BloomNation is a subscription-based onsite floral delivery service that does not use flowers. It’s part of the emerging category of “floral startups”. With rapid growth and increasing competition, this startup may be worth following as their story unfolds.
BloomNation is an online flower company that was created in 2009 by CEO Lisa Jimenez. The startup has become a hugely popular site, with over $1 billion worth of transactions and tens of millions of customers per year. With its focus on delivering the freshest flowers straight to your door, BloomNation continues to grow as one-stop shopping for all things floralBloomNation has shown the world that it is possible to make a business out of selling flowers. These flowers are grown in an indoor farm, with no soil or pesticides used. BloomNations’ founders argue this will help improve global access to fresh produce and reduce greenhouse gases by eliminating some agricultural waste.BloomNation is a startup company that has been around for over 10 years. They offer flowers to customers who are looking for something fresh and beautiful.
It’s like something out of a Hollywood film:
Three closest friends decide to establish a new company despite having no previous business expertise. They aim to develop a cutting-edge platform that will revolutionize the flower business and benefit both consumers and florists.
But, of course, they’ll need money—and, as luck would have it, one of the founders is a professional poker player.
They put him in a competition, and he wins $30,000, which will help them start their company. The company takes off, garnering venture capital money quicker than you can say “happily ever after.”
While this may seem like the storyline of a recent Oscar-nominated film, it isn’t; rather, it is the tale of BloomNation, a floral company established by Farbod Shoraka, David Daneshgar, and Gregg Weisstein. BloomNation is an online “community marketplace” that brings customers and florists together, providing florists a platform to sell their works of art and consumers a simple and fast way to buy beautiful flowers from local merchants.
Though their tale may seem unbelievable, their success is quite genuine; BloomNation just completed their Series A financing round, raising 7.2 million in venture capital—and they’re still growing, with plans for a mobile app and possible international growth.
With such a remarkable beginning, I expected the founders to provide great guidance to budding entrepreneurs, and I was not disappointed. I had the pleasure of meeting with BloomNation CEO David Daneshgar, who offered his entrepreneurial advice as well as the tale of the company’s unconventional origins.
Improving the experience of both florists and customers
BloomNation, like many other innovative companies, began by filling a need in the market. Founders David, Farbod, and Gregg believed that there was a mismatch between florists and customers, and that big flower brokerage firms, rather than bridging the gap, were exacerbating the issue. Furthermore, the particular creativity that local florists can bring to the table was overlooked, leaving florists with little recognition for their job.
“BloomNation was established so that all of the country’s best florists could come together [and] submit their piece of art,” David explains, adding that big flower businesses that enable consumers to buy online or over the phone are as far away from your local florist as possible. Not only are all of the pictures generic stock shots, but there is no way for a consumer to form a personal relationship with the florist whose work they are purchasing.
“It’s almost like a floral McDonalds,” David adds. “However, flowers are not the same as french fries. They aren’t mass-produced in any way. “It’s a work of art.”
As a result, the creators felt they could do better from the consumer’s perspective. According to David, the flower business was “ready for upheaval.” “It wasn’t a fair depiction of buying flowers from anyplace in the United States. Because you can’t see the florist’s work of art, you have no clue what they can do.”
In addition, the florists David, Gregg, and Farbod talked with felt a sense of exploitation. Farbod’s floral aunt told them she was “just upset” because “all these huge companies were simply making money from her.”
[pullquote] “We see BloomNation as the greatest location to discover the finest florists at the best prices,” says the company. — Daneshgar David [/pullquote]
David explains, “We look at BloomNation as the greatest way to locate the finest florists at the best rates.”
This includes not just ensuring that clients get beautiful, high-quality flowers, but also collaborating with florists in a manner that promotes their job and makes them feel appreciated and respected.
“You’re looking at various things that are local to those florists with their name and photos whether you search in Los Angeles or New York,” David adds. “We’re bringing back the openness that was absent when I was buying.”
