we’ve been profitable, we remain debt-free, and never had one year where we earned less in gross volume than we did the year before.”

The floral shop, which creates 200 arrangements a day, has some pretty demanding clients. Some of them are celebrities. Customer needs are met through technology, a well-trained team of more than 75 people, and the ability to be agile.

For example, if a client changes her order from one dozen to two dozen flowers while the delivery driver is already en route, the business springs into action.

“We would tell him to skip that stop and we’ll send the two dozen on another truck—bring that first one back. There’s many ways to skin that cat. And we take advantage of every single one of them. And we look in real time and what’s most practical at the moment.”

Celebrities often call on Starbright, and they know exactly what they want. The florist pulls out all the stops to make it happen.

One star recently called with a large last-minute order.

“In this particular case, we needed to have 20 all-white arrangements, $500 each, in her apartment on a Sunday by 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and it was 12 noon on a Sunday.”

How did they manage? “We go through our inventory and we find what we have, and we actually are able to pull it off. We might have orders for Monday that we’re not going to make, that typically we make the day before, and we would make them the next day so we can fill this order. So we’ll pull from one order in order to make another.”

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