Generations Of Flower Growers
Last month, we took a trip to visit our suppliers who provide us with our fresh flowers for Daily Blooms Sydney. Meet the family behind Mileto Flowers, a grower and wholesaler based at the Sydney Markets in Homebush. We sat down with Rick and chatted all things flowers, as well as gaining an insight into just how their business has flourished since 1960.
Mileto Flowers is a family run business. How long has it been around for and how did it all begin?
It all began with my father back in 1960 with he and my mother growing Carnations. Our parents did not sell their carnations wholesale, they just grew and sold them locally. My brother who had been working as a florist joined the business and then around 17 years ago I joined him. Our partnership and business has been going strong for 17 years continuing our family tradition of working in the flower industry.
What has been the biggest challenge in running the day to day operations?
Staffing is always a challenge, particularly when we are down a worker because of illness or holidays. Another surprising challenge has been the emergence of social media which has made certain flower varieties and colours hugely popular, with brides requesting these lines when they are not in season. Apricot and Burgundy have become very popular for wedding season and there’s only so much that we can get of those colours as they tend to be low producing in most varieties. We want to make sure that we can satisfy our customers with their requests however it is important to manage expectations as some varieties can only be around for certain periods of the year unless they are imported.
Roughly how many florists and trade customers would you say you sell to?
We have about 350 account customers. On a typical day we process orders for 40-50 florists. Some florists order everything from us, and then others order certain types and then go to a speciality rose importer or a speciality foliage or native importer. Generally, we can fill all flower orders within the market. On any given day we can roughly fulfill about 150 varieties of flowers. A little bit more in spring and a little bit less in winter.
Any florist would know that the morning is where it all begins. Could you give me a run through of what your day looks like?
The team start unpacking flowers at around 11:30pm and start preparing to fulfill orders from 12:30am - we do this by running around the market to find the flowers we need, it’s a challenge as there are so many colours and varieties. We continue to fill orders until 5am and then prepare the floor as the markets are about to open. There is an initial rush at 6am, but by 6:30am it starts to quieten down as florists are already returning to their businesses. After this we do the normal day to day running of the business including paperwork and looking at the quality of flowers we have and deciding if we need more for the next market. There’s a lot of organising required when you are dealing with so many varieties.
What would have to be the most popular or trending style of flowers you sell?
The wild unstructured look has become a lot more popular so flowers like Ranunculus, Peonies (when they are in season), Roses (classic and garden) have always been popular. Dahlias and natives have also become a lot more popular now than say about 5 or 6 years ago especially King Proteas and Leucadendron. Social media has had a huge influence, as florists are promoting certain varieties and the public is a lot more aware of what’s out there. Trends have definitely changed.
How many types and variations of flowers do Miletos sell?
We would sell, throughout the year, between 130-160 varieties in any given market. Which is a lot more than let’s say 30 years ago when my father was doing it. Then it was more like 20-30 varieties. But now there are a lot of imports that come here and, generally speaking I think our market has a lot more supply in varieties compared to other areas. We know of florists in London that miss the amount of variety available here as they will rely on getting product from Holland, who grow great quality, but there are only so many varieties they have as they specialise in bulk supply.
Why are locally grown flowers so important? What are the advantages?
For starters, locally grown flowers are bound to be fresher as there is always going to be a period that flowers are in transit, by the time they get picked in a farm overseas, put on plane and come all the way over to Australia and end up on a stand or in a vase, there’s got to be at least a 5-6 day gap.The best flowers to transport in that respect tend to be the longer lasting flowers like Chrysanthemums. The local flowers are more likely to be fragrant, there’s going to be less chemicals because when we get imported flowers they often need to have chemicals applied them such as fumigation so there are no insects or viruses.