Floral-design kiosk business blossoming

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Shellie Greto, owner of Complement Design in Colorado Springs, in front of one of her kiosks in King Soopers at Academy Blvd. & Austin Bluffs.

Shellie Greto, owner of Complement Design in Colorado Springs, in front of one of her kiosks in King Soopers at Academy Blvd. & Austin Bluffs.

A passion for the flower business that started in a Colorado Springs garage has grown into a do-it-yourself floral arrangement company that’s on the brink of going nationwide.

Shellie Greto, along with her mother, Jackie Martin, started a wholesale flower business, Petal Pushers, about 10 years ago in Martin’s garage. When the business reached $1 million in annual revenue in 2008, they sold it.

Now Greto is focusing that flower power on grocery store floral department kiosks that offer flower arrangement advice and a color-coded system that helps shoppers match bouquets with vases.

Shortly after she launched the kiosk business, Complement Design, she had 12 kiosks in King Soopers stores. This month she opened her 34th kiosk in a Denver King Soopers.

Also this month she inked a deal with King Soopers’ parent company, Ohio-based Kroger, to add the kiosks in other supermarkets Kroger owns. She’s waiting to hear from stores in Washington and Kansas where she’s already made her business pitch.

Complete Design’s revenue hasn’t matched Petal Pushers’ yet, but she believes the new deal with Kroger is a step in that direction.

“I feel like I finally turned a corner,” she said.

The idea for the do-it-yourself flower business came to Greto after she was surprised at how little her friends and family members knew about flowers and arranging them.

“I’d make these gorgeous little arrangements, give them to people, and I would be disappointed by what they would do with them,” she said.

If only they had cut the stems, or pulled off the foliage, or put the flowers in different vase, the arrangements would have been better, she said.

So, she came up with the fool-proof mix-and-match scheme that pairs different types of flowers with one of about 20 hand-blown glass vases that cost between $5 and $25.

There are also specific instructions about how to cut flowers.

According to her system, stems should be cut at 6-, 8-, 13- or 18-inches depending on which vase shoppers choose.

Greto is not only specific in her approach to business, she’s hands-on.

With the help of a local businessman who does business in China, Greto made connections with a few vase manufacturers in northern China and then toured a dozen or so factories before buying vases.

“I wanted to go directly to the source,” she said. “I knew I could not work in volume and have too many parties in between.”

Even though this is a shaky time to start a business, Greto believes she’s in the right industry.

She might be right.

The floriculture industry has been growing steadily from $25.5 billion in sales in 2000 to $35.6 billion in sales in 2008, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“I think it’s the lipstick theory, where people don’t have money, but they splurge on lipstick — or flowers,” Greto said.