Buzz with Danu: Hasa

Jun 19 2024.

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Today I speak to a young business owner who has not only made us happy with this vibrant collection of flowers and bouquets but also someone who has been an inspiration in following his dream. If you have been to his place, you will know what value for money looks like today. Hasa is one of the leading florists in Sri Lanka with wedding and event planners fighting to get to see his magic unfold so if you are in need of buying some flowers to make someone's day he is the right person for it.

Q WHAT MADE YOU COME INTO THIS TRADE? Being from Nuwara Eliya, I grew up surrounded by flowers. As a child, I would pluck flowers from the garden and sell them for pocket money. At the time, it was just a hobby and didn’t seem extraordinary to me. However, everything changed when I moved to Colombo and started working at Shirohana alongside Mrs. Shirani Jayasuriya. It was there that I discovered my deep love and passion for florals. Seeing the diverse varieties of flowers, and the stunning designs and styles, truly opened my eyes. I knew then that I had found my calling.

Q WHAT MADE YOU EVENTUALLY START OUT ON YOUR OWN? I wanted to bring my own style and designs into the industry and I knew the best thing to do that was to start my own business. That was how the Petals brand was born.

Q IT’S A TRICKY BUSINESS WITH BIG PLAYERS IN THE FIELD, HOW DID YOU KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS? I always listen to my customers’ needs and never say ‘no.’ I’m willing to go the extra mile to ensure they get what they want because I believe anything is possible with a little extra effort. This level of customer satisfaction has helped me build and retain a loyal customer base.

Q PRICES ARE ALWAYS GOING UP AND BUYING FLOWERS HAS BECOME AN EXPENSIVE THING, WHEN YOU COMPARE IT TO THE WORLD MARKET. TELL ME ARE BIG COMPANIES JUST ADDING ON EXTRA PRICES? Flowers can now be considered a luxury item, as the floral industry often faces numerous challenges, such as taxes, restrictions, and insufficient support for local suppliers to develop their crops. These factors inevitably lead to price increases, which is particularly difficult for us locals, especially in the wake of the economic crisis. However, compared to the global market, flowers and designs in Sri Lanka are more affordable, and the quality and standard of service here are unmatched. This is why Sri Lanka has become a popular choice for destination weddings. If given the necessary support, the local floral industry could significantly contribute to the economy, just like the tourism industry, creating a domino effect that would make flowers more affordable for everyone.

Q TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BRAND AND HOW HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU STARTED ON YOUR OWN. I started Petals over a decade ago solely concentrating on weddings and events. Thanks to the support and recommendations from my family, friends and people in the industry, I started building the brand and my customer base, but it was a very limited crowd I was catering to. A couple of years ago I decided to tap into a new segment and opened up the flower shop, and that was challenging as I had to deal with a lot of things starting from the Easter attacks, COVID-19, and then the economic crisis. That being said, it was during Covid that the flower shop flourished, and we were able to stay in business as people wanted to make some kind of connection with each other and they were able to do it with flowers. However, navigating between the numerous lockdowns and restrictions wasn’t easy as every time you thought you had it figured out, something new was thrown your way which was disheartening. It was eventually thanks to Nishani Fernando’s guidance and support and the responsibility towards my employees who depended on me that I managed to get the business back on track.

Q WHAT MAKES PETALS STAND OUT FROM THE REST? When it comes to Petals flowers we are known for creating big, beautiful arrangements that are unique yet affordable. Our signature “wild bunches” which is a Petals trademark reflects our unique style.

Q WHEN IT’S A WEDDING, CAN THE WEDDING PARTY WORK WITH A BUDGET AND STILL ACHIEVE THEIR DREAM LOOK ON THE SPECIAL DAY? Yes, it’s possible as I look at new ways to bring their vision, vibe, and theme to life. My approach is always personalised, working closely with clients to go over details and make adjustments accordingly while staying within their budget. However, there are occasions when staying within their budget isn’t feasible. In such cases, I let them know early on and if they’re open to it, I propose alternative ideas that align with their budget and if they are ok with it we proceed with these new concepts.

Q HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL AESTHETIC? Creative, easy-going, approachable, flexible, hardworking and positive.

Q WHAT IS THE ONE CHALLENGE YOU FACE WHEN IT COMES TO THE BUSINESS? Bringing our clients' dreams to reality especially when you have a limited amount of time. We as Sri Lankans are known for our laid-back approach and that can be hard especially when you are racing against the clock be it for big or small weddings, as everything needs to work on a strict timetable. It’s not just the florists, there are so many other vendors involved, so if one thing gets delayed it affects everyone and that can be hard.

Q WHAT IS THE ONE MISCONCEPTION PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT THE FLORAL INDUSTRY? That we are very expensive. While a design may look small or simple, in reality, it’s quite different. It involves more than just flowers, which in some cases may have to be imported. There are so many elements and people involved when it comes to bringing a client's vision to life, from designs, structure work, transportation, installations etc. When quoting we need to take all these factors into account and with the economic situation costs are significantly higher than what they used to be. So it’s not that we are expensive, it’s just that everything costs a lot more now than before.

Q WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG THING FOR YOUR BRAND? You will have to wait and see!  

Pix courtesy Hasa


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.


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