4 Benefits of SAF’s Next Gen LIVE!

New connections, world-class education, and a bigger perspective of the floral industry — all in a destination city. The Society of American Florists’ Next Gen LIVE! conference Feb. 25-27 in San Diego is a one-of-a-kind industry experience for floral pros from all segments of the industry who are 45 years old and younger. That’s because the education, networking, and activities are designed for and by the Next Gen to help them grow in their careers.

SAF News Now managing editor Amanda Jedlinsky talked with two San Diego-based SAF Next Gen committee members about what to expect.

Make New Connections
This event isn’t just for florists. It draws young professionals from across the industry together to support each other as they learn and grow together.

“Next Gen is such a great community,” says Next Gen committee member and the recipient of SAF’s inaugural Next Gen Rising Star award, Nicole Palazzo, AAF. “We’ve really found our people.”

That community has forged long-distance friendships and mentorships that span across the supply chain — and the globe. The group keeps in regular contact via a private Facebook group and monthly virtual meetups. The event is also a great way for floral pros to meet and talk with new vendors, from growers to tech providers and manufacturers, whose goods are on display throughout the conference.

Learn and Grow
The education at Next Gen LIVE! is tailored for young professionals with the guidance of the Next Gen committee. Education focuses on leadership skills, product development, data-driven decision-making, navigating workplace conflicts, using technology to improve processes, and how to propose new ideas. (See the full schedule here.)

“A big part of what we are doing at Next Gen is helping [young floral pros] understand that if you want this to not just be a job, but if you want this to be a career, there are pathways to that,” says Next Gen Committee member Sam Bowles, AAF, general manager and creative director at Allen’s Flowers & Plants. “I haven’t seen or heard yet someone who didn’t come back with more ideas, more energy, and ready to try things out in their role.”

Tour Flower Farms
One of the most unique events at Next Gen LIVE! is the opportunity to tour two area flower farms, including Mellano & Company, a 365-acre farm producing dozens of varieties of greens, cut flowers, and plants, and Kendall Farms, a 500-acre farm that grows eucalyptus and wax flower among other varieties. Attendees will also visit the San Diego Flower Market. (The tours are an additional fee, which includes lunch and transportation.)

“The average person in a flower shop is only seeing the flowers that come through their door,” says Palazzo, a fourth-generation florist at City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut, who works remotely from San Diego as the shop’s marketing strategy manager. “To see the whole supply chain and how it works — it is so valuable. It’s really important.”

See San Diego
San Diego, known for its mild year-round climate and extensive beaches and parks, is a popular destination. It’s also the city that Palazzo and Bowles call home, and they’ve been working closely with SAF to ensure the event showcases the best the city has to offer at an affordable price.

“We did make sure that everything is affordable because we know businesses are going to be sending their staff,” Palazzo says.

The event hotel is a five-minute ride from the airport and just $189 per night when booked by Jan. 5. The hotel is also in close proximity to downtown San Diego, making it easy for attendees to explore the city before or after the event.

“Believe me, this is not going to disappoint,” Palazzo says.

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