We’ve all seen our share of wilted flowers.
Valentine’s Day. Birthdays. Perhaps even International Women’s Day. And it goes for both genders. No one likes to receive a weak bunch.
Over a poker game, though, of all things, a trio of entrepreneurs — Farbod Shoraka, Gregg Weisstein and David Daneshgar — decided to “reinvent” the flower market and empower local shops, which decidedly offer better quality and less wilt than their delivery-giant counterparts.
Grit Daily caught up with the founders, who lead BloomNation, to find out why Entrepreneur and Business Insider both named it a top startup to watch. This is no Dutch tulip craze. The flower market is a serious thing.
GD: By way of background what’s the state of the “flower shop” market?
Farbod Shoraka: Local flower shops continue to thrive as customers learn that shopping directly with a local florist offers superior product and service over a large national broker. There is a big push to shop local, and ordering from the florist down the street is the perfect opportunity to do that. The two main reasons people don’t shop small is because of price and convenience. However, in the “florist shop” market, the way to get the most bang for your buck is shopping local, and BloomNation makes ordering easy by letting you shop local florists’ original and one-of-a-kind designs all in one place —based on location, price, occasion, and flower type.
There is also a type of customer loyalty that is prevalent in the florist industry. People build relationships with florists, whether it be because they created and delivered a beautiful sympathy arrangement for a loved one or flowers were delivered to an important client. People will often say “my florist” as opposed to the shop name itself. Flowers are both a service and a product.
GD: BloomNation got its own interesting start. Poker, right?
FS: BloomNation got its initial seed funding after co-founder, David Daneshgar, won a local poker tournament. However, winning poker tournaments is nothing new to David, who is also a former World Series of Poker champion. The seed funding allowed us to start building the frameworks for the marketplace. Once we were able to prove out the business model, we raised venture capital from some of the world’s top VC funds, which have included Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Ronnie Conway, and more. David plays casually now, but we have a coworker based reward system at BloomNation and one of the prizes is to play poker against David for a thousand dollar pot. Nobody has beat him.
GD: You’ve banned stock images. What’s behind that move?
FS: BloomNation showcases unique arrangements from local florists across the country. By not having stock photography, you are able to see the artistic style and inventory of the local florist, and it gives the customer confidence that what they see on the website is what they will actually get — avoiding instances like these flower fails. By banning stock photos we protect the customer and allow the florists to display their true talent. Florists are artists and by seeing actual photos of their work, it helps the customer find the perfect florist for them.
GD: What are some of the “big flower” weaknesses you’re aiming to overcome? How?
FS: The industry is plagued by brokers that act as mass marketing middlemen. By taking out the middlemen that add no value to the transaction, you can be assured that customers’ money is going towards flowers, not digital acquisition. The middlemen not only take away the originality of the industry, but they also take money out of both the florist’s and the customer’s pocket. Our mission from the beginning was to help independent florists thrive in the world of e-commerce. We want to empower these small businesses with the tools to gain and keep online customers and allow them to have the option of stepping away from the brokers that often take more than they give.
GD: What’s a “BloomSnap”?
FS: BloomSnap is a photo the florist takes of the arrangement before it is sent out. This assures the customer that what they purchased is what they get. People often order flowers for other people, so unless the recipient sends you a picture after it is delivered, you may never know what they actually received. Along with the security of a good product, the customer also becomes involved in the process and gets to see exactly what they are sending. As a consumer, when you see a beautiful BloomSnap, you feel good knowing that you made somebody else happy. Even though the flowers are not for you, you get a little treat in your inbox.
GD: Let’s talk numbers. What’s the current client base? Revenue picture?
FS: We have over 3,000 local florists part of the BloomNation network. The largest order placed was over $4,400 and ordered from Muguet Florist in Beverly Hills, CA, and we are looking to do nine figures in sales this year.
Looking for more startup coverage at Grit Daily? Check out our latest with school psychologist turned eyewear retail mogul, Angie Stocklin.