How is Diana Toma Coping with the Corona Outbreak?
An interview with this fantastic florist.
Where is your shop located? In which region/city/neighborhood?
I am located in Western Romania, in the city of Timisoara. My business is an atelier kind and before the COVID-19 pandemic my activity was centered on events, design and artwork and education.
Can you describe your customers in general? What do they buy generally in your shop?
Most of my local customers are either private people contracting me for specific events, such as weddings or parties or corporate clients who were mostly investing in floral interior design pieces for their offices.
Have you been open or closed since the (partial) lockdown in your country?
Due to the first measures that were taken in Romania in mid-March, the event industry was hit directly. All my events scheduled for end of March were dropped. As the measures kept being prolonged by authorities so clients with scheduled events in May and even early June are stepping back and postponing for 2021.
The business partners at first, we did not lose, as we had on-going projects in closed spaces which we were allowed to continue, provided we have a declaration on us to show to police filters that we are going for work reasons. But now that we ended those projects we are noticing a draw-back from possible clients, all businesses are being careful in spending money now as they anticipate the economic crisis. Which is totally understandable.
I am allowed to do home deliveries and have started to advertise on that as well, although I did not do this before. I see it as an opportunity to build up a future clientele.
How do you get information these days about the floral industry?
Most of the information regarding to what is happening specifically in the Romanian floral industries, I get from the National Association AADF. I find it is very important to have the right information and although I am member of some social media groups, I tend to follow them scarcely.
The information regarding what happens globally I take it mostly from social media, mostly by following specific users that I find have always had the power to be trendsetters and valuable businesspeople. Newsletters and official websites also help a lot in trying to get a larger perspective. Of course, things are so uncertain right now that nobody can predict the final outcome of this situation.
What barriers do you face at the moment in running a successful business?
I am 100% convinced that normality, as we know it, changes. A new way of behaving is born all over the world and, ultimately, customers will also change their ways. I have to adapt to that.
The rules of today isolate me from people physically, so I focus myself on working more virtually.
The rules do not allow me to work on events, as they are banned, so I gained time to work more on home deliveries. Come to think about it, one of the reasons I did not do it before was lack of time.
The rules do not allow me to participate to festivals and public events, but this gives me the chance to re-design, re-consider and re-calculate my projects. A second perspective from a different standpoint gives sense. Work hard, but work smart, right?
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
By working hard with respect of the social rules. This health threat is real, and we have to be conscious that the transition to lifting the restrictions will be a very slow process. The sooner I accept this new reality, the faster I can find specific solutions to individual problems. Step by step.
Which inspiring new initiatives have you seen in the industry - or are started by you - since COVID-19?
It has to be the Rise with EMC support group. The videos posted by Tomas are very inspiring and calling to individual action.
Also, Romanian AADF national campaigns are helping me a lot. And because the world, especially in Europe, has gone back to being very local – measures are so different from region to region even – I find that local/national initiatives are very valuable since they offer more precise answers to question.
How important is it for you to lift each other up in these times and what does that mean for you and the bond with your colleague-professionals and business relations?
Very important! We are behaving more like a large family where sharing common ideas and also fears. This is a game changer. As the WHO always say, ”Solidarity is the rule of the game!”. I strongly believe it applies to more than just the medical issue.
What do you think is the biggest issue in your segment of our sector (being a florist, grower, trader or breeder) at the moment, from your perspective?
I would not call it the biggest, but I do find it challenging to break the general misconception that flowers, beauty and art in general is not a necessity. Amongst the clients, I mean. I find that to be untrue. Being around beauty and art in general, even more in floral works, helps enhance emotional intelligence in people. And we need that more than ever.
What is the story behind your business and how will COVID-19 affect your future storyline?
I have started about a decade ago, accidentally, to work with flowers. I have left the corporate retail industry after 9 long years and was quite uncertain of which way to go. Helping a friend who worked with flowers was my tipping point and I have since build a small business, mostly by doing events.
In 2018 I graduated European Master Certification and, alongside growing my business at home, I have actively become involved in the program as a Teaching Assistant with the EMC Core Team. I have since participated in floral festivals, published design works in magazines and have done a lot of extra work in small groups with peers from the industry with the goal of finding solutions together. I am also focused on keeping my local business active as much as possible.
COVID-19 will affect me, for sure. It already does. But I think it is in my power to make the worse or the best of it.