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A blossoming career in the floral industry began for Tina Coker just after she graduated from college and a friend told her about a flower shop for sale.

“I thought … that sounds like a fun business … and I put in a contract,” says Tina.

She was out-bid for the shop, but the idea of being a retail florist stuck with her. So, to gain experience, she sent her resume to several shops in her local area in Florida, letting them know she was interested in any job available.

“I was an art major in college, and minored in business with lots and lots of accounting,” Tina states. “I was hired by a florist to do her books and billing. After a few months, they let me on the design table and it was like a duck to water. All the same principles of art applied to flowers and I was totally smitten with becoming a florist shop owner. Just shy of a year later … I sold my car, opened a shop, and began a most fabulous journey.”

That was in 1982 and the shop, called Designs of the Times Florist, began operations in Melbourne, Florida. Tina opened a second shop in 2006. The shop is called Merritt Island Florist, located in Merritt Island, Florida. A third shop, called Beautiful Bouquets, was added just this past August in Palm Bay, Florida.

“Each store has a distinctive look,” Tina says.

She explains that the main store in Melbourne is more upscale and only carries flowers, balloons, plush, high-end greeting cards, and chocolates from a local chocolate maker. The Merritt Island store’s interior is “island-themed” and carries just a touch of giftware that is centered around the island life. The Palm Bay store is located in a warehouse district and carries flowers, plants, plush, balloons, and chocolates.

“Although our marketing plan is integrated, we approach marketing for each location based on the market demographics

of that area,” explains Tina. “This is a lesson we learned when we purchased the Merritt Island location in 2006. We tried to apply the main store ‘look,’ specials, hours of operations, etc., only to find out that wouldn’t work. There are similarities between product offerings and marketing techniques, but we try to tailor the message and look of the store for each market.”

Among the channels of communication utilized in Tina’s integrated marketing plan are radio, TV, email, direct mail, and the web. Online promotions in particular are a strong component of the overall business strategy.

“We are thrilled with the growth of our online business and think of our websites as mini locations where we can showcase our unique designs and services,” Tina states. “Almost 90 percent of our website content is shot by us. There are times when we take off-the-wall ideas for everyday or holiday flowers … just to underscore the art side of floral design … and BAM they become top sellers.” She adds: “Online is a way to feature your own work. Video tape your favorite techniques. If you are excited about what you do, educate your customers, and they will seek you out.”


In addition to an extensive array of marketing approaches, all of the stores participate in community activities with a focus on any charity or organization that assists students, veterans, or cancer research.


“For over 15 years, we worked with hospice, providing several bouquets weekly for patients. Our local community would drop off used vases and we would fill them with flowers and hospice would deliver the bouquets to patients,” Tina says. “We also work hand in hand with schools, providing career day speakers and product for fundraising. For several years I worked with the school board on a mentoring program. The program
provides students at risk with an adult to help with school work, and as a sounding board, becoming a positive influence in the student’s life. If the student stays in the program until graduation the state will assist with their college education. This program really makes a difference.”

Currently, Tina is preparing to open a new 10,000-square-foot design center.

“We are very excited and terrified about our new facility!” Tina exclaims. “It will house production for all the stores, along with a call center, expanded cooler capabilities, classrooms, a drive-through, and garden and wholesale areas.”

When asked how she is adapting to an ever-changing floral industry, Tina (a former president of the American Institute
of Floral Designers), replies: “For 25 years I traveled doing design shows … a lot of what the industry did, they are still doing. Yet, I have this un-scratchable itch to change, find a better way, build a better widget … make a difference. It is what gets me up at 4 a.m. every morning ready to take on the world. It’s what I enjoy about being an owner.”

And although Tina is quick to make changes that she believes will continue to create new opportunities for business growth, she points out: “Those changes are grounded in all the great florists I’ve been blessed to meet and learn from. Each one tells a different story, has a great technique or a wonderful business tip. The trick is taking their advice and making it your own, applying that creative spirit to what you’ve learned. As a designer, I’ve seen great changes and enjoy adapting our style and creating our own branded look. As a business owner, I believe I’ve been through at least three to five major economy downturns. This last one was my favorite … yes, favorite. We had been swimming along so well … that we got lazy. When things get tough, that’s when we grow, learn, and explore new ways to make ends meet.”

Of course, very few successful business owners get to where they are all by themselves, and Tina attributes a large part of her
success to her staff of dedicated employees. “Wow, they ARE the business. They work long, hard hours, and all of our team members are so talented,” states Tina. She mentions, too, that interns and university students also play an integral role at her three shops. “They keep the business young, they innovate and they have fresh eyes. They may only remain with us for three years, but their contributions are lasting.”

In summing things up, Tina states: “Every segment of what we do here has been affected by staff, not just in our day-to-day operations, but in their suggestions and actions. They are simply the best and I thank each and every one of them for the incredible job they do!”