BY JANIE ROSMAN
Piermont resident Matt Neuenhaus knows something about the business of flowers.
“For me it’s about following my passion and trying to provide consumers with a value that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Neuenhaus said.
In 2000 he was an employee in a financial company and began working with a retail florist on the side to provide high-end flower and plant designs for high-end clientele’s parties and events. “That business needed operational assistance, and I moved it to the whole sale model,” he said.
Flowers come from South America — Columbia and Ecuador — and are brought into Miami, Neuenhaus explained. They stay until there until they’re trucked up the East Coast, typically brought to a wholesaler, who then sells them to a retail shop.
When the brick-and-mortar business he began in New City outgrew its location, “I decided to sell directly to consumers,” he said of the flower business he founded in 2008.
“I wanted to come up with a name, and my daughter Ava was having a seventh birthday,” he recalled. “I decided to call it Avas Flowers.”
He doesn’t buy from wholesalers like traditional retail florists normally do. Instead, his company works with growers directly and eliminates the middle man so he can compete with online companies like 1-800-Flowers and FTD.com.
A Navy veteran with a financial background, Neuenhaus learned everything he needed to know by working with flowers and now oversees his company’s global and local operations from its Mahwah, New Jersey, headquarters.
“We have 400 to 500 employees in offices in the Philippines and South America in addition to New Jersey office space in Hackensack) that support our customer base,” he said.
Although Neuenhaus did not disclose sale volumes for his privately-owned company, he said “we had close to one million sales” for this year to date. “They’re up significantly. We do thousands of order per day, while the typical shop does 15 orders per day,” he said. “We continue to grow per leaps and bounds.”
Global office support is necessary to fulfill orders from farms, not retailers.
“Even in a retail shop the majority of orders are over the phone,” Neuenhaus said. “Few customers come into stores to have flowers delivered elsewhere. It (the industry) has become less personalized since more than half of the orders are placed online.”
Avas Flowers’ training program educates employees about flower topics and is also making philanthropic endeavors. “We work with Operation Home Front to provide flowers to families of service veterans and wounded warriors” for funerals, homecomings, memorial ceremonies and other events,” he said.
The charitable organization provides financial and other assistance to wounded warriors and families of service members.
Neuenhaus is very committed to helping veterans and active duty personnel, and that’s how we connected with Operation Homefront, Product & Marketing Vice President Mary Dimacali said.
“More recently, we contributed floral centerpieces to the organization’s Star-Spangled Babies event — a baby-shower and informational session for mothers whose spouses are active service members (many of them overseas),” she said.
“We work hard to make this successful and have our own community outreach,” he said. Avas Flowers launched its own program, Sunshine for the Soul, whereby organizations can request flower donations for fundraising events.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for us to connect with some very worthwhile organizations through a resource — bouquets and other arrangement — to which we have ready access,” Dimacali said. Groups that received flowers through this program include Foundation for a Drug Free World and the Performing Arts Center Foundation.
Organizations interested in flower donations can email [email protected]. To place an order, visit http://www.avasflowers.net/ or call 877-638-3303.
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