The sun is not yet fully in the sky as Linda Quinn unpacks the trunk of her navy blue Volkswagen Tiguan filled with bouquets of flowers. “$5 Flowers” reads multiple laminated signs plastered to the sides of the bins.
She thinks she’ll need a floodlight to shine on the flowers as the winter gets closer when it takes longer to get light outside in the morning.
For three hours, from 7:30 to 10:30 Thursday and Friday mornings, the dark wavy haired woman wearing a black apron tied around her waist sells premade flower bouquets to those driving down N. Central Avenue or through the Starbucks drive-thru.
“$5 flowers was an idea in my head for a while now,” Quinn said. She decided to take her idea to the test, setting up shop outside Starbucks at the end of May.
“I’m the crazy florist that decides to sell flowers after Mother’s Day,” she laughs.
She never intended to be a florist. She used to be a hairstylist at a hair salon that sold flowers on the side. One day, the florist didn’t show up and she started selling the flowers every day. Later, she worked at one of Tampa’s largest flower shops at the time, Outatree, doing mostly wedding work. “I can make a mean corsage,” she notes. “I have an affinity for it. I’m slow but I’m good.”
A young woman in a silver Honda pulls up to the curb looking to buy a bouquet. When she doesn’t have the proper card to pay and hands the bouquet back, Quinn hurries back to the bins and grabs a smaller bouquet and hands it to her through the window.
She sells pink, green, white, orange, yellow and purple Alstroemerias, a luminous flower that has small brown specks on the center petals. She also sells orange, yellow and dark red Daisies and Button Mums of a rich violet color. These flowers are all longlasting and cheap, two factors that Quinn has to think about when selling bouquets that are only $5 each.
She attributes being able to plan and start a business to having a degree in entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida. In her classes at USF, she describes having many group projects where they formed and pitched business ideas.
“I have to make sure my profit margin is enough,” she said.
She buys the flowers by the box. There are 12 bunches to a box and on average 10 stems to a bunch. In her garage and on the dining room table she lays out her flowers and creates bouquets to match a color scheme.
Quinn hopes that eventually she’ll be able to sell 400 bouquets a week, between her Starbucks shifts and markets in Ybor on Saturdays. When she reaches that point, she could possibly quit her current job as a bartender at a nightclub. But for now, as she’s selling 20-30 bouquets a week, she must keep her part-time job working four nights a week so that she’s able to keep $5 Flowers running.
She concedes that the career change was a big risk, but she doesn’t regret it. “If you wait ‘till things are perfect, you’re never going to accomplish them.”