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Meet Little Acre Flowers, D.C.’s Field-to-Vase Florist

Budding entrepreneur Tobie Whitman inspires us to bloom outside the boardroom

little acre flowers!

Reinventing yourself can be scary, but Tobie Whitman, founder of Little Acre Flowers, inspires us to make fresh arrangements. She earned degrees at Harvard and Cambridge and spent a decade working in international development before following her passion for floral design.

Working with area farmers, Whitman composes seasonal bouquets for same-day delivery and is D.C.’s first fine florist who sources only locally.

She dropped these petals of wisdom on us.

q&a!

How did Little Acre Flowers start?
We’re all paying more and more attention to what we eat, where our food comes from, how it’s made. I’m from California, where people are more engaged with eating seasonally. What I’m doing is an extension of that trend, only with flowers. I read Amy Stewart’s book, Flower Confidential — it’s Fast Food Nation for the international flower trade — and I was inspired to focus locally.

You have a Ph.D. in international relations, but where and how did you learn the floral business?
I worked for several years for a luxury florist in D.C. [Allan Woods Flowers], and design has always been a passion of mine.

Does your background in international development have anything in common with your new business?
There are similarities. When I worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development and at different NGOs, I drove a lot of advocacy work. My background is in promoting the benefits of making more of a place for women in international development. Selling one idea is like selling another, only this time I’m trying to convince folks about the benefits of buying local flowers and minimizing the environmental impact. The small-business side is, operationally, the same.

little acre flowers!

Little Acre Flowers launched in time for what must be the biggest day of the year in the floral business. What flowers will you incorporate in your Valentine’s Day bouquets?
We’ve got beautiful flowering branches like quince blossom, as well as tulips, lilies, and amazingly fragrant hyacinth. The whites and reds in these arrangements are ideal.

With a seasonally driven business, your inventory will change constantly. Which month’s flowers are you most looking forward to using?
We’re close to having bright yellow forsythia. Pussy willows are coming up, and some bulb flowers too, like daffodils. There are so many options in spring, but late May is so great. You have peonies: lush pillows with a wonderful fragrance. Late summer/early fall brings dahlias in interesting shapes and bold colors.

Your daily bouquets come wrapped in repurposed Mayorga Coffee bags. How did this collaboration come about?
I’m trying to be as sustainable as possible, so removing as much plastic as possible is key. I thought it would be nice to partner with another local, mission-driven business. Mayorga Coffee had lots of burlap, and it gives the bouquets that rustic look.

little acre flowers!

How are you delivering?
We partnered with a pool of florists to aggregate deliveries. Our [collective] deliveries are organized by zip code to make the system as efficient and green as possible. We’re not sending out one car per order, but we can deliver in Alexandria and Potomac. I bike to work and always keep flowers in my basket. I would love to have bicycle delivery further down the pike. That would be really cute.

Can we set up a regular delivery?
Now that’s a great Valentine’s Day gift. When you check out on the website, that option is available. You can choose a weekly, monthly, or onetime bouquet at checkout. You are billed as you go and can cancel at any time.

Any advice for women entrepreneurs?
It’s so cliche, but follow your passion. Ask yourself what you really like doing during the day, and let that be your guide. I remember someone asking me, “What section of the newspaper do you read first?” At the time I was in international affairs, but I was turning to the lifestyle section. That was a real lightbulb moment for me.

Order Whitman’s burlap-wrapped bouquets and vase arrangements at littleacreflowers.com, $40-$100; delivery is $15.

little acre flowers!

Photos: Stacey Vaeth / Courtesy of Little Acre Flowers

LOCATIONS
15151 Southlawn Ln
@ Southlawn Ct
Rockville, MD 20850
301-315-8093
2645 Connecticut Ave NW
bt Calvert St & Woodley Rd
Washington, DC 20008
202-332-3334
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