Aron Gelbard, Bloom & Wild co-founder
Online florist Bloom & Wild is eyeing overseas expansion after closing a £3.75m funding round which saw total investment reach £7m.
Management consultant turned entrepreneur Aron Gelbard launched Bloom & Wild alongside his business partner Ben Stanway back in 2013.
The idea was simple. To offer a more convenient way for consumers to order flowers. Today, it is a rapidly growing e-commerce business and is shaking up the flower market.
“My dad and both my grandfathers were entrepreneurs and I always wanted to have a go at creating something myself,” Aron told BQ.
“I’ve always been motivated by positive feedback and the idea of doing things that please others and the opportunity to launch a flower company felt like a natural step given my personality traits.
“Prior to launching the business I’d had a few bad experiences ordering flowers. For example, I once tried to buy flowers to thank someone who had let me stay in their holiday flat. I had half an hour to do it and I wasn’t able to make it happen.
“I realised that the process of ordering flowers was just so out-dated and hadn’t moved with the times. This inspired me to use technology to make the process simpler and led to the launch of Bloom & Wild.”
Aron was a big fan of Graze.com, one of the UK’s leading subscription businesses and took great inspiration from their success.
He added: “I always really liked the idea of the letterbox-friendly business model, I’m a big fan of Graze.com and took a lot of inspiration from them.
“I looked at their business model and wondered if it would be possible to deliver flowers through the letterbox in a similar way to how they deliver their snack boxes. That would solve the problem of delivery.
“The more people I spoke to the more I discovered that flowers were something that people really liked. The only thing preventing people from buying them as often was the fact that they had to go out of their way to buy them.”
The company’s key objective is to make sending fresh, design-led flowers as simple as sending a text message and receiving them as effortless as receiving a letter.
This is achieved by constantly developing and improving the innovative technology behind the company’s website and apps, as well as through its award-winning packaging.
Their product and packaging enables a bouquet of fresh flowers to be delivered through a standard UK letterbox. They were the first company in the UK to offer this as a service.
However, this didn’t come without it’s challenges, as Aron points out: “When we first launched the business we had to measure thousands of letter boxes which was an interesting experience.
“It’s slightly awkward when someone opens their front door and finds you kneeling down outside their house with a ruler measuring their letterbox! We learned a lot from doing that however and it has really helped us get the product right.
“We also made a few mistakes early on in terms of product development. For example we designed a box with no ventilation which meant the flowers didn’t last as long. We had to scrap all of the packaging and then start from scratch.
“Then after overcoming the packaging issue, we realised the website we’d invested in wasn’t fit for purpose, so we had to re-develop that. It’s been a real learning curve.”
Starting off as a team of two in New Covent Garden market, the company has since grown year-on-year, moving three times to bigger premises and employing 35 people.
This has been aided by a trio of major funding wins which have helped the duo turn what was a simple idea into a rapidly-growing business.
Having raised £1m via seed funding just after the company’s launch, Aron and Ben raised a further £2.5m just 18 months ago before closing a £3.75m funding round earlier this month.
“We started off with just me and my co-founder and there are now about 35 of us. The team has doubled in size each year.
“We started off in a small outlet, renting space by the hour at New Covent Gardens’ Flower Market and we’re now in Vauxhall which funnily enough is very close to where we started out.”
Their latest funding round was led by Burda Principal Investments, Hubert Burda Media’s investment unit and also featured previous investors MMC Ventures and the company’s other angel investors.
The funding raise has taken the firm’s total investment to over £7m and Aron hopes it will help the company push forward in the B2B market and also break into new markets overseas.
“Our number one priority is to continue to improve our customer experience which is our core business,” he said. “Whether this is developing new products, improving the technology or investing in our team.
“In addition we’re also hoping to expand into overseas markets, especially in France and Germany as well as continuing to build on our corporate gifting business.
“We have found over the last 18 months or so that despite not actually targeting them, we’ve had a number of requests from UK businesses who have wanted to send our flowers in bulk to their customers. Whether it’s to say thank you to loyal clients, to warm up potential customers or to say sorry when things go wrong.
“We have a couple of hundred business clients that are now sending between a few and a few hundred bouquets a month to their customers and we’ve had great feedback and metrics so far.”
He concluded: “Our overall aim however is to become the UK’s most loved flower brand. Going forward I think most people will resort to Google when ordering flowers.
“A few years ago people started looking online when ordering mini-cabs and ended up downloading Uber, I think if we can create a great user experience, then we can have similar impact in terms of flowers.”