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UrbanStems Is Determined to Make Up for Its Former Valentine’s Day Mistakes: Will You Take It Back?

Photograph courtesy of UrbanStems.

UrbanStems is ready for its redemption tour. Last year, the local flower start-up left hundreds of Valentine’s Day customers flower-less and furious on arguably the biggest floral holiday of the year—but since, it says, it has learned from its missteps. “The single point of failure was space,” says CEO Ajay Kori. “We had enough flowers, enough prep [and] couriers. The problem was we ran out of space at our urban distribution centers.”

Space shouldn’t be an issue any longer: In the past year, the company has expanded its operations with more employees, larger distribution centers, and now, nationwide shipping (for overnight delivery; same-day is still only available in DC, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Austin). “We’re two and a half times bigger than we were last year,” says Kori. He believes they’ve “earned back that trust” from customers they might have lost after last year’s fiasco. “Being transparent and focusing on making it right—which is just part of our culture—really went over incredibly well with those customers.”

Nationwide delivery is uncharted territory for UrbanStems. To help with that national reach, they’ve hired two former food-delivery executives: former HelloFresh CEO Seth Goldman is now UrbanStems’ COO, while former Blue Apron exec Stefan Wiles is serving as the Director of Fulfillment. Other additions have come with more efficient technology, including barcode scanning, better routing, and faster label printing. As its shipping reach has expanded, the company is still committed freshness; flowers are packaged in temperature-controlled boxes for those overnight trips so they don’t age. “One thing a lot of people don’t realize about flowers: they lose the most life when they’re exposed to extreme temperatures,” Kori says.

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Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.