From a seedling to a thriving enterprise
David, Gregg, and Farbod, like many other young entrepreneurs, had no prior business expertise. Despite the fact that David had studied business at the University of Chicago Booth School of Company and had previously played professional poker, neither of them had ever launched a business.
David’s poker experience was “extremely entrepreneurial” in many respects; he had started giving poker courses and was interested in establishing a company but didn’t know where to start. “I was transitioning away from poker and toward entrepreneurship,” David explains, “but none of us had ever been in a financed business before.”
While David had contemplated establishing his own company, it was the concept for BloomNation that prompted the three to get started. “This was our first attempt at a real business,” David explains. “When we began the firm in business school, the first thing I thought was, ‘This isn’t going to work; you’re a poker person, not a flower man.’” His desire to solve the issue, on the other hand, helped him remain focused and complete the task.
However, once the concept had taken root in the minds of the founders, they faced their first challenge: not only would they have to build one client base, but they would also have to build two—both the florists who would buy into the platform and the consumers who would purchase from the florists. The creators went into 100 flower shops to discuss their idea with florists, ask them questions, and gain their trust in order to see whether their company was feasible. David explains, “We went into flower shops and said, ‘Here’s what we’re solving, would you buy?’”
From the beginning, the task was tremendous. When it comes to the difficulties of establishing BloomNation, David adds, “If you knew how much is going to go into it, you may not be insane enough to accomplish it.”
David Daneshgar, the company’s founder, is playing poker.
Poker wins and startup funding are an unusual mix.
Although bootlegging and obtaining venture capital money seem to be polar opposites on the financing spectrum, BloomNation was able to achieve success thanks to this unexpected combination. Nonetheless, David acknowledges that their techniques were extremely unconventional. “We didn’t think of it […] for PR reasons,” David recalls, adding that although they had some early money, the founders thought it was a no-brainer to use the resource.
Entering David in a poker tournament seemed like a logical next step for the nascent company. “I was one of the top five poker players in the world from 2005 to 2008, so if you have that asset, and there happens to be a poker tournament half an hour away, and you happen to need the money, it’s like all the stars align, right?” David says. They decided to combine their resources and take a chance.
BloomNation was still in its early stages, and the three hoped that this relocation would help push them to success. David explains, “[We] didn’t even have an office yet.” “[Gregg and Farbod] arrived to the casino and were hustling at the table next to [them] while I was working off a poker table.”
David won the event and took home $30,000 as a result of his risk. With a chuckle, David recalls, “I went up to them and said […] “It’s flower time.” “It was sort of like a movie’s […] fairytale beginning.”
[pullquote] “It was sort of like a movie’s […] fairytale beginning.” — Daneshgar David [/pullquote]
Following that, the three sought financing from venture capitalists in a more conventional manner. David got access to the New Ventures Challenge as a business student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a startup competition whose past winners included GrubHub and Braintree. Though David had no intention of joining the competition at first since he wanted to concentrate all of his efforts on actually establishing BloomNation, he now believes that rethinking and entering the competition was “probably the greatest choice I made in business school.”
BloomNation took first place in the New Ventures Challenge and began to draw the attention of a number of investors. “We met the first two of investors by pitching them [in the New Ventures Challenge],” David explains. BloomNation was admitted into Muckerlab, an online incubator, where they met investors from Spark Capital and other firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, Ronny Conway, Spark Capital, Chicago Ventures, and CrunchFund.
What is David’s advise for businesses looking for venture capital? Make sure you have a steady stream of paying clients. “It wasn’t like they invested in us with the expectation of more income; they wanted to eliminate the risk,” David explains. “The concept [for BloomNation] was fantastic […] but keep in mind that the only thing they want to see is customers, and not just consumers, but revenue.”
The process of preparing and executing it successfully
Of course, at Bplans, we’re all about the planning process. Though we prefer the lean planning approach over a long formal company plan, I’ve heard from entrepreneurs time and time again about the importance of preparing. BloomNation’s founders, on the other hand, weren’t so sure at first.
