There’s something about Freddie

“Hello, I’m terribly sorry to disturb you but a friend of mine is setting up a business, it’s a great idea and I’m just helping him out by seeing who might be interested in hearing a bit more about it?”

The doorbell had gone while I was in the midst of a complicated spreadsheet and I’d prepared my ‘not today thank you’ in the four steps it took me to open the door.   But the words failed me and I was looking at an attractive young man (surely no more than 20?) who seemed to be anything but your average door-to-door salesman.

Perhaps I fell for charm but my mind instantly concocted an image of this unlikely peddler’s friend ‘Freddie’.

Freddie is everybody’s mate, he’s been to ‘Uni’ with my visitor and he’s such a ‘great guy’ that all his friends want to help him out.  They’re not being paid they just want to support Freddie.  Freddie’s seen socialising in the Union bar but not propping it up, he makes time to legibly write out his business plans, but Freddie’s not a geek – he’s got time and advice for everyone.  Everyone loves Freddie…

I’ve never met Freddie so how I decided all this in a matter of seconds I don’t know.  Do I like flowers?  Yes, I guess so, but I see them as a bit of an unnecessary extra and having recently set up my own business life’s little luxuries are off the agenda for a while.

My visitor is still there, smiling and becoming increasingly enthusiastic in his mission.   I remember a respectable elder telling me when I landed my first journalism job that unless I started out in a ‘cold calling’ role I’d never get far in business.  Knocking on doors or harassing busy innocents on the phone for at least 6 months is apparently the only key to the long-term success of an individual.  Doomed to career failure I’d avoided this trauma and carry enormous respect for those who haven’t – as words of dismissal continued to evade me I listened.

Freddie’s Flowers are delivered every week.   You sign up with your bank details, they cost £20 each time (and for that you get a really decent bunch).   The selection is always different – and seasonal – and you manage your own account online.  Ideal for holidays or re-jigging the schedule before guests come to stay – or perhaps fortnightly or monthly is your limit?  It’s in your hands and you can manage your account up to 6 months in advance.   You can see what the flowers are on the website and learn about them through Freddie’s blog.   The flowers are delivered with handy tips for arrangement, and in fully sustainable packaging which you just leave out for collection the following week.

An email pings in back at my desk and snaps me out of my reverie about Freddie, his friends, his flowers and his frighteningly simple concept coming to fruition.  (F)Phew!  The words come out something like “Thank you, what a brilliant idea, not today thank you but I really will think about it, no, I really will, I promise, wish Freddie the very best of luck from me, thank you, thank you, goodbye.”  I’d escaped the bewitching tempter and returned to work.

I didn’t need flowers, I am rarely home during the day, they’d die and rot and I’d have to add ‘scrub green bits off vase’ to my ‘to do’ list every week.   Besides my mother had just died after an intense illness and I’d seen enough flowers over recent months without the cheeriest connotations.

A few months later my dad, on the steepest domestic learning curve, moved into a ‘retirement community’.  Mod-cons galore, newspapers delivered, restaurant on site, new wi-fi, hi-fi and lo-fi, park views – single bed, single man duvet cover, creosote for the decking, a traditional shaving brush on the basin and a painful lack of femininity.

Freddie, his friend and his flowers were long forgotten to me but it was clearly blooms my father needed and regularly.  Besides, between playing golf and going on holiday there was plenty of time to scrub the green bits out of a vase should he leave them for too long.   I mentioned it to my sister.  “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could have flowers delivered to Dad once a month” to keep him cheerful and brighten the place up a bit?’   It would make a fabulous moving in present I thought.

Unsurprisingly my sibling was a step ahead with a housewarming gift – a fact that then made it imperative that I sorted something myself.   “If you’re going to send him flowers, said my sister, you might look at these people, a friendly girl knocked on my door the other day – she was really genuine and it seemed like a great idea…” and so I was reminded. I signed up that night in in no more than 5 minutes my prior promise was fulfilled.

Since April my father has received blooms including Roses, Irises, Lilys, Orchids, Sunflowers, Alstroemeria and much more, all with appropriate greenery and stickery for a self-fulfilling arrangement – and I get phone call of delight each time.

With schedule juggling (impromptu golf trips) and the occasional omission to leave out the previous packaging (a fact not critical to Freddie but my father is a stickler) I’ve found myself calling FF HQ on a few occasions.   I’ve never spoken to the same person twice, how many ‘friends’ does Freddie have?   But everyone clearly has a defined role.

There are in fact 16 employees, mostly focused on customer service,  7 drivers,  a team of door-to-door ‘canvassers’ and others who ‘help out’ with social media.    Freddie himself picks (by which I mean ‘selects’) the flowers.

There is a distinctly uncommercial feel about the business and yet no leaf is left unturned in efficiency.   This is epitomised in the website which tells you everything you might need to know in a style that you would want to hear it – friend to friend.  In branding speak this is Freddie’s ‘tone of voice’ and while I’m sure the identity development has taken a belt and braces approach it’s so natural – they just get it right.

Well they got it right with me – the last person I would expect to fall for such extravagance, even as a gift, and yet someone who feels the value on every delivery without even being the direct recipient.    The last time I engaged in something similar was a short dalliance with Abel and Cole the seasonal fruit and veg delivery people so I’m not surprised to learn that Keith Abel backed the launch of Freddie’s Flowers.

Last week I walked through my local park and came across a small gazebo manned by three affable young people.  “Do you like fresh flowers?”  one asked me as I walked past, “I didn’t used to” I replied “but I’m sorry, you’ve already won me over” – my comment was met with a huge grin despite the lack of new sale.

As I walk home each Thursday evening I’m struck by how many Freddie’s Flowers boxes I increasingly see outside front doors for collection – this business, less than two years old, operates nationwide and clearly flourishing.

There’s just something about Freddie Garland (yes, Garland) – his flowers and his friends.

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