Exuberant boss of Bloom & Wild flatpack florist

Aron Gelbard is not afraid to do a lot of work. Dawn visits to London’s New Covent Garden flower market to observe the industry first-hand were just part of his research to create Bloom & Wild. Inspired by a college friend who offered snacks online and delivered through the mailbox, Gelbard began wondering in late 2012 if the same model could work for flowers. But there was a major obstacle: sending a bouquet in the mail is much more difficult than small packets of flavored nuts. “My co-founder and I have personally measured thousands of mailboxes across the country to determine what the dimensions should be,” the CEO said. Success: Aron Gelbard’s business is the UK’s most popular floristry service. The solution they came up with was thin packages containing flat-packed flowers, which bloom once the recipient places them in water. Since the company was officially founded in February 2013 with collaborator Ben Stanway, Bloom & Wild has become the UK’s most popular online floristry service with sales of over £140 million in the year until March 2021. Like many online sensations, Gelbard, 40, says trying to establish a brand with a loyal following required behavioral change. Potential customers pay very little attention to buying flowers – instead turning to their favorite search engine rather than a florist. “People used to Google ‘flower delivery London’ or whatever and click on a few links and hope for the best,” he said. said. “I found it really weird because we have favorite brands for all sorts of things like mineral water and cleaning products. This business is about expressing emotions, and it didn’t make sense to me that the people can’t even remember which company they were buying from. For the floral industry as a whole, Valentine’s Day is the biggest holiday on the calendar. For Bloom & Wild, though – where the most common purchase is the daughters sending flowers to their mums – it’s Mother’s Day. Gelbard’s business boomed during the pandemic when lockdowns and social distancing prevented people from visiting loved ones and sent more gifts by post.Rather than rest on his laurels, he recruited two European rivals – Amsterdam-based Bloomon and French firm Bergamotte – as restrictions began to ease. where live t most of its customers are already experiencing a recession and households are cutting spending? “When we go into a time like this, when people are tightening their belts and people are asking me if people are going to stop giving flowers, I just look back on the last 2,000 years and more. history,” he says. “You can trace the sending of flowers as gifts to ancient Athenians. Already back then, different colors symbolized different things and some of these standards still exist today. White flowers are often associated with sympathy, for example. Cool: Even the mini Christmas tree can fit through the mailbox More recently, his team has added orchids, succulents and even mini Christmas trees – one of Gelbard’s pride and joy products which, almost unbelievably, also goes through mailboxes. Customer reviews suggest that one of the things they love the most is arranging the flowers themselves. Christmas trees are also included, along with packs of decorations to festoon their tiny branches with. “I have two daughters and they love opening the mini Christmas tree every year and decorating it with me,” he says. Better yet, they flew off the proverbial shelves and helped the company have another outstanding Christmas. Gelbard comes from a family of entrepreneurs. He says the seed to start his own business was planted working with e-commerce companies at consultancy Bain, which he joined after studying languages ​​at Oxford and earning an MBA from Harvard Business School. His experience working with online retailers at Bain made it clear that the best foundation for global domination these days is to build strong roots in technology – like Uber did with taxis and Deliveroo with food. take away. Bloom & Wild’s backers include some household names from Silicon Valley, including investor Airbnb Index Ventures. This technology has given Gelbard a treasure trove of data and helped her make a profit of £25m through March 2021. Bloom & Wild now sells flowers in eight countries. But the trips to Europe came at a cost. Gelbard says the two takeovers in 2021 meant the company posted a loss in its last financial year. “We stopped being profitable because the companies we acquired in the Netherlands and France were slightly loss-making,” he explains. But he adds: “It made sense to continue to invest in growth in Europe rather than remaining profitable. He expects the company to be back in the black by 2024 and adds that there are currently no plans to “plant any other flags” with deals in other countries. Although he claims the company is the online market leader in Europe’s £22 billion floral industry, it still holds less than one per cent of the market. If it still wants to grow, is a stock market float on the horizon? No, he said. Bloom & Wild raised £50m when it bought Bergamot, giving it more than enough to raise no more. Stanway – who left the group in 2015 and went on to found savings app Moneybox – originally considered setting up a subscription service, but quickly ditched that idea in favor of freebies. Add-ons such as chic Prestat chocolates, candles and sets of Cowshed body washes, which can be ordered with flowers, are also selling well. At the other end of the scale to appeal to money-conscious customers, the company now plans to sell flower bouquets in the ‘low £20’ range, down from its current base price of around £25. . A UK competitor, Freddie’s Flowers, has taken a different approach: selling by subscription rather than one-off sales. Does Gelbard think he made the wrong call? “I would never speak ill of another company,” he says. “There are a lot of positives in what Freddie’s Flowers are doing and kudos to them for that. We just think there’s a lot more opportunity in sending gifts than in subscriptions. “Occasions like birthdays don’t go away. The number of people who will have to give up buying them as gifts for £25 or £30 will be far fewer than the number of people who will have to give up spending £700 on a floral hallway subscription. in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. 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