David was originally dubious about business planning, stating that he liked the notion of going out there and gaining first-hand experience over just hammering away at a hypothetical plan in his “poker hustle style.”
“I didn’t learn poker by sitting around reading books, […] I got out there and simply began doing,” David explains. “Practice was more important to me than theory.”
BloomNation did, however, develop a business plan as part of their participation in the New Ventures Challenge, and they were obliged to do so. David claims that the procedure caused him to reconsider his hatred of planning. David states, “I really […] went back on what I stated.” “Now I believe in making a strategy and testing it on a modest scale to obtain proof of concept rather than going out and executing it all at once.”
However, David warns aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid the immobility that comes with company planning. “There were a lot of individuals in business school who had great company ideas but couldn’t execute, and their businesses weren’t worth much,” David explains, “so it’s a balance.” According to David, being able to execute effectively is just as essential as planning well.
David also cautions other business owners against allowing their fear of failure to come in the way of their capacity to execute effectively. “A lot of your data and study will reveal a big barrier, which is a good thing because if the hurdle didn’t exist, it would have been addressed by now,” David adds. “Everyone is terrified, and you must find a way to calm them down. As a result, you must continue to perform well.”
The significance of strong interpersonal connections
BloomNation has always been about establishing ties and strong connections, both with their consumers and with their workers, for David, Gregg, and Farbod.
The co-founders have had to work closely together as best friends, but David believes their intimacy has aided their success. David adds, “We’re all great buddies.” “There are weeks when we want to strangle one other, but we’ve been able to get through it because we’ve known each other for a decade.”
Building good connections with their florists, according to David, has been critical to their success. He believes that some of his most successful moments have occurred outside of the workplace, when florists at flower exhibitions notice the company. “When we arrived for the first time, everyone knew who we were. “They were like, ‘There’s BloomNation,’ and there was a lot of talk about us,” David explains. “It made it very thrilling because […] when you go out into the world, you’re sort of frightened because you never know what the industry, or the customers, would think.”
David emphasizes the significance of a good business culture in addition to the value of the founder and customer connections. “It’s not simply a nine-to-five job,” David explains. “You have to make everyone a family, and here’s the thing: family isn’t a check-in, check-out situation.”
BloomNation does this by providing benefits such as gym memberships, an office overlooking the Santa Monica boardwalk, and entertaining enhancements to the work environment. With a chuckle, David adds, “We’re bringing a poker table in here next week.”
David attributes a large part of BloomNation’s success to the company’s ability to form deep bonds, adding that he often invites BloomNation workers as well as local florists to dinner at his parents’ home. “Invest in your employees and make them really happy,” David advises. “If you give them a little, you can receive a lot back.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs should take note of the following advice:
David’s enthusiasm shows that he is committed to resolving the issue that he and his co-founders saw with the flower business. Their dedication to BloomNation has propelled their success, and David encourages young entrepreneurs to establish a company that they are really enthusiastic about.
“I don’t believe people are willing to alter their life and take a chance,” David adds. “I’ve seen individuals who simply want to start anything, and I think the most important thing is to wait for the perfect idea to come to you, and once you find it and believe in it, you must see it through.”
David also advises young company owners to go all in and completely commit to their endeavor. “The ‘kind of’ world never works—I’ve never seen anybody succeed at it,” he claims. “If you don’t put your heart and soul into anything, you’re wasting your time.”
[pullquote] “Our florists are the thing that drives us the most because they believe in us so much,” David adds. “The quantity of affection inspires me tremendously.” [/pullquote]
What happens when you’ve come up with a great idea?
“Seek for proof of concept. Put it to the test. Make contact with others. David advises, “Don’t simply read about it.”
“You have to be in it to win it after you’ve proven the concept. That, I believe, is critical.”
Finally, never lose sight of your objective or of people you are assisting. “Our florists are the thing that drives us the most because they believe in us so much,” David adds. “The quantity of affection inspires me tremendously.”
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