How I created a blooming business selling flowers online

Lana Elie launched her online marketplace, Floom, in March 2016. Now it sells to customers in 134 countries, employs a staff of 14, and expects turnover to hit £5m this year.

936_MW_P37_MM_Floom_01

Lana Elie grew up in many different countries before moving to London, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. As old friends gotmarried and had birthdays,Elie would send them flowers, but "the picture rarely matched the end product or the bouquet would justget chucked over a wall". So Elie decided to launch online marketplace Floom in March 2016.

Users can write their own delivery postcard and choose from the bouquets of curated local businesses. Independent florists offer "vastly superior" products anyway, she says, and customers can expect same-day delivery while knowing they are helping local small businesses.

Floom takes a cut of the sales and in June it will launch its own business management software that other firms can use for inventory, orders and customer service. Later this year, it will also add a subscription service and a workshop-booking facility.

Tom Singh, owner of fashion chain New Look, was an early investor. "I expected to hustle but I got lucky," Elie admits. The following year, she raised £520,000 through crowdfunding, selling almost a fifth of the business to 300 investors, and gaining a database of fans in the process. Crowdfunding is "a smart and fast way to get access to an email list of high-net-worth' customers", she says. "But it's hard work."

Today, Floom sells to customers in 134 countries, employs a staff of 14, and expects turnover to hit £5m this year. "I'm one of those people who gets bored easily, so every time that I feel like we're grinding through the same stuff, I'll get us to launch into a new city," says Elie. "I guess that's one of the benefits of being your own boss."

Parenting advice from prime ministers

936_MW_P37_MM_Mums_01-copy

She asked her friend, Carrie Longton, who had worked in television, to come on board as co-founder. They tried to raise £4.5m in venture capital, but the timing was bad the dotcom bubble was close to bursting. Instead, they relied on donations from early Mumsnet users.

Their big break came six years later when David Cameron logged on to field questions soon after becoming the leader of the Conservatives. The Q&A has since become a rite of passage for senior politicians, leading to the so-called "Mumsnet election" of 2010. Gordon Brown came a cropper when he refused to answer the traditional "favourite biscuit" question. Today, more than 14 million people a month visit Mumsnet, with Gransnet following in 2011 to "give older women a voice". However,around 15% of users of Mumsnet are men, andthe slogan is "Byparents for parents". Pre-tax profits came to £2.8m in 2017 on turnover of £8.3m, coming from advertising and charging bigbrands for market research.

Profits from food waste

936_MW_P37_MM_Karma_01

Karma

Last November, Bernadotte, who is from Sweden, teamed up with Swedish white-goods manufacturer Electrolux to test a "smart" refrigerator in Stockholm. During the trial at the entrance to a supermarket, registered users could buy discounted chilled items, before unlocking the fridge with a QR code (similar to a barcode, but for smartphones).

Karma has so far raised €18m from investors to expand the number of retailers it works with in London. A test launch is planned in Paris later this year. It's not the only app attempting to cut down on food waste, says Sheffield. But Karma is growing in popularity with users. "The reality is that it's standard practice for food businesses to throw away perfectly edible food," says Bernadotte. "We give them the flexibility to offer up anything that's still good to eat and sell it to consumers through the app at a discounted price. It's a win for retailers, because they reduce waste [and] it's a win for consumers who get great food for a reduced price and it's obviously a win for the environment."

Recommended

Don’t squeeze our entrepreneurs with higher taxes
Economy

Don’t squeeze our entrepreneurs with higher taxes

Britain’s entrepreneurs and business innovators get generous tax breaks. They should keep getting them.
17 Nov 2019
Craig Newmark: the nerd who shook up the media giants
People

Craig Newmark: the nerd who shook up the media giants

Twenty-five years ago, Craig Newmark lost his job at a brokerage and fired off an email to friends. That seeded a venture, Craigslist, that dominates …
26 Oct 2020
Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion
People

Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion

Mukesh Ambani is already the richest man in India by a large margin, but his ambitions do not end there. He wants India to be at the front of the worl…
19 Oct 2020
Philip Day: the retail knight falls off his horse
People

Philip Day: the retail knight falls off his horse

Retail baron Philip Day, once seen as the saviour of the British high street, is under fire for holding to a monastic silence as his suppliers struggl…
26 Jul 2020

Most Popular

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm
Bitcoin

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm

The Bank of England could win the race to create a respectable digital currency if it moves quickly, says Matthew Lynn.
18 Oct 2020
Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express
Trading

Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express

Bus operator National Express is cheap, robust and ideally placed to ride the recovery. Matthew Partridge explains how traders can play it.
19 Oct 2020
Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19
Share tips

Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19

Professional investor Zehrid Osmani of the Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust, picks three stocks that he thinks should be able to weather the coron…
12 Oct 2020