The flower vendor under an old umbrella

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 June) – A housewife was once enticed by a neighbor who could sell “Baby’s Breath” flowers grown on her backyard. She was amazed at the earnings that can be had by tending a small flower garden.

Impalambong’s Misraem Wapen recalled that scene as what inspired her to be one of the enterprising flower vendors at the city’s Plaza Rizal.

Everyday she sells bunches of flowers with sales reaching P1,000 at the lowest to P5,000 on lucky days. Although this kind of enterprise does not earn for her big time, her family has depended on her small makeshift flower shop by the park, she said.

For the past eight years, Raem, as she prefers to be called, raised a family with the help of her husband from her daily income on flowers worth P200 at the least.

She said she started as the “flower vendor under an old umbrella”.

“We just live by the day, we order from our small suppliers, we sell, and we live,” she said.

She said their position in front of Malaybalay’s San Isidro Cathedral is an advantage. Sunday churchgoers become a captive market even if the usual four vendors during the week would increase to at least 10 on weekends.

After years of earning from flowers, she saw herself grow with her business, said the former education student.

She wanted to teach children in school but fate, she said, brought her to selling flowers.

Now Raem could already afford to hire an assistant for her “flowers under an umbrella by the sidewalk”

She said their income depends largely on loyal clients or “suki” who make regular orders for different purposes. One of the frequent ones is an elderly lady who buys flowers to offer at the Church altar.

Recently, she decided not to rely only on walk-in clients who buy flowers by piece. She said they have tried to learn arranging the flowers for special occasions to cater to the needs of those who have no time or knack for flower arrangements.

And they deliver, too.

Recently, she got an order from a walk-in client for a bouquet of a dozen roses. The order was quickly done and delivered a few minutes after.

“Flowers are special and universal gifts. If you want to make somebody happy, especially a woman, buy her a bunch of flowers,” she counseled.

But she said all kinds of people drop by to pay for a pick or two or a bouquet for loved ones on any occasion.

“It has been my means of living for the past eight years and I am happy with where I am now,” said the mother of three.

It is natural for her to entice buyers to her colorful stock of flowers with foreign sounding names. But she said she is only selling flowers planted to gardens around Bukidnon.

Her top selling kinds, Holland roses and Malaysian mums, bloom in gardens in Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong, Sumilao, and Dalwangan, a village in Malaybalay at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad.

She said her suppliers sell a dozen of Holland roses to her at P50 and she sells it at P60. The Malaysian mums are more expensive; she buys a dozen at P160 and sells it to “sukis” at P180.

But Raem confided that their advantage over other flower shops is the personal touch they add to their service.

She sells a bouquet of a dozen Holland roses at P150.

“Just add the fare amount for delivery,” she said.

Although there are times when they have to cut the price too low due to sluggish sales or throw some of the flowers, she observed that flowers generally are not hard to sell. ”It is a gift for all seasons. That is why we stayed in the business because we can help people in any occasion,” she said.

Raem picked Thursdays and Fridays as the best days since those who will wed on Saturdays buy the flowers on these days.

She said some of their buyers are mourners who offer flower to the dead. These kinds of buyers peak during All Souls Day, in November. December, too, is a good month.

But nothing beats the crowd in February, on Valentines’ Day, she said.

“It kind of compensates our very low sales from June to July, when the women among our buyers use their flower money to add to school expenses of their children,” she said.

Raem, however, has a dim view of the future even if she is optimistic her family will survive it nevertheless.

She said they don’t know whether the city government will still allow them to sell at the park after the multi-million renovation of Plaza Rizal.

Raem and the other vendors hold a special permit to vend flowers in the park, which is run by the city government. They are allowed only until the renovation is done.

Raem would rather look forward to her weekly deliveries to Maramag town in south Bukidnon and in Wao, Lanao del Sur.

She said the prospects are humble but are an additional opportunity for small vendors like her to connect her suppliers near Malaybalay to vendors in the south.

Raem said she was inspired by the spirit of sharing between her and her suppliers. Sometimes, she said, she lends them P1,000 or less so that they can buy fertilizers. She considered it an advance payment for the delivery of flowers.

“This business is like that. Buhi-buhi lang (we help each other),” she said.

And for Raem, the flowers people buy from her everyday go a long way indeed. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)