Two South Bay women create flower power with a floral subscription service

They’re best buds.

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  • Written by
    Eliza Krpoyan
  • Photographed by
    Lauren Pressey

In a time of virtual reality, multiple screens and AI, a sense of healing comes from green materials. “You’re torn—you like technology, but sometimes you just want to go on a hike, run in the woods or pick flowers,” explains Rhenee Bartlett, co-founder and COO of flower subscription company PetalFox. Gesturing like she’s touching a tangible item, founder and CEO Kelly Nyland adds, “What can you get your hands on that’s not screen-related?”

Flowers seem to be having a moment. Peonies, baby’s breath and pampas grass trend on social media. And unlike fiddle-leaf fig trees and, yes, even succulents, floral arrangements require zero maintenance. “The wonderful thing about flowers is that they don’t require anything from you,” says Kelly. “There’s an ephemerality built into a flower because it’s going to fade. There’s real beauty in embracing that.”

After working in corporate environments, Kelly—a mom and executive in technology for the past 15 years—conceived PetalFox. “I love flowers. It was simple,” Kelly shares. “Why can’t I have flowers in my space everyday?” she thought.

It would be a way of embracing femininity in a male-dominant workplace. “It’s also a way to have something in my space that reminded me that I was taking care of myself. I would look down at my nails and be like, ‘Okay, you haven’t done anything with those.’”

Across from her office at Snapchat was a wonderful florist she frequented. “I used to walk into this place where they had flowers everyday, and I started thinking, ‘What was the friction point for me having flowers in my office or more often in my life?’ And it didn’t really have to do with price … it had to do with the different stigma around getting flowers in the workplace and the convenience of that happening.”

The wonderful thing about flowers is that they don’t require anything from you. There’s an ephemerality built into a flower because it’s going to fade. There’s real beauty in embracing that.”

From there she thought about the customer experience and how she would like to get flowers. “The only thing I pay attention to in my life are my text messages,” admits Kelly. “I turn off all my other notifications on my phone.” She knew that she didn’t want to build an app. “Nobody needs another app. It’s just going to go into the app bin.”

Kelly enlisted the help of Rhenee (a Snapchat colleague) to create an accessible subscription and on-demand service on the user’s terms. PetalFox offers a “set it and forget it” subscription service where you choose the frequency of deliveries, and whether to “get it, gift it or skip it” at anytime. The price of each arrangement is $29.99 plus $5 flat-rate shipping. They deliver to eight states including California, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon.

Another option is the text commerce experience. “You’ll sign up with your phone number, and then each week you’ll get a picture from us of a mood board with some lifestyle elements and the types of flowers that are shipping,” explains Kelly. If you want to get the arrangement or gift it to someone, you’ll be able to respond with a flower emoji or “Yes.” If you don’t want the arrangement, you won’t even have to reply. You can ignore the message.

“That’s the type of convenient experience I wanted in a subscription,” says Kelly, who had tried beauty and fashion subscriptions where she didn’t like or need the products. “I think technology should serve us. It should help create more convenience and not less convenience, which is how I feel about the subscription industry. It’s difficult at times with certain companies to cancel or get a refund or get out of something. You get locked in or there isn’t value there. I had a lot of negative experiences with that—and some positive—so I was really looking to bridge that gap.”

Bouquets are only the beginning. Kelly and Rhenee plan to build PetalFox into a lifestyle brand including home and fashion products. Kelly documents their entrepreneurial journey on their website as a source for other female entrepreneurs who are thinking about turning their side hustle into a dream job or looking to pioneer in an industry they don’t know.

“Rhenee and I have this incredible background of taking things that don’t exist and making them real and tangible,” says Kelly, who has brought more than 120 digital and physical products to market in 40 countries and launched 10 global brands. Over the course of 15 years, Rhenee has produced events and marketing campaigns for major brands including Pepsi and AT&T. Follow their journey as PetalFox continues to flourish and plant their entrepreneurial seeds.