How I created a blooming business selling flowers online

Lana Elie

Lana Elie grew up in many different countries before moving to London, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. As old friends got married and had birthdays, Elie would send them flowers, but “the picture rarely matched the end product or the bouquet would just get 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

Justine Roberts knew she didn’t want to have a family and work on the trading floor, says Justine RobertsLiam Kelly in The Sunday Times. So she left the City and became a sports reporter. But it was a disastrous holiday to Florida in 2000 that drove Roberts (pictured) to start online parenting forum Mumsnet in 2000 from her spare room. The trip abroad had been the first since the birth of her twins, and she had wanted to tap the collective wisdom of other mums and dads, “because none of us are trained to be parents”, as she says.

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, and the slogan is “By parents for parents”. Pre-tax profits came to £2.8m in 2017 on turnover of £8.3m, coming from advertising and charging big brands for market research.

Profits from food waste

Food waste costs businesses in Britain around £20bn a year, says Hazel Sheffield in The Independent. That works out at about £300 per person. Elsa Bernadotte (pictured) has set  Elsa Bernadotte out to reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away by co-founding Karma, an app that allows restaurants and delicatessens to list discounted items to customers for collection at the end of the day. Since it launched in London in February 2018, 80,000 users have signed up to the service.

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.”