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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Sweet-scented messages with UAE’s first rose-printing service

Flowers are a surefire way to tell someone you are thinking about them. But in case there’s any doubt, you can now tell them on the flower itself.

The floral specialists Florabella have merged the flower and greeting card industries by launching the UAE’s first rose-printing service, allowing personalised messages, images and logos to be embossed onto rose petals.

While one printed rose, for example, will only set you back Dh15, there is no limit in terms of price and opulence.

“We did arrangements for one wedding that totalled Dh80,000,” says Khalil Hijazi, the company’s chief executive. “The most expensive single arrangement we ever did was for National Day. It was a floral map of the UAE for Abu Dhabi Municipality, with pictures of the sheikhs from every emirate printed on each flower. It was huge – almost as tall as me. That cost around Dh18,000.”

The company was founded two years ago by Mr Hijazi, 29, a Jordanian businessman, and his best friend Ahmed Ishbair, 28, from the Palestinian Territories.

Mr Hijazi runs a diverse portfolio of companies in the UAE, from American curriculum schools to pharmacies. But he says for this business, his initial motivation was not money.

“Masha’Allah, Ahmed is very wealthy and I have the ability to open a business on my own. But ever since we were children, we’ve dreamed of opening a business together,” he says.

Mr Hijazi came across the American flower-inscribing company Speaking Roses when he was browsing the internet. “We thought this was something unique that the UAE market needs. But neither of us had any idea about flowers. The only time I send flowers is when my wife is upset with me.”

The business partners obtained the licence from Utah-based Speaking Roses and bought in the necessary flower printer, inks and training from them.

Mr Hijazi was already experienced in e-commerce, with a 51 per cent stake in the multinational e-commerce operation Western Leaf Electronics, and wanted customers to purchase the floral products online as well as from their store on Khalifa Street in Abu Dhabi.

“People can go to our website iflorabella.com, buy whatever arrangement they want, choose what they’d like to write and we can deliver it to their doorstep, or to the person they want to the gift to go to.”

The company now plans to open retail operation in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach area.

Q&A

Khalil Hijazi, chief executive of Florabella, tells Jessica Hill more about the company:

What initially drew you to this service?

In the UAE, people like customised services. Regardless of what the product is, you enter a very niche market where they really appreciate that you are able to personalise the gift. People want it to express their feelings and impress at the same time, which is why our motto is “express and impress”.

Tell us about your flowers.

We sell lilies, roses, orchids, anything you want in all different colours. They are imported from Holland and Kenya.

Is there a limit to how much can be inscribed?

Not really, as long as it fits on the petal then we can do it. More than 60 per cent of our online business comes from those buying for birthdays and anniversaries.

Do you provide corporate services?

We have annual contracts with a couple of banks. We send flower arrangements every three days so they always have fresh flowers in their offices. We also provide a unique service for luxury hotels. Two roses are placed on the guests’ beds with small ribbons around them.

How much money do people tend to spend on flowers?

Western or Arab expats will walk into our Abu Dhabi store and buy arrangements for Dh200 or Dh300 and Emiratis will typically spend Dh2,000 to Dh5,000 for one particular arrangement.

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