When Tan Yining first started her business at the age of 21, she was probably one of the first florists to sell flowers that couldn’t wilt.
At that time, she was a first-year student at the Singapore Institute of Technology studying radiography but she decided to drop out to focus on Timeless Fleur, full-time.
Since launching Timeless Fleur in late 2016, she has served customers from Canada, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the US, and a customer from the Philippines even personally made a trip to Singapore to purchase from her.
With preserved flowers becoming increasingly popular, we find out how she manages to stay timeless in this ever-changing industry.
A Budding Sector In A ‘Blooming’ Industry
It was in a conversation with her best friend that led to her starting Timeless Fleur.
They noticed that at that time, there were not many preserved flower makers in the Singapore market so awareness and knowledge of preserved flowers were low.
“When we first started [till now], many were sceptical if our preserved flowers are real flowers,” Yining said.
Due to this lack of awareness, she told me that she’s more than happy to share her knowledge with the public about preserved flowers and showcase to them how it’s done.
With a better understanding, customers will recognise the fact that high-quality preserved flowers come at a “premium price”.
She explained to me that $140 for a single stalk of preserved rose in a glass dome might seem steep but taking into consideration the year-long lifespan of the rose, she reckons it’s affordable.
“We are in a market flooded with increasingly cheap mass-produced preserved flowers, [so] it’s difficult to change consumer’s mindset,” she continued.
“The amount of labour that we put into crafting just one single preserved rose [starts] from the assembly of the rose to drilling the wooden base, to polishing the glass dome, to sanding the base, and so on. [These are processes] not seen by customers.”
Yining claims that through their “consistent [branding] campaign”, preserved flowers became more known in Singapore and florists that typically sold fresh cut flowers soon started selling preserved flowers as well.
These days, as competition stiffens, Yining said what sets them apart from others and kept them competitive until now is their bespoke gifting experience they provide customers with.
She insists that her products are not just about romance, but about cherishable moments and aims to convey emotions, from celebratory congratulations to sincerest apologies, with a “personalised gifting experience”.
Entering The Sharing Economy
She revealed that their glass dome series of products are their bestsellers but compared to their competitors, Timeless Fleur offers a wider variety of preserved flowers, including roses, orchids, lilies, sunflowers, gerbera daisies, and hydrangeas.
“Preserved flowers work differently from fresh flowers, [so] it can be challenging especially with the limited types of preserved flowers (available),” she explained.
But as preserved flower specialists, Yining said they “love to challenge [themselves] to push [their] boundaries” to create unique floral art and to continue to add value to their customers.
As a result of her innovation, she launched a new sharing service for preserved wedding flower decorations in October.
Brides-to-be can choose a preserved flower arch and a preserved flower centrepiece designed to their liking or one that suits their wedding theme, and when the wedding is over, decorations can be reused.
She assures us that they’ll check on flowers’ conditions before and after each rental, and they will replace any damaged flower.
On why she came up with this service, she found it a waste — and a costly one — that floral wedding decorations eventually end up in the trash after the event.
“We thought that since our flowers can last and maintain its beautiful appearance for six months to one year, why not [let customers] rent our preserved flowers and return it after the wedding,” she stated.
“This way, they are able to save at least 40% while reducing flower wastage and carbon footprint at the same time.”
Going Down The Flower Road
For a young girl just starting up to sell preserved flowers that were almost unheard of at that time, it was a huge risk to take.
Her parents were, of course, worried and had hoped that she would at least complete her studies before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey.
“It was a difficult decision to make at that time, especially when I was bonded and my future was secured,” she said.
But she saw the opportunity and potential in that gap in the market and used “thousands of dollars” of her personal savings to test out the market first.
Her parents saw how determined she was and understood that she would have thought it through before making such a major decision.
Yining’s investment paid off and to her surprise, the response was “overwhelming” at launch, which happened a few months before the screening of the Beauty and the Beast live action movie.
Her products were sold out and she had more than 400 customers on their waiting list.
“I’m happy to say that I’ve shown them the results and I’m very lucky that my parents and friends are supportive,” Yining quipped.
Over the years, Timeless Fleur has seen a number of local influencers endorsing its products and Yining shared that they recently had the opportunity to work with SK-II.
Besides reaching out to their customers through Google Adwords, Instagram, and Facebook advertisements, Yining and her team also participate in pop-ups and events.
This allows customers to see the preserved flowers in person and the team can better explain to them the benefits of preserved flowers.
More often than not, satisfied customers would then recommend Timeless Fleur to their friends, Yining told me.
She added that the company’s growth has been “relatively stable and increasing each year”, and are looking at more B2B (business-to-business) opportunities.
Besides the new flower-sharing service, Yining is set to release their glow-in-the-dark preserved roses and preserved flower earrings soon.
As for school, she intends to pursue a course of study in a field that could help her business bloom.
Featured Image Credit: Timeless Fleur