Working for French bank Crédit Agricole in the early 2000s was like working in a sausage factory, Will Wynne tells Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. “You move from deal to deal and forget about it. I wanted to focus on one thing and make sure it succeeded.”
After a stint at eBay, Wynne set up online florist Arena Flowers in 2006 with Oxford University friend Steve France and £100,000 from friends and family. Since then, he has delivered seven million bouquets, while France moved to Holland, leaving Wynne and his family with most of the shares.
Business suffered during the financial crisis. “If consumer confidence is hit, instead of sending your mother flowers for her birthday, you might send her a card or give her a call.” Quitting was an option, “but I’m a stubborn person”. That’s just as well.
Last year, Arena made a pre-tax profit of £138,000 on sales of £8.9m. “Flowers are always in our lives. People fall in love, have babies, have birthdays,” says Wynne. “You can’t stop yourself smiling at them. They have hacked our system to make us like them.”
Getting fired led to my lightbulb moment
After graduating, Cole Zucker took a job with Prudential Securities in New York, says Dinah Eng in Fortune. “I was the worst management trainee in the history of the programme and got fired after the first year,” says Zucker. So he moved to China. Three years later in 2009, Zucker read an article about how LED lighting would grow from 2% of the US market to 80% over the following decade. “That was my light-bulb moment,” he says.
Zucker teamed up with Guillaume Vida, a Frenchman working in lighting, whom he had met in China. “I wanted to move back to the US. He wanted to stay in China. I wanted to do sales, and he wanted to do R&D,” says Zucker. “Both of us spoke Chinese fluently, so we found a supplier and got a factory to give us a chance.” With $100,000 in savings, Zucker moved to San Francisco, launched Green Creative, and went door-to-door selling to businesses.
Private-equity firm Harbour Group recently bought the business, which is expecting sales of $150m this year. “In the beginning… we were willing to take a risk,” says Zucker, adding they had a lot to learn. “It’s paid off.”
The new young pups of Wall St
The Wolf of Wall Street, the 2013 biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, an ostentatious, money-obsessed huckster, is supposed to be a cautionary tale, says Symeon Brown in The Guardian. But to thousands of young people from poor backgrounds, it is a blueprint for how to escape an unremarkable life on low pay. That led to the proliferation of fraudulent outfits that have taken a vintage pyramid scheme and rebooted it for the social-media era. The scams centre around a risky financial instrument called “binary options”.
The concept is simple. You sign up with a minimum deposit of, say, £250, and then bet whether the price of a stock or currency will rise or fall. Users are lured in by those from similar backgrounds flaunting their new-found wealth on social media. However, says Brown, these wealthy “influencers” actually receive a cut of the sign-up deposit. In 2016, the Financial Conduct Authority watchdog revealed 82% of related trades were losers, with the average trader down £2,200 a year.
Consumer advocate Martin Lewis was so furious at finding his face used to plug binary-options scams that he is suing Facebook. The founder of the MoneySavingExpert website says the social network should have used facial recognition technology to prevent the misuse of his image. Lewis “has every right to be angry”, says James Ball for the New Statesman. But vetting online advertisements is not always possible. If successful, his lawsuit could reshape all online advertising, creating an existential risk to sites that rely on it. Then again, maybe it’s a risk worth taking.